Tag Archives: France

A Fortnight in France – Part 5

A Fortnight in France – Part 5

This is the fifth part of my epic holiday in France (well, it was epic for me!  I actually saw sunshine for a while and got away from home for a fortnight! WooHoo!  If you’d like to read previous installments please do click on the links below, this will all make sense if read in order, I promise.

Part 1: Setting off from a drizzly UK and arriving in a sunny haven in France.  The kids fly for the first time and we explore the area a little.

Part 2: Canoeing, hanging around the pool and swimming in a storm. (I didn’t, I was a wimp and it was too cold)

Part 3: The day France was closed, Sausages and Saucisson, and games with gravel.

Part 4: Rain, rain, go away! In which we are miraculously transported to the Lake District overnight.

This was where most of these diary entries were written. Nicely shaded and quiet (when the kids were off elsewhere at least!)

Continuing on from Part 4: I look out the window one morning and see:

Birdies

A couple of days ago we were rewarded with a line of burbling swifts/swallows lined up on our telephone wires.  They kept sweeping off their perches, swooping around a little and alighting, setting the process off all over again.  Constant movement and displacement.  Beautiful, elegant birds and an absolute joy to watch.

A random Thursday of which the date is unknown.

The highlight of the day was an update from Horace from some news website or other.  It was about an alcoholic moose believe it or not.  The poor thing had got carried away in its search for slightly over ripe apples and had actually climbed up a tree.  After consuming loads of apples that were so ripe they had become alcoholic, it slipped and became stuck.  Some bewildered Swedish bloke actually found this drunk moose floundering around up a tree!  Can you imagine the phone call to the Swedish version of the RSPCA!

‘Hello?’

‘Hi, There’s a moose stuck  in my tree and I think its drunk’

‘Is it ok?’

‘It just asked me a strong coffee but apart from that I think it’s fine.’

The news said that the swedish version of the RSPCA had rescued it and told ‘curious enquirers’ that it was ‘recovering’.

I sat and chuckled about this long after everyone else stopped thinking it was funny.

A Posh Meal With Father Christmas

By this point in the holiday we were all thinking about the inevitable return to the UK.  With this depressing thought  in mind (or maybe that was just me) we decided we’d have a celebratory meal to finish the french trip in style; we decided to go for a fabulous meal out at some far out of town French farmhouse.  It was a beautiful location for a meal, out of the way, along winding, almost Devonesque country roads finally ending up at a farmhouse that boasted a kind of derelict glory, there were dilapedated fountains and falling down stonework here and there.  The meal was the poshest I’ve ever eaten.  I still feel guilty about eating fois gras, it’s a huge delicacy here.  I just think it’s a bit mean and tastes like chicken mousse – although I suspect I’m a foodie heathen.

Anyway!  It was at St Clement, near St John d’ Cole.  The meal was very classy.  Too classy for the likes of me probably.  The first course was some kind of cold tomato soup, served in something that I’m presuming they stole from a doll’s house.  It was presented in a tiny bowl, with an equally tiny spoon – added to this was a small floating random green vegetable that I was told was a pickled squash.  I ate it and it tasted of aniseed balls.  So, first course, cold doll’s house soup with random small green vegetable that tasted of sweets.

Gaps between courses were spent wandering (having a smoke) outside in the garden where the Horse Chestnuts had dropped a ton of conkers. The kids spent quite a while making this sunshine arrangement. So pretty!

The owner of the place appeared to be a slightly knackered looking Father Christmas and his lovely assistant, who wore a chef’s white jacket slung over the top of a smart dress.  We weren’t sure if she was his daughter or his trophy wife.  Either way I never saw her smile once and she looked rather like a bad tempered hospital matron than a waitress.  Apparently mardy Father Christmas had been seen to criticise her on her placement of the second course on the table and she’d begun to look unfriendly from that moment on.  I thought she looked scary from the start personally and was scared of asking for more bread rolls for fear of having my food replaced with hospital food instead of gourmet stuff.

If I remember correctly this was a certain sort of mushroom pate. I can’t remember what sort of mushroom it was, although it will have been one with an impressive french name probably.

Second course was very decorative and quite edible. Four strands of courgette, each peel curled up and placed end on, standing up on the plate with some strange pate in the middle that tasted of mushrooms maybe.   Four crunchy mushrooms were sliced and placed in between these swirls of courgette.  Horace had the slightly more expensive menu and I’d be a fool to try and describe all the odds and ends that he had on his plate, for one I can’t remember, and for two, I seriously think you might get bored, or at the very least wander off for a cheese butty and come back when we’re onto the next course.

I do distinctly remember the flower we were given to eat, and which tasted vaguely of floppy lettuce. It consisted of a yellow/orange aubergine bloom which I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to eat or not at first.  I think it was stuffed with something?  It did look pretty though!  I’d never eaten flowers before!  Well if you discount the time I ate some Clover when I was ten, someone told me that bees liked them and I thought that if they were good enough for bees I’d give it a try.  (I only ate a tiny bit of Clover before you start calling me a cow)

Horace’s next course was apparently called ‘Exploration of the Goat’.  I suspect whoever used the french phrasebook  lost the meaning in translation.  I expected a live bleating goat to be plonked on the table and for the owner to stand with a pointer and name each part of the goat in turn.

