Punctual and shrp at 7 a.m. the girls and I wheel our cabin bgs out of the house and across the road to Fernside Cottage. We are greeted by Angus the Scottie dog and Molly the Minx. (Molly is a hedgehog botherer, she often manages to nose one out late at night and one Bridge night I rescue a hapless individual and take it across the road to see if it will find our premises agreeable. But we never see it again. I think it may have found the escape hatch that we asked the builder to leave in the brickwork when he was building a new wall.)
So we pile into Eamonn’s car and he drives us to the ferry terminal where we will presently board the Barfleur. Once aboard we very soon spot Briony, Dan, Tobias and Agatha – our houseguests for the forthcoming half term week. Thanks to the little playroom and some pleasant other kids the 3 mobile children are happily entertained and Agatha sits on a parent’s lap taking it all in.
Lola and Ruby have several young Wosskow cousins so they are well versed in the ways of folk more wee than themselves. Ruby is a keen baby-feeder and both she and Lola spend time in the playroom with Tobias where he is delighted to find a Lego tray and a large, well-provisioned kiddie cooker and where he and the girls concoct strange platters of their own fusion cuisine with assorted faux foods.
On the first day I drive Briony and Agatha together with Lola to Bayeux where we view the Tapestry about which Lola has learned at school. Portable audioguides in several languages are provided as part of the entrance ticket and they have children’s versions of the narrative too. Meanwhile Nick takes Dan, Tobias and Ruby out on Aroona to see if they can catch a few mackerel, which they do not, but the children are allowed to motor round Tatihou at the wheel. Everyone is satisfied with their outing.
Mid-week sees yet another exceptionally low spring tide so whilst the Brickells take themselves off for a family day during which according to young Tobias they have ‘the time of their lives’, the girls and I converge on the St Vaast sand flats with Claire, Emma and Matteo. Very soon language barriers are overcome with Emma and Lola choosing to name films that they have enjoyed. But the best icebreaker takes place at the top of the shore where a crab hunt allows for some key lessons in beachcombing, how to pick crabs up so that they won’t nip, that the dead crabs they find scattered on the shore are really ‘outgrown overcoats’ and that you always reroll boulders doucement so that you don’t crush the beasties that live beneath. The afternoon passes very pleasantly with the children marvelling at the scraps of marine life that they notice. Squat lobsters for example.
AS with the Cholseys so with the Hackneys, friendships are established and the children want to meet up soon so we invite the Tuttles to 104 the following day. The Brickells have already left in the morning so the Tuttles come over for a soiree where a beef stew is preceded by a game or two of Sardines with counting to 50 in French and English.
On the last full day of Lola and Ruby’s visit the Tuttles must return to Paris and we drive to the lovely craft shop near Cherbourg to buy some creative materials for them to take home, then double back to the Piscine de Collignon for a couple of hours of aquatic frolics. Back at the house it is with a real sense of weary that I feed the girls, get them to bed and assemble their belongings to pack their cabin bags. I do not get to bed as early as I would have liked which is regrettable as the morrow will be a verrry loooong daaaaay.