On Sunday Dan, Ems and the girls need to leave the house by 9.30a.m. to give them a comfortable journey along the north coast in order to connect with their train to pass through the Chunnel. Emma has been up way before Dan and has pretty much done all the work. Dan trickles down in due course and has his own agenda of important things to do before departure. Not least he must road test his Batpod on the treadmill to identify its maximum speed per hour, and ideally make a short video.
Mum and I are up and about and can be useful, so we delay our morning toilette until the young family are on their way. We wave them off in our dressing-gowns. We can have a leisurely morning because we are going out to lunch at Au Moyne de Saire. The restaurant is full and all the patrons are French including a scattering of small canines who have obviously been trained to keep a low profile under their owner’s tables, and wait for titbits. Fortunately for them they are all low-slung dogs!
The chef has been trained in Paris and offers a traditional Norman cuisine. Mum chooses a Marmite de Pecheur which is a trio of fishes in a delicate pink, creamy sauce served in a shallow casserole dish (which is what a ‘marmite’ is) and which she loves. I have a steak perfectly cooked. Nick spots Aiglefin on the menu and is curious to know what species of fish it is, so he chooses it, and it turns out to be Halibut.
Once back at the house there is only one sensible thing to do and we all do it, waking for tea and biscuits which we can have in the late afternoon sunshine on the terrace. We are just putting a bit of salad together mid-evening when I realise we haven’t seen the cat all day.
He tends to disappear at the sound of childish voices, as a big soppy Tabby can only handle just so much loving. Lola loves to ‘soft’ Rooney whilst Ruby investigates his feline facial features. They would love a pet and word on the street is that there is a campaign being waged around the acquisition of a puppy dog!
“Rooney…..Rooney-Biscuits…!” brings a stripy vision of lumbering fur from beneath the Mimosa. He often hunkers down underneath the lowest branches with their ferny foliage which sweeps the grass. His camouflage is perfect.
And talking of cats, on Monday the Circus comes to town……….. again. We are all pottering about in the garden when we hear the sound of the horns belonging to VERY LARGE vehicles in the distance. In France any kind of vehicular convoy (with the obvious exception of a funeral cortege!) elicits sustained blaring of horns to express triumphal or joyful sentiments of “Here we come”, “Get a load of us”. Hardly a weekend goes by without a stream of wedding cars passing by the house with much tooting of horns. We get it on the way to the registry office, on the way to the church, on the way to the reception, on the way home. Every time they pass our house.
This time the circus train, which consists of pantechnicons some of which are hauling two similar-sized covered trailers, is accompanied by a loud commentary over a loud-hailer. It’s sing-songy, nasal French and not easy to decipher but the message is clear “Roll up, roll up to see clowns, llamas, lions…” and indeed a trailer with open sides covered in large gauge mesh and carrying two male lions passes a few feet away from our front gate.
Nick went fishing and caught a lot of mackerel. He was hoping for larger fish but they were not biting today. No matter, this catch is the first of the season when mackerel are so plentiful. You will go on catching them as long as you dangle a rod over the side of the boat. Nick has brought home about 60 so I grill a few for supper, souse some and smoke most. You cannot waste such bounty.
Francois is at our house when we set up the steel box fish smoker on a fire on the barbecue. Aware of an audience, I am rather cavalier about quantities of oak dust/shavings and the length of time they will require. Sometimes bravado kicks in and you hope for the best. As it happens when I open the box, the smoked mackerel are a lovely deep golden colour, cooked but still very moist and pronounced delicious by all, including Francois who drops by the following day to gift us some of the eggs he has been given by a patient. He would like the recipe…………. Recipe?!
Mum has not long gone to bed and I am esconced in my office communing with Dot on Facebook when I hear Nick calling me, and the relentless sound of distant drums. A front gate spectator for the second time that day, as the drumming gets louder, I see a glow of coloured light approaching the crossroads just to our left. A phalanx of pedestrians hoves into view, people of the town, some in fancy dress, and processes carnival-style across the road and continues alongside our house towards the college grounds behind the fire station. (We really do live in the thick of it!)
There is a banner which I read fleetingly and it announces (loosely translated) that this is the St Vaast Caribbean Association. Certainly the timbre of the drums speaks of that culture. (Too late as I click away on my digital, do I realise that I have quite the wrong setting for night photography!) Tant pis, I’ll post the pictures anyway because they have captured the eerie atmosphere.
Adults and children, babies in buggies, and a sea of coloured paper lanterns on sticks aloft, we conclude that given the hour, close to midnight, this is an opening event for the local celebrations for Bastille Day.