‘Zis is d’ Goat’s tail!’ ‘Ze goat’s leg’ ‘Zis is d’ Goat’s bottom!’

What arrived was a small parcel of meat wrapped neatly with string, and random pureed vegetables placed in neat small piles around the plate.  It was a ‘Brief Excursion of the Goat’ I think.  Tasted beautiful I have to say, maybe I’m not a complete foodie failure…

The meal was fantastic in all, really well presented and full of morsels of food I’d never eaten before, or at least had never eaten in the way they were presented.  I suspect that if I hadn’t been told that the strange little cubes of mottled brown and green things were actually quite high quality, home-made, matured to perfection, goats cheese cubes, I’d have sent them back whilst stropping and commenting that I’d report them to Environmental Health for giving us clearly mouldy food.

There were quite a few other courses and as I had a glass of wine with each course to complement the dishes I suspect I was rather pished at the end of it all.   I’d describe them all in detail, but I do genuinely think you’d get bored of me.

Sausage stares in amazement at his dinner! The green spiked hair was pureed spinach I think, the yellow eyes were egg yolks, and the white was the white of the egg. I think, but I’m not sure, the eyes and the mouth were olives maybe? He wouldn’t eat most of it, but loved the look of it at least!

Quick interlude, I’m typing at the end of the day.  The sky is a grey with a slash of pale pink, ocassional birds float across sky.  I’m waiting for the bats to start flitting around the garden.

Rent a Dog!

We didn’t realise that when we rented these gits, that we’d also rented the owner’s dog.  Every now and this huge fluffy, overweight retriever squeezes through a gap in the hedge and comes to keep us company, scrounge food….and to poo on the lawn – which is nice.  I like dogs, I really do.  I just hate dog poo.  I think this is bothering me more than I realised.  Last night I had a dream about a massive polar bear sized dog which I stroked carefully as it towered over my head.

This ‘Rent-a-Dog’ AKA Fluffy Pest, is actually very docile and endearing.  It’s slightly elderly and massive in an overfed retriever kind of way.  The cheeky thing sat in front of me the other day as I ate a piece of toast.  I took a bite, and it sat down and stared longingly at my food.  I told him ‘I’ve been brought up with labradors you know, I can resist you.’  He carried on staring, but he then he brought out the big guns just to see if I’d crack, despite my intensive training.  I swear that dog grinned at me!  I didn’t give him my toast though. I’m wellard me! (Just to clarify, I was brought up as a normal child, not amongst labradors in a kennel, my parents had pet dogs, I didn’t live as one of them or anything)

You can tell how hot the sun is according to how many lizards you can spot on a short wander around the gits.  The more lizards per square metre, the higher the temperature.  I prefer higher lizard density kind of days as opposed to nil-lizard drizzly Lake District days I have to say.

The Matilda Party!

On the last day after we’d tidied and cleaned our gits, we decided to finish the holiday on a high note.  Sweara, being the amazing grandma and inventive foodie that she is, helped use up our left over grub and organised food for the ‘Matilda Party’ which was held at the top swimming pool – the highlight of which was an orange studded with cocktail sticks bearing leftover camembert cheese and courgette pieces.  This orange even had cheese and olives stuck on to make a face.  Perfect party food for the final finale of the holiday!

We all sat round with ‘cocktails’, ie fruit juice with mint and pieces of oranges floating in it, listening to the last chapter of Matilda being read to Darlek by Gangdad.  Darlek wandered around with crisps and drinks, obligingly helping the party along like a cute little hostess.

Sausage got bored and decided to get ready for swimming, so he stripped himself naked and sat next to Mark and Bella, splashing them ocassionally.  I thought it was best to humour his impatience and got in with him.  He doggy paddled up and down in his little floatation belt, while the Matilda party continued.  After the chapter finished there was a round of applause, and Darlek joined us in the pool.  Darlek and I played at chasing a football with two long floatation tubes thingys.  We clung together at one point because shed did her gasping ‘I’m drowning!’ thing;  both of us were giggling and laughing so much at the deep end that we then both started doing an ‘I’m drowning!’ impression.  I had to swim for safety at the side of the pool for fear of dying of drowning and laughter.  Sausage determinedly fished crickets out of the pool in the meantime.

When I got out Grandma Mu-Mu said that she had tears in her eyes.  Apparently I looked just like a friend of hers called Jackie from years ago.  I don’t usually tie my hair back and I think I may have looked a little different today, I was also wearing a very 1950’s style swimsuit. Low cut, black with striped top that crosses across my back.  I was very, very touched that she would associate me with someone she obviously thought a lot of.

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful holiday.  I’m typing now as I sit on the balcony, with  bright blue glorious skies above me, not a cloud to be seen.  Birds chirp in the distance and flies float around like motes with nowhere to go, just flying about and dodging and diving for the hell of it.  There’s a distant sound of airplanes, but absolutely no traffic noise.  The horses stand in the field opposite, swishing their tails lazily and are hiding in the shelter of their stall for shade.

A golden evening glow on the meadows.

