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.
Continuing on from Part 4: I look out the window one morning and see:
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!
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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…