A Chef’s Special : France

You’re probably wondering what Vertical Horizons by Jack Alun has remotely to do with Hathersage Social Club. Well, first of all Jack Alun is a pseudonym for me, John Couth, Simon’s father and, second, the place the poems are about is where Simon first came into contact with the culture of the Aveyron.

Let me explain. Over twenty five years ago Jill and I bought a cottage in a small forgotten village in the south of France.  To say the house was a ruin is probably to disparage ruins, but then what did we know about houses? Anyway, with hard work from all the family, it finally became habitable, giving us the leisure to explore our new surroundings. It was during these explorations that Simon discovered the unique cuisine of the area – its aligots, confits, truffades, daubes and a whole variety of sausages, salamis and cheeses.  A carefully acquired knowledge from which the diners at the Club richly benefit.

Of equal importance, he had the opportunity to travel and to sample the idiosyncratic character and variety of the wines produced by the many small vineyards of the Gaillac region.  Situated about thirty minutes south of the village and reached only after a tortuous corkscrew of a drive, they stretch before you, beautiful no matter what the season, with their roadside signs and the allurement of free tastings.  It was here too that Alfie, the club’s sommelier, discovered at Les Vignals, the delicious La Fauvette, a red organic wine, just one of the Club’s carefully chosen selection.

So back to Vertical Horizons and its poems, which describe the life and hardships of the village where all this started – no village, no book and, perhaps, even no Hathersage Social Club menus from the Midi.  The poems are varied in length and concern but focus always on the people of the village, many of whom Simon knew or knows, the moods and kaleidoscopes of the seasons, the atmosphere and scenery viewed from its perch on the hillside.

Vertical Horizons by Jack Alun available from Amazon, The Book Depository and Blackwells UK

…Through the lens of some truly sumptuous verse prose, Alun invites us to step off that Toulouse bound train and instead join him on an atmospheric journey into a natural realm where the sounds of industry fade away and we are left with life as our ancestors once lived it – village bound and at the mercy of the elements. Having left the roar and hubbub of the big city far behind, one can now focus on the intricacies of the landscape and the uniqueness of the residents, and Alun does both with aplomb…   Dean C Morrison