To describe the setting: there’s the whoosh and rattle of the cooling fan behind me. There’s teddy bears left on pillows in the room , pyjamas are abandoned on the bed, suitcases strewn everywhere, floor immaculate swept and wiped clean ready for us to leave tomorrow.  This git is so clean!  Cleaner than our house at home ever is!  Horace cleaned the shower whilst showering.  He did hint that I should do that, but I didn’t fancy a shower in cleaning fluid so ducked that particular task

Off for a final meal of chilli, with friends and family.  I feel like I am so lucky some days.  The high blue skies reflect the mood I’m in.  High on happiness!

You’ll be relieved to find out that I’m actually nearly at the end of these holiday diaries.  Just one more to go…

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A Fortnight in France – Part 4

A Fortnight in France– Part 4

If you’d like to read right from the very beginning, you can find Part 1 HERE!

A quick warning, this is typed up very quickly from what I wrote whilst on holiday.  I suspect the grammar and the tenses etc are very badly mangled.  If you are an english teacher or some such other writing professional, please could I ask you kindly to ignore the badd spelling, terrible tenses of which I write of at the last minute, and appalling p’unctuation.

This blog is mainly about hunting for French Rizlas, suggestive Cave Paintings and drizzle (or should I say ‘Le P*ssing it Down’.

Going Native

Both kids have gone completely native, and have been running barefoot around the site.  We have been using copious amounts of Savlon on ragged feet. No amount of cajoling will persuade them to keep their shoes on.  I reckon their feet have become so calloused with the gravel that they have numb toes, there’s no other explanation for it.

'Please put your shoes on! Go on, go on, go on, go on!'

Darlek is getting dreadlocks and I must appear like the worst mum in the world because I cannot be arsed to run around after her with a brush.  I found a bobble the other day and managed a plait so I’m on with damage limitation exercises.

I’m unsure if they will let us back through customs with our battered  children.  Poor Sausage looks like a shadow of his healthy self.  He fell over the other day and used his face as brakes.  He grazed his face quite badly and now looks like he has jam smattered all over one side of his face permanently.  I am hoping  it will heal a little more by the time we got home.  Both kids have been runnning around like wild things and have acquired scratches and grazes.  All in all, I suspect I may be guilty of mild neglect.  There will be a plaster famine some time quite soon.

A Quest for Rizlas.

Horace and co have struggled to find supplies of baccy in surrounding shops, and in particular ‘thick’ rizlas.  Horace has always been given thin rizlas that are crap for roll ups and he has been unable to ask for anything else because of his rubbish  french.  He proudly announced today that he has found the word for ‘thick’ in his french dictionary so he will be able to go into a baccy shop and ask for them properly now.  I am hoping they won’t think he’s actually calling the shopkeeper ‘thick’ and get thrown out of the shop as a result.  Up until now, he’s just mimed with his finger tips, doing a pinched finger and thumb to mime ‘thin’, and then stressing he wants thick rizlas by extending the distance between finger and thumb to indicate thicker rizlas.  Consequently he’s just been supplied with massive rizlas, they think he’s just saying bigger.

'So, you think I'll be able to cope with my expensive cheese habit when I get home?' *look doubtful

When I go home I will need to stop chain smoking, drinking G n’ T’s in the afternoon and contantly eating baguettes and cheese. Not quite sure how this will happen.  Will have to stock up on tonic water, ensure there’s no gin in the house (ever!) and go get plastic fags from the chemists. I will be very bored with mild cheddar, and may have to leave chunks of it sweltering in cling film in the sun on the windowsill in a vain attempt to make the cheese taste of something.  We cannot continue such an expensive cheese habit, more’s the pity.

Laxeaux – that place where they have cave drawings estimated to be from 30,000 years ago (I can’t spell it).

There’s a slight hint of the Cottingley fairies in this tale you know!  The story goes that a couple of french lads found these cave drawings in their summer holidays  in underground caves amongst the french countryside – all of them resolved not to tell anyone about it – but then told everyone a couple of days later.  It is almost impossible to date the paintings because of the make-up of the rock, or something.  I think these lads just got bored, elaborately grafittii’d a load of rock with pictures of bulls with double unicorn horns, and then pretended it was pre-historic.  I suppose we’ll never know! (actually I think there must be some basis of truth because one of them would have spilled the beans to The Sun by now if that was the case).  I reckon the Cottingley Fairies mystery wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did if newspapers offered lucrative rewards for stories at the time.

At the  Museum in Laxeaux (how is this place name spelt?!)  We went for a wander around the museum and were very unimpressed.  They had an area with animals in that were supposed to vaguely look like the beasties that had been drawn on the cave walls.  For example, one of the notices outside one of these animal enclosures said:  ‘Compare the bull pictures with the real things!’ – in the enclosure are horses:  yep, you read that right….horses.   Talk about confusing people!

