The Cholsey contingent have gone to the beach today. They have taken our neat gas stove and the whispling kettle (of which Charlie is rather fond) for brews. Nick had resurrected some small pink and blue inflatable watercraft which have gone too. And he has now gone out to buy coffee because the last scoopful has gone to the beach. Meanwhile until help is at hand I’m drinking in the quiet. Later this morning I will drive to the beach with a vat of ‘green’ soup (essentially a roast dinner left-overs soup with all the off-cuts of leek, cauliflower and other greenesses bizzed in) to heat up.
Yesterday was a day of forage. Anne and I went to the football field where, thanks to the interventions of a friend who has the power to open doors, the man who cuts the hedges had left the gate unlocked so we could gain access. We rounded up a lovely harvest of field mushrooms and another Agaricus species – perhaps horse mushrooms. Some of these were simply cooked in butter and lemon juice for adult lunch with dipping baguette. A pound were used to make Mushroom and Nut Pate (see my blog post 9 November 2009 for the recipe). Another pound remains.
A couple of hours later saw us trudging across the muddy sand flats at Morsalines to gather cockles. This is almost as easy as collecting mushrooms: you can pick them up lying on the surface or you can rake the surface then feel around for the hard globular shells. Eight of us aged between 4 and 64 managed to fill a bucket in an hour. Once engaged children are remarkably observant and learn the cockle-spotting skill rapidly.
Back at the house for lunch then, whilst Nick took the cockles in onion sacks down to our boat Aroona to suspend them over the stern so they can purge themselves of sand in the marina water for a few hours.
Later on Anne popped over to see if I wanted to join her and her young nephew, Lucas, on an organised night-time walk around St Vaast with a commentary by a local leading light, Annick Perrot, who has published a number of local interest books, including one on the wartime years of occupation 1940-1944. St Vaast was, apparently, the first port to be liberated. This ‘ballade’ took me along routes I know well, and others I haven’t ventured down (narrow cul-de-sacs, public court-yards and alleyways I thought were private, and the quarter where original fishing community houses still exist).
As darkness fell we were issued with ‘homemade’ torches to carry aloft as we completed the tour. There were children, adults of all shape and size. There were times when people came perilously close to a singeing amidst the forest of flame. I’m trying to imagine the H&S implications of such an exercise in England.
The end of our two weeks with four of our grandchildren in residence is now drawing to a close. They have had a good mix of beach-related activities and I hope a few seeds have been sown in the matter of fishing, foraging, and food for free!