Liz is staying with us at the moment having escaped the daily round of caring for her hens, bees, elderly Chocolate Labrador and a very large vegetable plot. Not to mention all the other pies in which she has a fingers, in her country setting. This sejour in France is allowing her to sit and be, and work on her latest needlecraft project.
We went to Cherbourg today to get some items from the Auchan supermarket and some DIY stuff from BricoDepot. I found, in the gardening department of Auchan, a gorgeous Camellia to fill a gap in our narrow border of climbing roses. This latest addition is a ‘raspberry ripple’ single variety with a large flower. It will be perfect. I did not know they sold plants, perhaps this is a new venture as the store looked as if it had been greatly extended since our last visit.
The Poisonnerie had moved to another part of the store and it is a picture to look at. All the fish are arranged, on and in thick beds of ice, the smaller species, like the whiting and mackerel, as if in life position, in small shoals. But the thing that strikes the observer is that more than 3 times more space is given over to displaying a wonderful variety of crustaceans, shellfish, molluscs. It is surprising that, given that we British are an island race, our tastes in food from the sea should be so conservative, restricted, compared to our French neighbours. It is especially so when you consider you only have to cross a relatively narrow tract of water that separates England and France to witness this great disparity. I was very impressed by the different kinds of clams that were on sale, all with their colloquial names: Amandes, Praires, Coques, Palourdes, Coquilles St Jacques….. You buy these alive, in their shells, to steam or grill according to taste.
As it happens the shells of these clams are the raw material for my sister’s latest project. She covers the shells with lush velvets and plush fabrics, and then works intricate designs of colourful embroidered stitchery and French knots and finishes the work with beads. Each half is then lined with a soft satin or silky fabric and finally the two halves are reunited, as they were in life, a perfect pair and stitched where the ligament originally held the two valves together. A small button and thread loop act as a clasp. These beautiful objects can be used as jewellery cases but might have other contents such as a sewing kit.
During the coming week I will enjoy watching a small stock of these lovely things take shape.