At the the Laxour site itself, the cave drawings were actually beautiful replicas of the ancient art work; the original cave siting had suffered from mould and damage because of the influx of visitors and the spores that they brought down with them on their breath.  They were amazing to see, the artists had just come out of an ice-age and were making their mark in these old caves.  The paintings span almost the whole of the replica cave, across the walls, the roof, everywhere.  Three colours were used, which is apparently rare in cave drawings of this kind, they consisted of black, red and yellow – various combinations of which led to 12 shadings.  In my youth I always assumed that people from that era just ran around with clubs attacking wooly mammoths and going ‘Ug’ a lot.  In fact some of them were ensconsced in flickering candlelit caves, laid flat on their backs on scaffolding, painting the ceilings of caves with breathtaking images of bulls, stags, bears, horses and, it has to be said, a rather rude stickdrawing of a man looking rather excited about something.

(I’m sorry I can’t include photos, we didn’t take our camera with us on that day)

In the cramped cave where the tour was held, Darlek crawled through a sea of legs at least once to get to the interesting bit of the talk.  The french bloke doing the tour had a really strong french accent and I struggled not to giggle innapropriately at first.

Seriously though,the drawings are spellbinding!  My favourite bit was where the artists have drawn five horses, all following each other in line as if along a hillside.  The artists often used the relief of the cave to add depth to their drawings and in this case the horses really do look as if they are running along a far distant hillside, they are drawn along a particularly dramatic crease in the rock which makes for a perfect perspective trick of the eye.

We were told that anyone who made too much noise would be thrown out so, after we’d told Sausage to stay as quiet as possible, he began to tell me and anyone within reach to ‘shush’ and put his finger to his lips. This meant I missed quite a bit of the talk which was a little frustrating, but was still forgiveable because it was funny.  Daughter thankfully didn’t do her ‘Farticus’ impression whilst we were in the cave.  I overheard Gangdad asking her to try not to blow off too much, and ‘clenching’ was suggested.  The advice was obviously taken on board and gas masks were not necessary at any point in the cave experience. Yay!

Rain, Rain Go Away!

At least it was warm rain!

Today we woke up to drizzle, fog and what seems to be the Lake District.  I am a little concerned that someone has picked up the entire git and shifted it back to Britain overnight.  Currently I’m sat under our wooden shelter, with my coat on, and a jumper and my jeans, my feet clad in wooly socks and big boots.  I’m rubbish at being cold, there are others here in jeans and T’shirts today but I’m just a wuss.  The sides of the shelter are all open so I’ve had to move from the end of the table towards the middle which is more sheltered by the house – it’s either that or sit typing with a soggy potentially knackered netbook.

That's me, the geek typing in the corner. Not one of the prettiest photos I've ever seen of me, it has to be said!

I’m a little resentful at the weather to be honest, it was so beautiful at the start.  It still is, it’s just the colours are never quite as vibrant in my opinion when the weather is manky.  Wordsworth would probably wax lyrical about the trees drinking in the rain, branches held to the sky in thanks for the watery blessing.  I on the other hand, mourn the loss of the sun loungers and stare sadly at the redundant suncream all piled in a plastic tub in the corner.  Bugger.  We left Britain in floods of rain, it seems it has followed us.  Bugger again.  I’m not bitter. Much.

The gits (I refuse to call them any other name)

The three cottages are called ‘La Lavendere’ ‘La Rosemarie and ?, two of which have their own lawn and  almost direct access to the swimming pool, our cottage has a gravelled area with some sun loungers but no pool.  This isn’t a bother though as we’ve spent most of the holiday hanging around the largest of the gits.  The food is communal so it’s a help yourself kind of affair, which has worked well.  I just feel sorry for the people who live in this particular git as we have all been using it as the main place to hang out – hence they’ve had all the washing up, bottles, the dreaded Sausage’s wet pants left on the floor outside, and abandoned shoes.   As the largest family here, I am concerned that we are secretly known as the scruffy rabble who should really learn to pick up after themselves.  I fill the dishwasher sheepishly every now and then and wipe up in an attempt not to be evicted.  So far it’s worked.  We’re still here. (Kay digs her heels in)

The centre of the communal git has a relatively well maintained lawn with a beautiful tree as the main feature.  I have no idea what sort of tree it is, but it appears to be light green, ferny and fluffy from a distance.  The leaves catch the rain and make it look like it’s adorned with  little glass dewdrop beads.

The botanical term for this tree is erm....'Fernus Frilly Prettius' Honest.

‘I don’t beliiieve it! (Victor Meldrew stylee), it’s started raining even more now.  All I can hear is dripping water and burbling bubbling drainpipes, and pattering on the shelter.  It’s all very watery.  I think I need a wee. Damn you rainfall! (shakes fists at the heavens)

Running in the Rain

We let the kids run around in the rain for ages, they were having so much fun it seemed a shame to stop them.  They did have anoraks on, but seemed determined to wear them with the hoods down, and in Darlek’s case unzipped.  I saw her lie on one of the soaked sun loungers as if in the throes of a boiling hot day, although the sun’s rays had been replaced with pelting rain.  I suppose it was warm rain at least.  Both pairs of their shoes did use to have flashing lights in the soles, now they no longer flash and they are soaking wet and stuck in a corner rammed with newspaper.  Why oh why did I not tell them to put their sandals on!  So that’s one to French rain, and nil to mummy.  Doh!  I bet they’ll both end up with raging Athlete’s Foot now and it’ll all be my fault.

