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from the FPG Chronicles / Limoux

Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....



The beautiful French woman who had trailed us at Glastonbury and given us her address lived somewhere near Limoux, just south of Carcassone in the foothills of the beautiful Pyrenees. We did eventually find her address but she was nowhere to be found. The neighbours simply said she was away with no idea of where or when she might be back.

However, in the course of trying to track her down, we asked for some directions from a small gaggle of what looked like English hippies who had stopped by the side of the road. It turned out they were from Zimbabwe and had established a small community in the hills not far away.

“Would you like to come up for a cup of tea?” they asked. So we followed them for a few kilometres and pulled into a wooded lay by next to a small river. Here they stopped and explained that the ford across the river and the track up to their hamlet was very rough and was only used by their tractor, so we parked up and set off on foot.

At the top of the track there was a small cluster of stone buildings in various states of repair/disrepair. They took us into a large, more finished looking one which turned out to be the communal kitchen and dining / meeting place. There we found more counter culturalists and embarked on lengthy exchanges of information. It transpired that most of them had fled what was then “Rhodesia” - named after the famous corporate speculator, racist, and war-monger. The regime was in the throes of becoming more and more authoritarian and apartheid and they had wanted no part of it. They’d pooled their resources and bought a fairly large chunk of the surrounding land and were in the process of reinhabiting some of the crumbling stone cottages dotted about. At the heart of the collective were two sisters and their spouses, but the collective had grown to include English, German, and Dutch counter-culturalists as well. There must have been about twenty adults and their offspring living there at the time.

It turned out they knew the French woman who was our original contact but told us she was off in Italy somewhere. Apparently she was quite well to do and was often travelling about.

We explained who/what we were and played them a few numbers. Largely on the strength of this we were invited to stop as long as we liked in one or two of the uninhabited but habitable stone huts, so we did.

Using their hamlet as our base, we began busking in the local environs. After a couple of spots in Limoux itself, we were “discovered” by a local community radio station and asked to come in for an interview and a couple of plays. We clambered up some dusty stairs and were shown into a fairly barren room where a headphoned young woman sat at a large but standard office desk with some electronic boxes and a microphone on top. She asked us a few questions and played a few numbers from our tapes. Very informal, but this was transmitted live and recorded and, we learned, led to a mini-reputation being built up in the adjoining valleys.

Rennes Le Chateau

Rennes Le Chateau


It turned out that the valleys in the Limoux area were full of refugees from the seventies - hippies who had moved there from various places in search of a different lifestyle. Different valleys had a predominance of different linguistic groups. The German hippies had more or less converged in one valley; the English in another; the Dutch in another, and so on. Each valley had a sort of central culture spot; a cafe or a bar. We used to play them when we could get the bookings.

On one occasion, we played a bar in one of the German valleys, but our reputation (on the local level) was such that people from the other valleys came along as well. We’d also had that local radio time with the Limoux community radio station. The gig was straight forward enough. We were great and the people loved us, but at the end of the second set, a fight broke out. Two huge French guys (brothers, I later found out) got into an extremely heated argument and it wasn't long before furniture and crockery began to fly through the air. Everybody was completely pissed of course, including the woman who ran the bar. She actually got embroiled in the epicentre of the fight herself. Nick and I carefully rushed our guitars and amps into the safety of a back room. There we sat, had a spliff and some brandy, and awaited the outcome of all the noise and confusion in the front. One of the women came through to the back room, pissed, but wanting to chat up the band. We had the sort of chat you might expect in such a pissed situation, leading nowhere and meaning nothing - until I heard her mention that she lived in Rennes Le Chateau!

Suddenly my brain cleared for action and focussed.

I had read about the place in “The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail”. For obscure reasons, probably related to what I felt at the time was the profundity of the book, I felt I couldn't just go up there, rubber necking like a tourist. I felt I had to have a reason or a signal. This sounded like just the ticket!

She was mostly talking to Nick. He was younger and prettier. But I extracted the full rambling story. She lived in Rennes with her husband who was out in the bar (possibly fighting). They hardly ever listened to the radio, but this very day they had happened to switch it on, happened to tune in to one of the local stations, happened to hear a couple of our tracks with a mention of where we were playing, and happened to like the music enough to come out for the evening. I reckoned this must be the set of circumstances I had been waiting for - my excuse for going to Rennes. I tried to talk a bit more about Rennes itself, but she was too pissed and too interested in Nick.

However, she did say, “Pourquoi vous n'venez pas chez nous pour la nuit?”

For the full Rennes story, follow the link below:

Rennes le Chateau

  • from The Curvature of Certainty / Rennes le Chateau
    From years ago, when I still lived by the river in my wide-windowed, centrally heated flat, I have a vivid memory. I awoke, sweating, from an intense dream. I had a clear vision of distinctive low lying hills and stone buildings over which I was...

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