Saturday is fine, sunny…. and it’s market day. ‘Youppy’ as the French say. The market is seething with populace and you have to be really patient about making your way along the packed thoroughfare. It’s August so there are lots of flowers to buy. Fresh flowers, bouquets of flowers to dry, bunches of Hydrangea stems in a wonderful array of colours, also to dry.
The usual suspects are all present and correct and there are stalls selling painted tiles and pottery, remaindered books, bags, leather goods and a small stall displaying pictures of shell collages, watercolours of shells, and pieces of driftwood with a shell painting too. I chat briefly to the stallholder and she tells me she has collected all her raw materials from local beaches.
I buy vegetables, saladstuffs including the biggest cucumber I have ever seen and some beautiful multi-coloured peppers which I will eventually have to cook after we have enjoyed their still life in the fruit bowl. I have taken my Hampton Court Flower Show foldy trolley to the market for the first time and it is a ‘boom’ as a cleaning lady once said. I wheel it back laden with my goods.
In the afternoon Nick continues with his resting regime, I weed the two flowerbeds which bound the lawn area with the rear gravels. I have brought plants over from England to plant up these beds.
For supper I cook a dish which has lain dormant in my repertoire for a very long time. This will make quite a good counterpoint to the luxury-item lobster eaten the evening before. We are still working through the lamb in our freezer. The good thing about buying an animal is that you get all the different cuts of meat. This has included the breasts of lamb, one of which I have defrosted and Nick has boned. I make a garden herby sage and onion stuffing, spread this over the boned meat and roll and tie it. Slow roasted we then enjoy it with mint sauce, potatoes, broad beans and peas, all from our garden.
On Sunday Nick is no longer in purdah. This is lucky for him, and also for Francois, his doctor, since Francois is keen to go fishing with Nick to chase some sea bream. They leave at 10 a.m. and must be back before the harbour gates shut at 3.30 p.m. When they do return the ‘dorade’ have been elusive but the men have some mackerel and whiting, and we get out the smoking box.
The imminent arrival of JACS notwithstanding, we are invited over the road for apero at 7.15 p.m. which is a welcome chance to touch base with the Poulets. They are over-run with young people, friends of their sons. Some of these young have competed in a local ’round the island race’ which involves running over the oyster park causeway to Ile Tatihou, round the island perimeter and back across the causeway during the low spring tide. It is 8km and the winner has achieved it in a cracking time.
It’s difficult to tear ourselves away but we do so and are indoors no more than perhaps 5 minutes before we hear the familiar scrunch of tyres on our front gravels. Barney, Lukie and JACS have arrived for their French fortnight. The children spill out of the car, hugs all round and as I help a barefoot 3-year old Charlie across to the front step into the porch he looks up and says “I came to this house yesterday.” What he is telling me is that he knows he has been here before – in fact his last visit was in October 2008. That’s a child’s memory for you.
Through the house and Sam immediately homes in on the hammock. With much excited shouting the children find the various mobile toys they remember: the red and yellow plastic car, the tractor, the bicycle with stabilisers, the child’s wheelbarrow.
Bags are unloaded, and after deliberations it is decided that the children will each have their own room. Charlie goes in the child’s twin bedroom, Amelie in the mauve ‘princess’ room, Joel and Sam each have one of the bedrooms on the top floor. Although it is 8.30 local time when I serve supper the children are able to eat their pasta with their favourite creamy red pesto sauce (Barilla) outside. Getting the children to bed is a protracted affair but eventually the adults can sit down to a plate of risotto topped with crab. We wash it down with some bubbly to celebrate the beginning of hols.
On Monday I have booked myself out between 10 and midday. Claire and I are going to have our quality time and walk from Pont de Saire to Pointe de Saire via the beach and are going to return through the village to the car left at the bridge. We are on a rising tide as we walk past the houses that front the beach.
Some have gardens running down to the shore. We have visited one of these houses when the Newbys were staying a couple of summers ago. It is owned by a Parisienne who holidays herself in the larger adjacent house, which is separated by a large lawn from the house she lets. Some of the decor inside the rented house is nicely dated, shabby chic and tending to Art Nouveau. I loved it although I could see that the very dated kitchen and bathroom fittings had their drawbacks from a holidaymaker’s point of view.
At the Point we sit on the rocks to eat our fruit. I look down and notice some thin white ‘calcareous’ discs in the runnels between sand ripples. They are misshapen ovals with surface ornamentation. I speculate that they are internal shells of seaslugs or pteropods otherwise known as sea butterflies and gather a sample in the pot I have in waiting. They appear to be molluscan first for me. I’ll need to go onto the internet to run them down. I search for images but can find nothing like them. It is only when I wake the next morning that it suddenly comes into my head that they were fish scales!
We walk back through Jonville to the parked car. There are some lovely houses: we have already seen many of them facing the shore with a fantastic view of Ile Tatihou and La Hougue. This will be an ever-changing vista with the seasons, overlaid by the day-to-day weather patterns and modified by the effects of the tides as they ritually conceal and reveal the familiar features of the shore bounded by Jonville, Ile Tatihou and St Vaast. Then on larger timescales there are the changes to the shore configuration brought about by mass sediment movements caused by storms and currents.
Our conversation ranges over a wide range of topics and we are talking about the need to move house at some point later in life. I mention the comment made to me by a friend, who observed that from his experience many older people leave it too late to make the necessary move in retirement years. Too late to reap benefits and too late to start a new phase of life.
But it can be a wrench to leave a familiar home of decades. Claire says that of course there is a sense of loss but whether we like it or not losing things, people we love is what we must expect in the coming years – especially for people of “our age”. It is an insightful observation. Moving from a much-loved family home to something more practical is part of this separation/loss process.
There is a coastal route round the Cotentin peninsula. Claire has a publication about it. She is keen to walk some more and so am I. If Ty and Nick will do the honours in terms of a walkers’ taxi service, I think we might be in business.
Our walk complete we come back to find Nick and Sam at the house. Nick has made a swing for the children who are out walking with Barney and Lukie. In the afternoon Nick takes Barns, Lukie, Sam and Joel fishing but it is lumpy and they do not catch anything. I stay at the house with Amelie and Charlie and we have ‘3-in-a-hammock’ stories and play on the wheeled toys on the terrace. Charlie is particularly taken with the child’s Triang replica metal “wigglebarrow”.
For supper we all have sausages and oven roasted vegetables together. We sit round the table outside and suddenly Amelie says “I want a badger”. Bemused, the adults look blankly at each other. Then I notice that Amelie is looking at Joel and that he is wearing a small green metal disc, which tells us all that he is 6, pinned to his tee-shirt.