It is a little later in the day and the rain has thankfully left us.  Good riddance to crap drizzle.  Short of entertainment, Darlek resorted to hair design and badgering grownups.  At least six of us have been bullied into having hair do’s remeniscent of romans or forest nymphs.  Boredom has led to minor hair insanity.  As we ignored all requests for TV, or iPad usage, this is what happened.

Horace's hair. Yep, it really is that long.

You'd be right in thinking they are in fact artistically arranged felt tip pens...She'll murder me for including that pic!

I personally had my hair decorated with ferns, and random cream flowers; others had wreaths of ivy and roses, Horace had ‘body’ added to his hair with the use of empty loo roll cardboard tubes and a bubble blowing container, with roses added for even greater insanity.

Further Adventures in Speaking Bad French. 

I just overheard an excerpt of French phrase book dabbling:  Someone has perfected saying ‘Is the equipment secure?’  ‘This is insane!!!’    I’m struggling to think of a context where this particular phrase could come in useful.  Maybe on board a french ship where a bewildered englishman is desperately trying to tie himself to the mast in the midst of a storm and is given a traditional bright yellow rubber ring with a duck head on the front of it.  Sorry, this is all I can think of. Again Horace is on about Gay Boits.  I am at an absolute loss as to how to link that to the above phrases and situation.  Maybe they are sailing to a gay island, Lesbos maybe.

Kids are running around frantically asking anyone and everyone if they will fill up the water pistol.  Despite it being generally acknowledged that this is a bad idea, they are still insisting on asking everyone.  I’ve been asked twice.  I don’t think anyone has actually helped them but Harold has been squirted with water; all I can presume is that they have been attempting the complicated filling mechanism on their own and have achieved a little sucess.  Either that or they have been spitting water into it for some considerable time.  I daren’t sucess the latter as a possibility in case we are actualy thrown out of the git.

The evening sunshine is lighting up the surrounding hillside trees with a golden green glint.  Cream, white and grey clouds are drifting along the mostly blue sky, a hint of crap weather with hopes of further sunshine tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll swim  in the pool tomorrow if I feel brave enough.

So there you go!  This is the blog that refuses to go away.  *sings* ‘I know a blog that’ll get on yer nerves, get on yer nerves, get on yer nerves. I know a blog that’ll get on yer nerves…..’ (repeat until you’re sick of it.)   Apologies, I’ll stop soon, I promise. 

A Fortnight in France – Part 3

A Fortnight in France – Part 3

If you’d like to read Part 2 you can find it HERE and if you want to go even further back (you glutton for punishment you!) Part 1 is HERE

In this Part, I write about our children’s divine table manners and etiquette and extol the virtues of gravel as a plaything.

Stinky Stuff

Darlek loves it here, I heard her saying the other day – ‘Can we stay here for ever and ever and ever’  I have to agree.  It’s beautiful.  We’re in three separate ‘Gits’ each with their own facilities, all the amenties we could need are in each property, although I think one of us is lacking a washing machine.  I can’t remember who in the party that is, but I suspect my nose may tell me towards the end of next week.  (not really, nobody stinks, honest!) ….actually having said that Darlek seems to have terrible wind!  Anyone would think we’d been feeding her dead rats for the month prior to the holiday.  It is funny when she does her ‘Farticus’ impression as it has been christened, but it stinks to high heaven!  Thank heavens for light breezes and that we’re mostly outside.

Son is still burping like a bullfrog at every meal.  I suspect our family is now notorious for blowing off in one way or another now.

The park directly in front of our ‘Git’. The kids played outside most of the time which was probably a blessing considering….

Tantrums and Rocket Lollies

Darlek had a minor meltdown over a ice-cream yesterday which was a bit traumatic. There was only one left and as Sausage is younger and often misses out on things because of this, he was given the ice-cream.  Poor Darlek thought that this was unfair and sobbed in a heap in a chair indoors for what must have been an hour.  No amount of cajoling could persuade her to rejoin the rest of the party and I sat there feeling like an absolute cow.  But really, have you ever tried splitting a rocket shaped ice-lolly in two?  Not gonna happen.  She got over it eventualy, but I suspect the emotional scarring may be permanent.

Matilda

Gangdad has been reading Matilda by Roal Dahl to her every evening.  She is spellbound!  Gangdad does all the different voices and really gets into the spirit of the book.  I suspect the voices get more muddled as more red wine is consumed towards the end of the evening where most of the reading is done.  I’m not allowed to read the book now as it’s Gangdad’s special book and he wants to know what happens.  I read a chapter the other day and he re-read it to Darlek as he wanted to keep tabs on the plot.  I know my place!

Saucy and Saucisson

Sausage has been rechristened Saucisson, which is French for Sausage we have  been told.  Speaking of funny names, Horace came back from a trip out with two huge cones of cardboard, sealed at the end with ‘Surprise!’ written across them.  I think they were the french equivalent of lucky dip bags.  Inside were random little tatty gifts for kids, one for a girl and one for a boy.  I think the real surprise was the pretend silver tiara, necklace and earrings that held the brand name ‘Saucy’.  We all decided that this little gift set was probably made in Hong Kong where no-one could speak english, so consequently they’d asked some random translation package on the internet for a translation of the chinese word for ‘Cheeky’ and had ended up with ‘Saucy’ as a suggestion.  With all the erm…’dodgy’ associations with the word, it was generally agreed that the goods had probably been politely refused in the UK and had been shipped over to none-english speaking countries where they could be sold without raised eyebrows.

