With charm and gentle humour, Martin Calder describes an extraordinary summer spent working at a Ferme-Auberge in a remote hilltop village in Gascony, one of the most rural parts of Southwest France. It is a golden land of rolling hills and wide horizons, swathed with vineyards, sunflowers, maize and pastures where wild boar and roe deer roam the oak forests. In the tiny hamlet of Peguilhan, Calder is introduced to the Gascon way of life, working in the fields, shepherding the sheep, watering the crops, grilling succulent magrets de canard at the inn, and discovers a unique people, proud of their fiercely independent heritage.
This is a tale of two love affairs: an idyllic summer romance with his fellow stagiere Anja and a lifelong love affair with Gascony and its village festivals, dusty roads, and sun-baked wine country, full of colourful characters - the charismatic and convivial Jacques-Henri, the hardworking farmer and his family who take Martin into their home and hearts; the yoga-practicing Germans; Pattes, the mischievous and lovable stray dog who brings havoc in his wake; Madame Parle-Beaucoup the town gossip who has a secret of her own and the memorable Monsieur Fustignac whose pride in his Gasgon heritage is unforgettable.
As an Englishman in Gascony, Martin finds himself more welcome than he expected thanks to the old affinities that exist between England and Gascony - after all Gascons fought for 300 years alongside the English against their common enemy - the French! Gascony exported huge quantities of wine - claret - to slake the thirsts of medieval Englishmen.
Martin Calder is a lecturer in French language and literature at the University of Bristol. A true Francophile, he has lived and worked in Paris and other parts of France but is always drawn back to Gascony. Visit www.asummeringascony.com for more info.