Friday, 27 January 2012

175. Is this the end for the Basque beret?

27th January 2011. For countless generations, the humble beret has symbolised France. Worn by young and old, town and country, it defined a country in a way that no other item of clothing had ever done before. Count the berets being worn at this Basque wedding at St Jean de Luz in 1942..It appears though that its days might be numbered. Béatex, the last French manufacturer of the beret, has gone into receivership (English translation here). Béatex, based in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, has been making berets since 1840 but it's believed that low cost competition from abroad, coupled with some internal issues, is to blame for its demise. Berets are still a familiar sight here in Bayonne and elsewhere in the Pays Basque. Practical and convenient, they protect the wearer from the sun in summer and the rain in winter, plus they can be worn in any number of different ways according to the owner's taste. It has to be said though that most beret wearers are likely to be of the older generation. Modern youth in France (and the rest of the world) is abandoning the ubiquitous beret and is taking to the 'cool' baseball cap in droves - but do baseball caps bring the wearer as much luck as a beret..?
I've mentioned the Basque beret before here.. with a video that explains how they are made - the process is far more involved than you may have thought.

Saturday, 28th January 2012. A chilly morning down at the river today.. ~4-5°C. The club took delivery of an almost new carbon fibre VIII a few weeks ago and this morning we put a crew of mecs together to give it a blast up the river. It was cold in the shadows as we headed off upstream but soon after the first bend, we emerged into the sunshine. The welcome warmth of the low morning sun felt good, and it turned the mist rising off the cold waters of the Nive into golden steam. The new boat was a pleasure to row - extremely rigid and well-balanced as well as being light. It responded well and we gradually warmed up as we surged up-river. This morning it was no hardship to continue to the footbridge near Villefranque which is normally the furthest we row (9km from the clubhouse) and we reached it in fine style doing intervals of hard and light rowing. When we stopped to turn around, I felt fully warmed up apart from my fingertips. Coming back, I noticed an ominously heavy bank of dark cloud approaching from the west (over the Bay of Biscay) and it was a race to see if we could manage to escape yet another soaking.. Alas, with 5 minutes to go, the rain started and steadily increased in pressure until by the time we returned to the pontoon, we were thoroughly soaked.. A good sortie though.. 18km.

1st February 2012. I had a quick dash over the border yesterday for some much-needed supplies - diesel and other sundries. The price of diesel has been bouncing around lately but yesterday in Spain it was 1.29€/litre (=£1.07/litre or US$6.35/US gallon). They also had an offer I couldn't refuse on litre bottles of 12 year old Glenlivet. Today looks like being the start of a very cold few days down here in the Pays Basque. The forecast is for +5 this morning dropping to -6 (21°F) this afternoon - which puts us colder than Saskatoon (-2) in mid-Canada! And there's the possibility of some snow on the ground tomorrow. We've hardly seen any snow here since we moved here in September 2007. I think one year we had an inch or two but it had gone for the most part by lunchtime. Went into town to buy a baguette and I got one straight from the oven.. kept my hands warm all the way home!

4th February 2012. Another cold morning here (minus something - I think about -3) but decided to go down to the river all the same. The usual suspects all turned up but le responsable decreed that it was too cold to row (my hard nosed rowing master at school would have thrown a major wobbly at this!☺) and so a few of us hit the rowing machines to try and warm up. We did an hour of varied pace rowing which finally did involve an element of sweatification.. but I've never been able to approach rowing on these Concept 2 machines with the same sense of enjoyment as jumping in a boat. Tonight we're all meeting up in a bar in town for an apéro or several. Took the dog out for a walk and even he was glad to return home.

5th February 2012. Enjoyable evening out for an apéro with the rowing club last night.. once we'd found the place! The venue was called 'Tipitapa' (this will blow the rust off the cogs!) and I knew within 50m where exactly it was.. The problem was that it didn't have a sign and I was looking for a bar. So after exploring all the likely locations in Bayonne - on a bitterly cold night - and across the Nive in Petit Bayonne, we returned to the starting point at the end of the Rue d'Espagne when there was a familiar cry from on high.. One of the responsables was standing up on the ramparts shouting to us.. The location was in a group of old casemates set into the ramparts. My glasses immediately steamed up the moment we stepped inside - there was a crush of people but I managed to catch the eye of one of our mecs behind the bar and a couple of glasses of wine were passed over the heads of a packed room to us. All the old faces were in there and as I said to one of the nénettes I didn't recognise her with her clothes on! And once I'd heard the final score from Murrayfield, there was all the more reason to celebrate! There's a nature reserve that's just a 5-10 minute walk from the centre of Bayonne that we've been meaning to visit for a while.. Yet another item on our list of things to do! All it involves is a short walk* out of town along the banks of the Nive and then cross via the footbridge to the northern bank and voilà! You've just arrived at La Plaine d'Ansot..

(* or better still, a short ride on a free bike!)
By the way, our unscheduled dip in the river the other day was just a few yards downstream from the footbridge at 03:32. And in case you were wondering, it was too deep to touch the bottom.

9th February 2012. According to the news yesterday, we're experiencing the lowest February temperatures on the Côte Basque since 1956. It was -8 overnight here - and it feels much colder, perhaps due to the humidity.

12th February 2012. The Big Freeze continues. I took El Poocho into town this morning to the bakers and while it was dazzlingly bright with blue skies all around, it was also very cold - as in -1C. ("You call that cold?") I'll ignore that! There were very few people out and about.


Lesley said...

A treadmill walk for the dog doesn't work either, can't do pit stops!

Pipérade said...

No sniffs either!