Darlek thought they were a bit young for her I think and refused to wear them, not ungraciously though.  Grandma Sweara sat beautifully bedecked in plastic jewellery for a while instead until she got bored of them and Saucisson adopted the necklace for a while.  Parading them up and down over his ‘Monster’s’ T’shirt.  Darlek has suddenly become very grown up, and a lot more self aware than she was.  She now refuses to have her hair in pigtails because she says they laugh at girls at school who wear them.  It won’t be long until she starts with a passion for Prada and posh hair straighteners.  I know it’s a cliche to say they grow up so quickly but they really do.  I looked at her the other day and noticed how long her legs have become, and how tall and lithe she is.  I’m not saying she wasn’t beautiful before, but it was a slightly chubby little girl beauty before, with the slightly dimpled elbows and filled out face.  These days she seems built like a racing grayhound as my dad would say, and I can see her running ahead towards her girlhood and away from her babyhood.  Ah, my gorgeous girl!  The most gorgeous girl in the world if you ask me, but then I’m biased.

A quiet interlude on our balcony.

Me stood on the balcony eating toast and looking spaced out.

The gits we are staying in are really like home from homes, complete with sitting rooms with leatherette chairs, well- equipped kitchens, bedrooms with little bunches of lavender tied with ribbons on bedside tables, handy bedside lamps; quirky little paintings on the walls.  The little touches such as the hairdrier in every house is much appreciated too.  I forgot mine, along with Sausage’s specially bought swim pants, the toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner and the bottom half of my new bikini.  Thankfully I also bought an all in one costume too so I shall not have to go swimming whilst completely indecent.

I suspect the favourite facility is the outside swimming pool.  there are two, one in the grounds of the house and one raised up further up the hill.  Both are beautifully maintained (no chips or cracks in the masonry, loungers that all work and look new), and are heated by the sun throughout the day.  Around the pool there’s baby doll pink, red and white roses so it is framed very picturesquely.  It may not be an infinity pool, but it’ll do nicely for us.    They’ve even provided a baby floation belt and two floatation tubes so the kids have something to play with in the pool if visitors have forgotten to bring inflatables (which we did!).  The best thing about the swimming pool is that it is completely fenced off with a reasonably tall wooden picket fence, gated with a chidproof lock to ensure there’s no unattended children in there. My daughter in true precocious style has mastered the lock but thankfully has the common sense (usually) not to go in there by herself.  She did once and was right royally told off, she’s not done it since!  Anyway she can swim quite well now. Saucisson cannot swim and is less precocious so cannot get in there, which is a great relief.  I can’t imagine anything worse than having an acessible swimming pool in the grounds of a holiday home.

Slowly burning to a frazzle but not minding at all.

Who Needs Toys When You’ve Got Gravel?

The younger kids seem fascinated with gravel and stones.  The trip to the river resulted in a medium sized basket of stones of varying sizes, the most prized being the lovely amber rose coloured quartz which seems endemic to this area.  The plaza in St John is cobbled with the stuff.  The other stones which have proved as substitute toys are the gravel that covers the pathways from the houses to the roadway.  Endless hours have been spent with the kids shovelling stones from the pathway onto the seated area, and then back again ad infinitum.  Sausage has been taught to use the smaller brush to brush the stuff back on to the path in a vain attempt to stop the path invading underneath our outside dining table.  Unsucessfully of course.  Someone has organised a bowl of water with stones in for the kids to play with, because of course they always look prettier under water and kids love wet stuff.  I’ve just heard the parent of the youngest child shout ‘Stop chewing rocks!’ at her, something you just don’t expect to hear shouted whilst in the midst of a civilised sitting-in-the-garden-drinking-vodka-and-tonics afternoon.

I can’t remember what Sausage was saying at this point, but It was probably something along the lines of ‘The gravel is all mine, all MINE! Mwahhahahaha *evil laugh*’

This reminded me of when Darlek was a ‘littly.’  I was once memorably heard to yell ‘Stop waving that penguin in such a threatening manner!!!’  Another usually unheard of phrase.  Daughter was in the posession of a wooden penguin on a stick and was waving it like she was going to bray someone with it.

The Day France was Closed.

We had a disasterous trip out for the second generation, ie, the older kids, leaving their brethren behind for the first generation to look after them.  The plan was to find the local caves, and then find somewhere for lunch.  As it was we decided to visit a chateau on the way, which was like a huge dramatic building on the outside, complete with gargoyles and towers, inside it looked like it had very little furnishings left apart from some elaborate tapestries and inexplicable, expensive looking paintings of rhinos. And no, I’m not making that up.

Stunning on the outside, loads of paintings of rhinos on the inside. Armadillo’s! (sorry, not sure where that came from, I’m not mentally scarred from advertising or anything….)

