Et Maintenant La Vie Francaise

Mum and I arrive at the house to a warm welcome and a light supper.  It is good to be back after a longer than usual interlude.  The garden is looking verdant, the grass is cut and lush.  Yes there are far too many weeds but on the plus side there are lots of raspberries to pick.  A stand of Nicandra has set itself underneath the Yucca which I now acknowledge has rooted and looks set to thrive.  The seedling Echium I transplanted from the narrow bed by the gravels is huge and threatening to overwhelm the Dietes bicolor.  It looks as if it is the second species that grows on Tatihou; with luck I will have one plant of each.

Early days are spent making raspberry jam, and working on the curtains for the salon-sejour.  We arrange for Francois, Anne and Daniel to come and eat with us on Friday evening.  I’m going to give them a classic fish pie, make it with cod for a treat, and hope that Daniel, the fisherman who does not eat fish (there are a lot of his like), will at least try some and will be able to get the mash down if nothing else.  He agrees to give it a whirl.

In the event the pie is much enjoyed by the Poulets and Daniel nibbles at the edges but eats the puree (mash).  I serve roast parsnips (because I want them to try them; you never see parsnips in France) and peas with mint.  The latter causes merriment, apparently Francois thinks peas cooked with mint are VERY ENGLISH.  Daniel has brought a rhubarb tarte and I have made a damson crumble.  These are preceded by a large salade dressed with Anne’s ‘secret’ recipe vinaigrette (the secret is the addition of a teaspoon of good soya sauce to the usual ingredients) and cheeses including a piece of Partridge – a Devon blue I bought when chez Ingram.  In France they eat the cheese course before the pudding.

After we play Pool.  The men play a couple of games then Anne and I are encouraged to a match.  We make such another meal out of this game that at 1.30 there is considered no more time for Pool and it is time for bed.  Mum has truly entered into the spirit of  the whole evening.

On Saturday it is wet an’ ‘orrid so we skip the market as it is just the day to take Mum out for the lunch.  Originally it was going to be a Sunday event but we have been given another proposition for the weekend, which requires a fine day so juggling fixtures is good.  We are shown to a table in the main dining room of Hotel Fuchsias.

We are offered dainty crostini with tapenade with our aperitifs, and the amuse-bouche is a very small glass pot containing seafood soup with a rouille topped mini-toast and a tiny pot of grated Emmental and miniscule croutons.   I start with baby scallops floating in a watercress soup, followed by a small piece of pork filet mignon with assorted vegetable confections.  For pudding I have exotic fruits in a brandy-snap-like almond basket.  We get home, and the afternoon and evening are spent quietly.  We don’t want to eat again.

On Sunday we have an early lunch and by 1.30 we are ready for Anne to pick us up for our outing.  She is taking us to the Chateau de Crosville sur Douve, a privately-owned 16th century manor house with substantial gardens.  The current owners acquired the property in 1980 and in order to raise funds for upkeep they let the reception rooms of the Chateau as a venue for events.  They also host a few antiques fairs, and garden sales when plantsmen and nurseries (pepinieres) bring plants and garden tools, ornaments etc to sell.  This is the first year they have run one for autumn-flowering plants.

The circular lawn area in the front of the chateau is skirted by stalls which include a hydrangea specialist, a bulb-seller and other traders selling both familiar and unusual plants.  I spot some flashy Lewisia in flower.  I have tried these in the walls at Godalming in the past without success.  I discover that they like partial shade which is probably why mine failed in the full sun of the south-facing dry stone walls.

At Chateau de Crosville you can get through to the rear of the property up and over a wide flight of stone steps which passes through the body of the house (escalier de reception).  There are doors off either side of this covered passageway giving access to rooms which have been pressed into service for the day to serve as gift shop, tea-rooms.

Anne buys some unusual shrubs and climbers for her large garden; I restrict myself to two Lewisia (which I set in some of Nick’s latest ‘crop’ of compost in the chunky, beach-worn, hollow concrete blocks which I use as planters for geraniums and the like) and an additional variety each of Salvia and Echinacea.  We also buy Allium bulbs.  By the end of the afternoon Mum has been on her feet a long time but is still buoyant.  We eat simply in the evening and are not too late to bed.  Tomorrow we will have to have a grand tidying before we board our ferry for Poole.

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