A Grimm Experience

August days trickle past.   Anne and I aim to swim at Le Dranguet every day, which target we more or less achieve despite a decline in air temperature and an increase in cloudy skies and windy intervals.  When Tatane comes to stay with Anne and Francois, she joins us for a swim too.  We now enter the sea boldly, wade out and plunge under without ado.


The Perrymans settle into a holiday regimen.  Not so much time is spent on the beach as last year, it just ain’t quite hot enough!  But CJ and Ry discover a pleasure in games of tennis on the courts down by La Hougue.  They cycle a lot.  After our first Potjie evening I book the Perryman duo for two Potjies more.  On Friday evening Brigitte and Georgy eat with us, en famille style, after Bri spends the afternoon attending to the nails on our hands and feet.  The Ps produce the seafood version of yestereve, preceded by chipolatas to nibble with drinks, and after the contents of their cauldron, we eat BBQ steaks.  And a peach tart from Gibon 🙂

The evening is happily rounded off when we play some games of pool.  Ted, diminutive and Hobbit-like, approaches the table when it is his turn and wows the adults with his prowess; some mysterious, Gandalf-like being periodically swoops in for a bit of ball adjustment!!

And then we start all over on Sunday with a lunching event chez nous when the Magic Cooking Pot is called into service again and I say “Cook, little pot, cook” and it does!……….  Belly pork, sweet and regular potatoes, black-eye beans, shallots simmer in juices flavoured with spices and fridge jar emptyings.  Together with rice and red cabbage we offer this to the Tailles and the Tuttles and we rollick our way through a sunny Sunday afternoon.  Quelle Bonheur.

They’re Back

Yes the Perrymans are back for another action-packed seaside holiday…. with a bit of good food and wine thrown in.

A super-excited granny scooped up a bundle of glee when the car pulled up in front of the house.  Cue for lots of beach-oriented stuff like proper swimming in the sea, shrimping around Nick’s boats for prawns to keep in a mini-aquarium, kayaking.  The structures around the recently pruned mimosa provide tree-climbing moments.  The guys went fishing on Friday and caught mackerel.  Cue for a mackerel fest; we now add ceviche of mackerel to our repertoire.

Market day was an ordeal to be worked through.  It’s a bank holiday weekend here so the thoroughfare between the stalls either side of the ‘high street’ is packed.  Fortunately I am feeling leisurely and in my wanderings find an amazing stall selling olives, tapenades and other preserved goodies.  The adjacent stall has a wonderful variety of tomatoes.

Nick is at sea, Ryan services bikes, so after lunch CJ, Ted and I head for the beach at Le Dranguet to join Anne and Tatane where we all swim.  In the evening the Tuttles join us for an apero and Ted meets their grandchildren, Emma and Matteo.

Netting the prawns was a fun moment.  It being high tide we were not able to get low enough on the shore to turn a few rocks to look for small invertebrates for the tank. Instead Nick took Ted and me to the pontoon from which he moors his boat where we lowered nets into the water and ran them along the weed which grows along the submerged wooden structure.  In just a few minutes we had caught about 50.  Back at the house we put them in the small glass aquarium where Ted watched their antics and we talked about the prawn body plan and how they earn living.  The following day we cooked the largest for our fish soup and returned the rest to the sea.

On Sunday evening I roast two chickens and we feast.   On Monday Charlotte and Ryan provide a fabulous BBQ of swordfish and bream and a seafood potjkie which I would be quite happy to dive into and spend the rest of the week grazing.  It’s like I said, good times, good food 🙂


La Leçon d’Anglais

I’ve been meaning to do it for years and finally there is a quorum of French ladies who would like to improve their English.  So Fefe, Claire, Anne, Tatane and I gather chez moi for a smoked fish, prawn and garden salad lunch with an apple cake (Anne) and a pepper pound cake (Claire) to follow.


I love these ladies all and find that in the process of sharing refinements of the English language (and some of the profanities) I improve my French into the bargain.  Next time we will meet at Fefe’s home and she will cook the only dish in her repertoire, Mutton curry!  (Her husband cooks like an angel!)



Invasion of the Little Folk

Hotfoot after the wedding we cross the Channel in the company of Christina, Katie and the young folk.  They have a week in view chez nous and I am very excited to be welcoming my sister to our French home.  We all settle in rapidly and the children quickly discover the selection of riding toys under the small lean-to on the terrace.  The soundtrack to the ensuing week is to be that of wheels, wheels and more wheels performing circuits of the terrace.  The children never tire of this activity and when they are not wheeling, they are climbing in the mimosa tree.

The evening after our day of arrival Claire and Ty invite us to an American-style family BBQ: home made hamburgers, salad and some of Claire’s special cakes.  Our young adapt very quickly to the challenge of communicating with Emma and Matteo who are Solange’s children.  La soirée est genial!