We then went on to the caves where they had some ancient cave drawings on display – which was closed.  So we decided to go and get some lunch and stopped off at a roadside garage / cafe – which was closed too.  After a couple of soft drinks we headed off to a larger town to find food – every single solitary place that sold food  was closed.  We laughed it off and starved quietly.

This is so completely alien to me!  I didn’t realise, but France is known for ‘closing’ mid-day for a sort of siesta, and you have to time things around their routine.  In Britain you can find a butty at Greggs almost any time of the day!  The starving bit wasn’t so much fun, so we went to another restaurant – which was, guess what, closed.  In absolute desperation we went to a shop to buy a packet of crisps to share  – it was closed!  I have vivid memories of Annabel in the back of the car saying ‘I’ve got some chewing gum, there’s only one piece, but does anyone want it?’ and I think at that point we thought enough was enough.  About ready to chew our own arms off we all sheepishly returned to the git and devoured bread and cheese and then called it a day.  The day of freedom didn’t quite work out, although I still enjoyed it because we were child free for once.  We could have driven round aimlessly in circles for 2 hours and I’d have been fine about it – wait on…..we did.

I ate more way, way too much French bread and pate. Note the hamster cheeks.

Oui!

Sausage’s potty training has gone to pot, I’m not sure if it is because of the casual french used here and there.  We all say ‘Oui!’ (wee!) at regular intervals and he seems happy to oblige.  I am so sick of wet pants.  It has been suggested that we send him to Africa because they are short of water there.  He apparently has the abilty to wee more than he actually drinks, a valuable resource over there maybe.

To be continued……are you bored yet?……or are you booking a flight to France this very second.  I know what I wish I was doing……. *sighs*

If you’d like to read Part 4 – please click HERE!

A Fortnight in France – Part 2

A Fortnight in France – Part 2  

Part 1, can be found HERE if you’d like to read that first)

The days as they pass in no particular order and comments passed in passing….whilst in the Perigord region of souther France

….In which I write about wanting to catch lizards, and go on about ham sandwiches in French quite a bit.

30th August

Canoing down the river Dronne! 

I thought it would be a lazy day, casually paddling down the river.  It turned into a marathon of shoulder crunching river mashing.  Having said that, it was very pretty, even if completely knackering.   There seemed to be tons of velvet blue damselflies flickering around the lilypads (or whatever they are), one even hitched a ride on the back of the canoe for a millisecond.

Our 'Room With A View!'

Later that day I momentarily thought Sausage had become interested in nature  – He said: ‘I’ve found a moth!’ and then continued with, ‘I killed it with this!’ and proudly waved a small plastic baseball bat.  I was sadly mistaken.

Relaxed preparations for dinner!

At dinner we had a classic comedy moment:  Sweara, on being told that we were having Coq au Vin, announced ‘I’ve had enough Vin, I want some Coq now’.  Completely innocently as well, which made it all the more amusing.  I hope she won’t mind me writing that down, it was just priceless and I can’t help myself.

Darlek’ swimming skills are coming along nicely, she swims very well, but makes scary ‘I’m drowning!’ gasps which scare the life out of me.  She’s very enthusiastic whilst swimming and attempts to drown any available adult in the pool.  Had a laugh ducking flies, and also an out of hand game of catch with an inflatable ball.  Sausage and Darlek both had hold of the ball and were jokingly yelling to get each other to let go of it, it escalated into a screaming match whereupon I couldn’t shout loud enough over them to tell them to shurrup, and Horace came over to check we weren’t all in some terrible screaming drowning accident.  I was actually laughing too much to stop the screaming and was being irresponsible and worrying fellow guests apparently.

Roses bordered the swimming pool, they were very well watered while we were there. The kids loved splashing about and trying to drown us grown ups.

Later we went swimming at the top swimming pool whilst a thunderstorm lit up the skies.  The clouds were amazing, one was shaped like a chamelion with a forked tail and an eye; another one looked like a sausage dog with jaws that lit up like fire when the lightening flashed.  Cauliflower white clouds built in the midst of a eggshell blue sky on the other half of the horizon, with dark grey smudgey clouds on the other side.  The sky had gone schitzophrenic as far as we could see.

You can't see too well here in the evening light, but the cloud in the distance actually bubbled and grew almost in front of our eyes! I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

The quiet, civilised, grown-ups-only swim was completely foiled and Darlek and Sausage swam around too.  Mark dived in fully clothed, Darlek thought this was amazing and may have been disappointed that I didn’t follow suit.   The pool sparkled with underwater lights and little lanterns lit the edges.  So pretty!  I felt like we’d accidentally wandered into a film set where James Bond should be sat at the side drinking martinis, shaken not stirred.

Another fond moment later in the week:  I remember lying on a picnic blanket on the grass in the dark after a late tea – me, Darlek and Horace, with Sausage running around with a ball pretending to be a dog.  Darlek had him sitting, rolling over and playing fetch.  We lay and watched the stars and tracked satellites.  A quick rendition of Billy Bragg’s ‘I saw two shooting stars last night, I wished on them, but they were only satellites, it’s wrong to wish on space hardware….I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care!’ with Sweara.

