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12th January

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We gave up on climbing a mountain for the second time this week. Last Sunday we planned to climb Turoc, which was just a steady climb a long a path through beech woods to a summit at about 1500m, so well below the now line. When we got to the start of the work we spotted that there was a foresters track that zigzagged up the hillside; it looked passable even for a low slung mini. In addition there were signs everywhere for chasse en cours, and the sound of gunfire and dogs barking and battered 4 wheel drives heading up the mountainside, the occupants wearing the compulsory yellow hunters’ jackets. The jackets became compulsory wear for hunters about 2 years ago, because they shoot each other by mistake quite regularly. Last year 36 hunters met an untimely death and 2 mushroom pickers. After giving it some thought we decided to just drive up and walk the last couple of hundred metres. I did debate whether to don a yellow jacket myself, but then some other walkers came by and said the hunters knew not to shoot near the summit as there were always walkers around. In fact we met lots of friendly walkers and at the top looked down to the other side of the ridge and watched the hunters lining up with their dogs whilst in the valley below dogs were trying to flush wild boar out of the woods. We didn’t get to see if they managed to shoot anything. We could see so many of the peaks we’ve climbed but I failed a test to name them, I don’t understand how Philip recognises them all.

Yesterday we set off on a slightly more ambitious walk up to a peak called Mail de Cric, near the border with Spain. The first hour of ascent there was no problem, but then we had to make regular diversions up and down the hillside to get past fallen trees and progress was very slow. The big storm of 2009 felled so many trees in the area and there is no access to vehicles with machinery to cut them up, so the paths have become impassable.  We were using a walking guide reprinted after the storm but there was no mention of the trees. We had to give up and clamber back over all the trees again on the way down. We had a picnic on the frontier with Spain and drove back down the Spanish side and back home along the Garonne valley. It is so strange how everything looks so different over the border. I was quite happy to get back home; our son rang to say the conservatory builders were hard at work. Indeed when we arrived home part of the frame was up. There was a small disappointment in that it was smaller than we had requested. We’d changed the dimensions when the builder put in the foundation and added on a few cms to the plan, but the conservatory man had cut everything to the original plan. They were a bit worried about our reaction but we didn’t complain. We just want it finished so we can move in. I expect the cats will love a sunny bright room to sit in as well.

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