The week whizzes by.  Chrissie and Katie enjoying retail experiences and go home with ideas and trophies.  Katie is shortly to move to her new home and we buy various items to add a French flavour.  We lose nearly two hours in the Saturday market!  Nick sits the children one evening so the three ladies can eat at Le Débarcadère; we all go for an entrecote and frites and there is live music from Klez sur mer, it being Traversées de Tatihou week.

All too soon it is time to board the ferry bound for Poole.  We have all had a good time and they will surely return.

The Duke gets his Duchess

Exactly a week after Tom and Delphine’s wedding we find ourselves attending the marriage of Henry and Rebecca.  The venue, St Audries Park Manor House, concentrates exclusively on weddings and it is a beautiful setting for a gathering of family and friends.  There is plenty of accommodation both in the manor itself and in the various outbuildings, such as the stables (nicely converted!) and a cottage, house, lodge and rectory in the grounds of the Estate.  This set up seems to be more popular these days, for those who do not require a religious marriage ceremony.  Guests may arrive the night before the Big Day, stay on site for the entire proceedings, and fall into bed when they are footsore from dancing into the small hours.

How lovely it was to catch up with Lis, Siobhan, Caitlin as well as the Duke clan.  Lis and her friend Susan had organised all the floral decorations which were amazing.  They have stumbled upon this task late in life, taken on as favours to Helenour and Henry, and by combining cut and potted flowers and plants they set up themed decorations in the various rooms and most notably in the Orangery where the marriage ceremony was held.

This was a perfect setting for a shades of Jane Austen ceremony and the bride and groom were dressed for the part.  Lis had introduced lots of potted Agapanthus and matching blue scabious which she and Susan would keep afterwards.  On the morning of departure it was quite a task to dismantle and load up the decorations ready for a prompt departure.   Some four vehicles were pressed into service.   It is a requirement of the venue that breakfast be taken between 9 and 9.30 a.m. with check out before 10.  In this way the conveyor belt process which enables a daily succession of weddings to take place is achieved!


Notre Coin est Très Agréable

After the Breton wedding we hightailed back to St Vaast to catch up with Marian, Katharine and David.  They have been staying at the house for a week and have been joined by an American couple they knew in the US back in RFA days.  It is really good to catch up with our family members and meet Jim and Anne.  We share a couple of good days with them, taking in a convivial meal at Le Debarcadere, a little apero moment at Le Goeland at Pointe de Saire with Francois and Anne and some snooker chez eux a bit later in the evening.  It is during this latter interval that David waves his magic wand and fixes in a matter of a few minutes something techie on Francois’ laptop – a transfer that Francois has been labouring over for a week.

As I walk briskly, brown as a berry, in the sunshine on my way down to the boulangerie to collect morning bread, I see ouvriers at work on a small house in rue Croix Marigny, a madame sweeping her front steps, and the smell of fresh baking wafts up the road to greet me, and there is a scrumptious peach tart waiting on the counter for a buyer and I think how utterly privileged and rounded my life is and I must be thankful and share good fortune whenever I can.

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A Very Franglais Wedding

On Friday morning Paul, Viv and Hilary bade us a brief farewell and set off for Brittany.  Nephew Tom is to marry Delphine on Monday and P and V have rented a gite for a week in the area.  Nick and I tidied up and readied the house for Marian, Katharine and David who are to spend a week in St Vaast from Saturday.

At the end of the afternoon we left St V and drove south and west to a small hamlet called St Meloir des Bois.  There we found the others installed in a house in the centre of ‘town’ next to the church and Creperie Sucre Sale.  We settled in and over the successive couple of days our nieces and their families duly arrived.  On Saturday afternoon we drove north to St Jacut de la Mer, a sprawl of bays and sands centred around a peninsula.

Hilary was very take with the regimental configuration of the mussel farm on the shore there and immediately pulled out her sketch book and found a suitable bench from which she could work.  The rest of us descended the much-trodden steps to the shore at the north end of the peninsula.  The huge sand flats exposed when the tide is out, and the offshore islets which dry out at low tide are magnet for the French peche a pied public – just look at the images from the internet via this link.  I have worked this shore a good few years ago along with a group of Conchological Society members when we were surveying honeypot shores along the Brittany coast.

We took supper at the Creperie that evening, enjoying Breton galettes made with buckwheat flour and containing a range of delicious fillings.  I chose Noix de St Jacques et Poireaux fondues.  For dessert we chose, unwittingly, monstrous and totally sumptuous Crepes Gariquettes.  I would have been happy to share mine with the other four adults.

Sunday was a busy day for the family and they decamped from the gite at 5pm to move into La Malouiniere de la Ville Gilles, at which mansion the evening reception would take place on Monday evening.  After a calm and quiet evening with Hilary and a meal at the Creperie, I slept for only a few hours before I woke at 4.30 and after trying to resleep I rose and went downstairs to sort out my photos from my iPad.  If I allow too much of a backlog to accrue the memory fails and prevents me from taking as many photos as I would like.