Darlek with her makeshift beauty treatment, cucumber eye patches!

One thing I loved about this holiday is that I often ended up drinking wine in the afternoon whilst reading bathed in sunshine.  As I typed this I was sat on one white plastic chair, legs propped up on another.  Relaxevous!

Horace gets a loose grip on speaking French.

Horace raided the french dictionary and found the word for Gay Bar which is Gay Box translated literally apparently, then appeared to forget every other french word he’s ever learnt and just remembers that.

Cooking with Lavender

Horace and I made tea for 15 people and chose spag bol.  We made enough spaghetti to feed two armies.  Put two huge bowls of spaghetti on the table and then confessed that we had another left in the communal kitchen, everyone thought we were joking because they didn’t think it possible that anyone in their right mind could actually cook that amount of excess.  We had spaghetti omelette the next day.  Unusual and lovely.  Highly recommended by us, probably scorned by Itallians.  Spag bol was also served for lunch the next day too.  ‘We shall not starve for the lack of spag bol’ I thought to myself.

Dominos, Backgammon and Star Wars Top Trumps with the kids were the games of choice. What a fabulous way to while away an hour or so. I loved the calm way of life, a fortnight was not long enough!

I was nervous about cooking tea, but was determined to prove I could cook, so set about making stock.  Had the usual ingredients, half an onion, bit of courgette, peppercorns odds and ends – and added some ‘herbs’ from the garden that I thought were Rosemary.  Sweara came into the kitchen and  very kindly saved me from a fate worse than cookery death, and told me I had actually made a stock with Lavender in it.  I had lined up a huge wadge of Lavender to add to the main dish too.  If I hadn’t have been stopped in time everyone  have had to have eaten it and been polite, whilst wondering what the hell I’d done to the food to make it taste of flowers.

Little Lizards!

Little lizards everywhere!  Love em!  Skittering up and down walls, between decking, and amongst the gravel mostly.  So cute!  Would love to catch one and hold it in my hand so I can check out the markings, but they are unbelievably quick and nervous of people.  They are a lovely dark olive green / grey with a stripe along the side, dotted with shadings of spots and dashes as far as I can see.  They definitely like the sunshine and are most active when the sun is splitting the flags as they say in Lancs.

Our two were little hoodlums and regularly wrestled anyone and everyone given half a chance.

Playing Hunt The Market!

Unusual trip out to a market!  Everyone piled into the car, and arrived on scene to find one fish stall in a quiet car park, and a lorry that appeared to be selling something, but I couldn’t work out what.  That was it!  We ended up wandering around an apparently post apocalyptic town with no-one in it, apart from a few posh food shops, bought some meat for the BBQ, postcards and wandered back to the car.  Tried to get a drink in a cafe, but they said they were only serving drinks with meals.  In actual fact it looked more like a couple of the locals were having a good gossip and they couldn’t be arsed.

Mark had a long indepth discussion with an old French lady who apparently began the conversation with ‘Long Live Queen Elizabeth!’ and advised him on tourist friendly bits of this very quiet town.  She told him there was a restaurant (see above), and also somewhere that had a garden with flowers and Rose wine.  Mike said she went on about how she liked the flowers but had no need of the  ? or something (whatever that was).  Found a couple of other tourists with kids sat outside the Syndicat D’Initiative looking a bit lost.  They’d been on an unsucessful market hunt too.  The last one they’d been to had 2 stalls too.  My overall impression is that markets hide from tourists.

Bella! When she's old enough to go finding markets herself, she'll be a danger with a credit card. I have never known a child have such an fixation with shoes in my life! It didn't matter if the shoes were 10 sizes too big - she still wore them with the same panache, style and ocassional shuffle if they were really miles too big.

French Supermarkets

Our visit to a French supermarket was interesting.  They had similar foods, all packaged differently.  I struggled to find Shampoo and Conditioner.  After a while I identified shampoo, as it said something like ‘shampooing’ on the bottle; next to it was something of the same brand in a tub which said something like ‘nutrisse’.  I’m not used to conditioner in a tub, and I’m still not sure if I’ve chosen correctly.  Who knows, maybe I’ve been putting handcream on my hair for the last week.  So far my hair hasn’t stuck together in clumps, so I think I’m ok.

Mucking about with French

We’re all dropping bits of french into the conversation all the time, some more successfully than others.  I am apalling.  I have a terrible habit of joining in with these French speaking mucking about sessions, by simply announcing ‘Je vous drais un sandwich jambon!’ and giggling.  It’s not funny really, but I suppose I just imagine going into every french situation possible and showing off with this particular phrase.  Eg, going to station, instead of asking for ticket, simply say ‘Je vous drais un sanwich jam bon’.  Visiting post office, wandering to till with postcard, proferring it to assistant and saying ‘Je vous drais un sandwich jam bon’ – just because that’s just about the sum total of my french speaking skills so I may as well use them.

Part 3 to follow.  Is anyone actually reading this?  Or am I being a longwinded, boring, waffle-monger?

You can read it on 31st Jan at 9am, set your watch!!!!  Click HERE for more ramblings about ‘The Day France Was Closed’ and a photo of me eating french bread and looking like a hamster.