Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mighbrow: Occi

Di and I are normally in Corsica for Christmas and one of our traditions is to pack a picnic of bread, goat's cheese, some local charcuterie and a chilled bottle of rose (from Clos Landry) and take an early morning Christmas day walk up to Occi,  a deserted hilltop village on the north coast of Corsica. 
We sit above the village on the walls of the old bread grinding circle to eat what is invariably the best meal of the holiday.

The trail always brings out the intrepid adventurer; we encounter the occasional kindred spirit en route who invariably stop to chat. We've met some real characters; in fact we once ended up spending a whole boozy Christmas day with one Parisian couple at their holiday home in Il Rousse...
Occi sits proud above another village; the now chic Lumio. Both share one of the great views; the sweeping bay of Calvi leads the eye from sea to citadel and then up the long dappled valley towards our own little village, Montemaggiore and the mountains beyond. If you catch the light just right (early morning or late afternoon) there's an etherial beauty to the village and environs that is quite haunting. Sit under the old olive tree in the deserted square and you can hear the ancient voices and imagine the lives that once thrived there. To witness the detail of the dry stone walls that partition the surrounding fields and see within the solid shells of the surviving buildings, you can only wonder at the immense toil and intense labour that must have been invested in the establishment of such a place.
There are many local stories as to why the people deserted the village en masse a hundred years ago; the folk must have been quite exposed up there; some say the water supply dried up, some say the villagers tired of the trek from Occi down to the markets of Il Rousse and Calvi. 
Whatever the reasons, however challenging the existence, that departure must have been quite a wrench; the inhabitants who called this lofty haven 'home' must have felt daily blessed.


The walls are still standing
Not barriers built to claim
Just signs of life
That signify ‘we were here’

Their rough integrity
Promises nothing but endurance
And that endurance keeps the promise
Made by happy men
Shirtless and sure
That they would be remembered

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