At the appropriate time we dressed ourselves in our wedding finery and set off for St Lunaire Mairie where the first of four events in our day as guests would take place.  Family and friends arrived, many of us on foot having parked at Delphine’s family home.  The little folk were the object of much attention, not least the youngest at two months!!  And already smiling 🙂  The civil ceremony was conducted by a rotund and twinkly affable mayor who added personal touches to the occasion.  Delphine’s parents had generously included Nick, Hilary and I on their guest list for lunch at their home.  We were regaled with a lovely selection of quiches and salads.

At 2p.m. we presented ourselves on the quai at Dinard to board a pleasure boat for a trip across St Malo bay.  It is a bit of a bumpy and windy trip but the skipper manages to find a lighthouse behind which we can tuck in, whilst we drink a champagne cocktail and Tom and Delphine exchange rings and tie a fisherman’s knot.  Once ashore we drive to our Chambres d’Hote at les Chesnais and this is a stone’s throw from the venue for the evening reception.  A champagne reception on the lawn with croquet, boules and mölkky, is a delight with beautiful canapés, then we sit for a two course dinner which incorporates games and later dancing.  Towards the end of the evening a selection of French gateaux and plates macarons are served with yet more champagne.

This has been a wonderful day with a mix of French and English language and custom.  How lucky Nick and I are to be part of this blend of the best of each nation.  At 2 a.m. Nick and I fall thankfully into bed.




Lights Alight

Paul and Viv, and their long-time friend Hilary Balogh arrived at 104 on Wednesday afternoon.  Lovely to receive our kin and I last met Hilary at a family wedding fifteen years ago when we were seated adjacently.  We were ships that passed in the night back then, but more of that in my next post.’

P and V are now on their countdown to Tom’s marriage to Delphine.  We have a couple of days to share in St Vaast before we shift to Brittany for the run-up to the big day.

No sooner has she arrived than Hilary gets out her sketchbook, pencils, pastels and begs a chair, small table (and I insist on an umbrella) in order to draw our house.  What a thrill.

Meanwhile Nick consults Paul on the health of one of our Mimosa trees and has his suspicion of moribundity confirmed.  They set about pruning the tree to test its resilience and tidy up the shape.


Somehow Wentletraps weave their way into the conversation and Paul expresses a wish to go on a hunt for them.  Leaving Hilary to her mission, we drive across to Pointe de Saire where I show them my favoured beach pockets but to no avail.  Nevertheless it is an excuse to spend some time on the shore, and afterwards for a glass of wine at the delightful watering hole on the headland there known as Le Goeland.

Returning to 104 we find Hilary is still seated at the bottom of the garden, and when we say that we are going to eat supper at Le Debarcadere she asks if she might be excused in order to carry on the lovely work which is evolving ‘a l’ombre de notre citronnier’.  I set out the makings for a simple salad, some of the St Emilion wine she likes, and we slope off for some sustenance and atmosphere at Le Debarc’.

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Golden Days

After the bezazz of Bastille Day celebrations and our aquatic fun afloat, off Iles Marcouf, we settled into our life at 104.  We were seldom becalmed: when we were not busy gardening, or in my case sewing, we enjoyed catching up with friends.  Tanou and Jean-Pierre threw a BBQ the day after Bastille, and a few days after that, following a successful fishing trip, we received the Roux, Poulets, Tatane, Lucas and the Lerminez for a mackerel fest, the highlight of which was Carpaccio of Mackerel prepared by Francois Taille.  I also served some beignets of pout whiting, a fish that is spurned by our friends but which, in the event, they gobbled up happily.  The batter that I made was egg- and milk-less, chilled beer and sparkling water being the agents to create a lightly textured liquid for dipping and frying.

No arrival in St Vaast, which coincides with Tuttles in residence, would be complete without an evening of the card game, Spite and Malice.  I made Christine Street’s Chicken Curry and we managed a game either side of the main course.


The weekend after Bastille there were two events to tempt my interest.  On Saturday Anne, Christine and I drove to the Chateau de Toqueville for a craft market.  There I bought some carved wooden mushrooms, a rustic wooden plaque painted with a John Dory, some glazed origami earrings for Liz and a felted nuthatch mobile with a round vintage aluminium bell attached.  I only subsequently learn that the chateau can be rented, and the website shows that the property boasts 5 individually themed and decorated double bedrooms.  There are extensive grounds with a lake and tennis courts.

On Sunday Brigitte and I went to the annual Festival du Livre on La Hougue.  We toured round the marquee, chatting to some of the authors and buying one or two books.  Afterwards we had a drink at the tea shop by the Tourist office before going our separate ways.

With the arrival date of Paul, Viv and Hilary fast approaching there was just time for me to host what I hope will be the first of regular English Conversation lunches, proposed by Fefe Taille whose appetite for improving her understanding of our colloquial words and expressions is very keen.  Inevitably it will help me improve my ability to hold fluent conversations using everyday vocabulary and vernacular.