Monday, August 02, 2010

Rainy days and Monday markets


We’re having a rest from foie gras this week so skipped the Monday f-g market in favour of the markets in nearby Montrejeau. I volunteered to drive Jean there to warm up my engine for an oil change later in the day. We’ve had rain and thunderstorms limiting our outdoor excursions, so this was a good Monday morning escape, even if I wasn’t bringing along Munson this time. She narrated our journey through the stalls like an old hand, pointing out her favourite vendors for cheeses, fish, sausages and clothing. I really didn’t have a particular agenda other than to grab useful foodstuffs opportunistically, which wound up being some dried fruits and farm-fresh eggs, direct from the hands of the farmer at 2€ per dozen.

Spotting a pharmacy, I went in to search for some personal fly-repellent. I spotted the insect-related products on a floor-level shelf and squatted before them, looking for some sign of “mouches” or a drawing of a fly. Everything seemed to be for “moustiques” (mosquitoes) or “tiques” (ticks). I wasn’t sure whether store etiquette allowed me to handle the merchandise by myself, but a sales assistant quickly came to my aid. I said I was looking for some “spray pour les mouches” (having established that the English word “spray” was used to label similar products). She queried me “moustiques?”

- Pas moustiques. Les mouches.

She looked perplexed, and then turned to a more senior colleague to ask his advice.

“Moustiques, monsieur?”

- Pas moustiques. Les mouches.


- Oui.

“Small? Black?”

- Oui.

He pointed to another shelf with further bottles labelled with images of mosquitoes, but also with the text “Spécial Tropiques”. I grabbed one of these to read the active ingredients. After my earlier failures to find fly-repellent I had done some internet research, ascertaining that I needed something in addition to DEET which is good for mozzies, but not so good for flies. I recognised the chemical icaridin which is a broad-spectrum DEET replacement, and so snapped that up. I’m happy to report that a small amount of this on my limbs has rendered me a no-fly-zone for two days now.


Back at the market I saw a man wearing a colourful T-Shirt saying “I want to speak Occitan”, somewhat amusing in that it was in English. The Occitan language, closely related to Catalan was spoken through most of southern France up to a century ago, but has been systematically replaced by modern French. Unlike the Basque language Euskera, Occitan is a Romance language.

As we were leaving the markets, I pointed out a rather ugly tablecloth, offered for sale in one of the outer stalls. Printed on the synthetic material was a city skyline in monochrome. I doubt that anyone else there that day would have recognised it as Circular Quay in Sydney, midway between Opera House and Harbour Bridge, but curiously showing neither of those more attractive and iconic structures.

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