Remembering how last year we seemed to be a step behind everyone else as July and August got into full swing, this summer, we've been determined to "be there" when it happens.
Looking at the local tourist board calendars and talking with friends who tell us how good "such and such" was last year, the challenge is where to be when "it" happens. Should we go to see the Bratislav Chamber Orchestra? Or perhaps listen to motets by Mondonville (who he?). Maybe spend a night listening to opera highlights? That's quite apart from going to the all-day world plum kernel cracking competition (three age groups: under 11s, 11-16 and adults in the evening).
Nothing much starts before 9pm and even then, there may be speeches first, so stamina and a capacity to cope with late nights are key elements in the process of enjoyment. That, and a willingness to put up with appalling sound systems.
The place to be last weekend everyone assured us was Castelmoron for the seventh Folkloriades. Apparently last year was really good. In fact last year we met a troop of Chinese acrobats when out dog-walking, so we were intrigued to see what this year would offer.
The evening started with a Basque form of Morris dancing, but without the bells, bright colours or general gaiety. The most exciting moment was when one of the melancholic dancers fell off his stilts (not hurt I hasten to add). As Tod said, there are, after all, only so many things you can do on stilts.
We stayed for the sake of the following act, a troop from Peru. We both have been there and were nostalgic for the music. The average age of the dancers was about 10 and at least they had the bright colours and the gaiety. But then there's that feeling when there's only so long you can watch someone else's children doing something cute. And it's tough listening to El Cóndor Pasa being massacred. So at an appropriate moment we slipped away.
Not to be discouraged, this weekend we set forth with friends on Friday night to hear The Commitments in Agen in front of the Mairie: the stage set up in the open air, surrounded by the floodlit old municipal buildings and street cafés.
Yes, I know, The Commitments is an Alan Parker film. But apparently the band went "live". Only they didn't really, Andrew Strong, the raw, rough lead singer who made the band went solo and over the years they're down to only two from the film. But I bounced up and down and clapped enthusiastically to songs like Mustang Sally, Chain of Fools and Try a Little Tenderness and pretended I was part of the film and tried not to notice that Tod was sitting with his fingers in his ears (made the sound system marginally more bearable). Apparently last year's group, a Beatles tribute band, were fantastic.
Then last night - knowing what to expect - we sallied forth to our local commune for supper and cabaret. Whereas last year we'd been outsiders, this time we even recognised one or two faces: chatted to the Mayor and Mr Secretary - they know all about our plans for the house - and met some more English. Supper included large slabs of beef, with much gristle. Most of the English contingent left theirs; some of the French, made of tougher stuff, went back for seconds.
Still there was the cabaret to come: this year "1001 nights". It felt like it. There is after all only so many times one can watch the same four women twirling on the spot, with their arms in the air, waving bits of gauze. The highlight was when the Mayor was lured onto the dance floor, blushing gently and wiggling self-consciously while the lead dancer twined herself round him. After what felt like hours, we made our escape. Apparently last year's cabaret was fantastic.
This week, we will set out with renewed optimism to listen to opera highlights and next weekend is definitely where "it" will happen - street theatre in Miramont.
El Cóndor Pasa as it should sound:
From the original filmThe Commitments: Try a little tenderness Mustang Sally