Monday, 6 July 2009

a big weekend in St Jean de Luz

This weekend in St Jean de Luz reminded me what it was like being young.

Friday night presented a dinner at the casino to celebrate the end of year at our Flamenco class. Around twenty of us ate, chatted and imbibed. During dessert some of the ladies began murmering about going dancing. Before I knew what was going on I, together with FX, was escorting a dozen lasses to a local nightclub. Reassuringly they are all friends of my wife. Top dancing skills by all as we payed homage to Mr Jackson and drank cocktails into the small hours.

Saturday was a quasi working day. There is a superb local chocolatier called Maison Adam. The proprietor had asked our choir to sing a variety of traditional Basque folk songs outside his shops in Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. The lovely girls from the shop presented us with copious amounts of red wine, chocolate and macarons to assist replenishment of our energy levels. A fair crowd of Biarritz locals and visitors stopped to listen as a we ran through a fine array of Basque folk songs. We sang for an hour in Biarritz which largely served as a warm up. Six o'clock approached so we headed back to our cars and sped back down the coast to St Jean de Luz.

More wine and cake awaited us, as did a far more substantial crowd. This time there was the added challenge of our knowing a good deal many of the passers by, even the mayor stopped by to congratulate us. By now our voices were finely tuned and we did ourselves proud. Starting in rue Gambetta we moved up the street and camped at Place Louis XIV where even more wine and macarons awaited. The cafes were full of pre dinner revellers taking aperitifs so the crowd was significant. Given the applause I think we were very well received. Around eight we headed back to our HQ in the port.

My fellow choristers are from a myriad of vocational backgrounds. Drawing upon our strengths we pulled together a dinner to welcome in the summer, it seemed like a good enough reason. Central on the large square table sat three groaning trenchers. In each, on beds of ice, sat a fresh and plentiful selection of 'fruits de mer'. Given the external backdrop, fishing boats and fisheries, decoration inside, fishing nets and whaling hooks, the food tasted even finer as we tucked into gambas, oysters, scallops, clams and perriwinkles. Four cases of champagne that had been chilling overnight arrived and were deposited in a large vat of ice within ready reach of the ever thirsty throng. Following the seafood plates of charcuterie arrived, boudin noire was prepared and a stew of fish gills and onion distributed. Fellow patissiers prepared a mountain of cakes and mousses for dessert. By now we fourteen had each consumed a bottle of champagne but still more poured forth. It was a sublime dinner and something I truly did not expect to have been party to. Being accepted into the choir has opened many doors that remain locked to other less inclined outsiders.

The table cleared we again broke into song, each of us taking it in turn to lead a song of choice. I did my very best to provide three Scottish songs, but in all honesty by now things had started to get hazy. At one in the morning we tidied up tables and closed up shop. A phone call was made and the local police waved us across the bridge, turning a blind eye to our less than sobre driving. St Jean de Luz is a place where who you know is what matters most. Arriving at a small bar in the heart of town we set up camp and remained ensconsed there until the sun had risen again the following day. This is the kind of job I have always wanted.

Basque of the day:- hangover :: biharamun