As the Jersey ferry cosies up to the wharf at Granville harbour it is a delight to see Joel running along the harbour wall waving wildly. He’s easy to spot in his green tee-shirt. Joel’s passion for the colour green goes beyond the more usual ‘my favourite colour is……….’ He’d see the world through green-tinted glasses.
Because I forgot to factor in the hour’s time difference, Nick and Joel have been hanging around waiting for me, with no money in Nick’s pocket. So we sit at a bar and have a drink and an ice cream before embarking on the long drive back to St V. We while the journey along with I-Spy, rhyming games and counting animals in the landscape.
Whilst I’ve been on Jersey the Cholsey contingent have settled into French holiday mode. It is lovely to walk through the door and be greeted by happy children. In addition to beach days (on one day I drive a pot of hot pasta in their favourite sauce to Anse du Hommet and share this with them all on the beach), the two older boys are taking regular trips on Aroona with Nick, Barns and Lukie. They’ve been there and done that on the fishing front.
More exciting are the short runs out to haul up the lobster pots and the prawn ‘caissiers’ – finer mesh baskets to trap shrimps and prawns. All these traps are baited with the residue of Nick’s mammoth fish filleting session. During a later filleting episode in the workshop Amelie wandered in. “Ugh, there’s a horrid smell Grandpa.” “That’s the fish I’m filleting, you ate some yesterday when Granny fried it in batter”. “No it’s not, those have got eyes….”
So nothing is wasted. Once hauled to the surface, the pots have to be man-handled on board and are quite large, so they’re heavy. We peer inside – you can count on there being small crabs called Velvet Swimmers – or ‘crabes anglaises’ which is what the French call them. (This is not a threatened species). And we now know how to deal with them because the Doctor has shown us.
We were sitting down to lunch one day when there was a ring at the door and Francois came out onto the terrace with a bowl of small freshly-cooked crabs. He then proceeded to dismember one and showed us how to eat it. Apart from the gills, carapace and the tougher bits of shell you pretty much eat the lot and they taste delicious. Sam and Joel were eager to have a go. Sam was very happy sucking the tender bits of crab meat out of the legs but declined the brown meat in the shell. Joel is happy to process the little crabs for others to eat – what generosity of spirit!
On another trip one of the pots was full of spider crabs, about a dozen. I cooked these but some of them were very light on meat. On the final sortie to pull the pots up before we leave for our September travels there was a fine edible crab in one of the pots. It weighed 1lb 12oz although lost some weight when I drained it after cooking, but Barns and Lukie took it back to England and it provided tea for two.
On the day Barns and Lukie go to check out the tapestry at Bayeux we take the children to Le Debarcadere for a pizza. Grumpy Grandpa (Amelie has rechristened Nick) gives them the third degree shakedown on good behaviour beforehand. We also sort out well ahead of time who is going to sit next to whom. Miraculously the two older boys actually choose to sit next to Nick, whilst I get the ‘babies’. We have a delightful lunch with them preceded by a game of lotto whilst we wait for our food.
Sam sets up a pool tournament at the beginning of the holiday. It is only in the last 24 hours that we get round to the play-offs. Try as Nick might to hand our heat to me, I lose and Sam plays Nick in a semifinal. (Somehow Joel has got through to the final – bless!) You’d think we’d manage to get it sorted, but somehow Nick scrapes through…..
One way and another we manage to incorporate fruits from the sea into many of our meals. We have soused mackerel and smoked mackerel pate ad lib., and the children like the little whiting snippets fried in batter – even our non-piscivore Joel makes an exception for the little ‘beignets de merlan’.
Providing a platter of these to accompany our seafood extravaganza at the end of the holiday pleases Joel. We have set out a table of oysters, whelks, prawns, shrimps, spider crab, with a bit of courgette and emmental salad, tomatoes and lots of mayonnaise and bread. We sit in the sunshine, like so many walruses and carpenters, slurping away and licking fingers. Dear Charlie finds it all just too much, announces he is tired and spends the next 30 minutes talking and singing to himself on a sofa indoors. We can hear him and he can hear us. I think he just needs time to regroup.
Before we know it we are sitting down to Sunday lunch on the last day. This is the day Amelie joined her older brothers on Aroona leaving Charlie and I to get potatoes dug and a chicken roasted. We sit round the table in the salon sejour and a good lunch is had by all.
At the end I tell the children about the ritual we have when sailing with friends. On the last evening over a glass of wine we all recount our ‘champagne moment’ of the passage. I suggest we do the same thing. The children latch on quickly. Amelie says she liked playing on the beach best, Sam enjoyed catching the edible crab. Lukie highlights the trip to Pointe du Hoq and mackerel fishing, Nick says how great it was to see the children enjoy their boating so much and Charlie says he liked playing on the beach with Amelie best.
Barn’s champagne moment will form the basis of the next post but first prize must go to Joel who demonstrates that he has been having lessons at Charm School when he tells us his champagne moment was meeting his Granny off the Jersey ferry.