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Narbonne Market


September 2020 Retrospective

Every year, we go at least once to the Thursday Market in Narbonne, and though I had decided this was the day and it was wonderfully sunny and warm, I nearly didn’t go.

Cynthia being at home on Vancouver Island with her mom, I knew the drive down and back would feel a tad empty, the market experience not as rich… but I put on my big boy pants and headed out.

I was accompanied on the drive down and back by oboe music (the usual suspects- Albinoni and Vivaldi), then Winton Marsalis, followed by U2’s Joshua Tree (I keep calling it Jericho Tree in my head, not remembering that it’s named after the one who ‘fit the battle’, not after the place where it was fit).

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The reward was a slow sunlit stroll along the banks of the Canal de la Robine...

...across flower-laden passarelles and past the place that sells tempting jars of Baba au Rhum.

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My first stop en route to the market always brings out mixed emotions.

The cathedral church of Saint Just et Saint Pasteur, close by the market, houses one of my favourite works of art. I visit it every time I'm in Narbonne.

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Sadly, it is a fragment, mostly destroyed by the barbarian neo-classicals who showed scant respect for great works of the past, slamming slabs of politically correct balanced, parallel marble over it, wrecking most of this unique piece.

Doom Art, the medieval art of judgement, fascinates me. The different sections of a typical 'Doom' represent what happens immediately after death: the dead being led from the graveyard to be judged by Christ in Majesty (Replaced in this case by an inappropriate statue of Virgin Mary and Son).

The good ascend the steps to Heaven; the bad go in the other direction.

In Coventry's Holy Trinity Doom, among those represented as heading downwards are Alewives who have sold watered-down beer... sounds about right to me.

Two major fragments of the Narbonne Doom have survived the destruction and exemplify the craft and emotional intensity medieval artists achieved. The  ‘Chariot of the Damned’ led sinners down to the gatekeeper...

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Often represented by a monstrous sea-serpent, Leviathan was both the gatekeeper and the gate.

Once again, I left the church awed at the craft and angered at the wanton self-righteous vandalism.

And so, on along I went, through the extensive outdoor reaches of the market flanking both banks of the canal,  eventually reaching the indoor Victorian 'Halles'.

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Normally jostling and buzzing with activity, this time it was a quiet, polite shadow of its normal self: masked in every way.

Businesses and the general public had still not recovered fully from France's very strict two-month spring lockdown.

 I still played ‘guess what sea creature this ugly thing might be’ in the ‘poissonerie’ sections...


...pondered over buying Padron peppers, and remembered that if Cynthia were here, I could not have passed the patisserie section without purchase.

(As I’m writing this, I stop, wondering if I should edit out the proliferation of alliteration in the previous paragraph… pish-posh. Onward to lunch.)

I had reserved a table for one at our regular lunch haunt, outdoors at Brasserie le France on the street beside the Canal 

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This time, though, I didn’t have their wonderful three-course lunch, settling for Moules Frites and a glass of draft beer.

I sat, read a little, and when the moules came I ate, calling to mind at least twenty friends from Canada and the U.K. who had eaten here with us. Oddly, it didn’t make me sad or lonely; it made me grateful, looking forward to future friends visiting us at Les Lauriers, ‘cunning plans’ and the almost daily glass in La Place de la République.

Lucky man.

After lunch, a stroll along the canal, then back to the car and home to Limoux.

That evening, I went down to the nearby Medieval village of Alet-les-Bains and watched friends rehearsing for their band’s upcoming gig. One of the songs they sang, I wrote with band member Stuart McMath. That’s never happened before.


Bonne Nuit àTous

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