Coloured fairy lights, and twinkly bits and pieces are finding their place in the house. By the time the Perrymans arrive the only task remaining will be to decorate the Christmas Tree. During this week Nick will celebrate his birthday and we are invited to supper that evening by Soizic and Pierrick. Coincidentally Soisiz celebrates her birthday the day after Nick. We are taken by the Poulets through whom we know S and P, and another couple who are mutual sailing friends of the quartet, join us too. The house has been decorated and it is a festive evening.
One lunch-time we are invited to eat escargots chez Taille. They have a neighbour, Jean-Claude, who collects them and his wife prepares them. Mimi has worked her way most recently through seven hundred snails and has declared she is not going to do any more! These are all the so-called Petit Gris, that is Cornu aspersum, the common garden snail. We love eating them and so does Francois, Fefe on the other hand prefers to eat some squid prepared ‘a la Francois’.
Nick goes fishing a couple of times and brings home some useful catch. He fishes for squid on one day and manages to catch three modestly sized ones. I have picked up a different way of cooking squid from Francois Taille, which involves soaking them in boiled and cooled milk spiced with star anise. You then toss the squid pieces in a frying pan with a bit of garlic butter. As long as you don’t overdo it the squid is wonderfully tender. A couple of days later Nick goes fishing a second time with Stephen and they have a rewarding day, catching five species which includes four Red Gurnard, Pout Whiting, a Red Mullet, a Mackerel and a Bream.
On Saturday evening we have a date at the Daniell house for Carol Singing and Mince Pies. To my shame I get the timing wrong and we arrive and hour and a half late and there is no way out other than to confess. Yes, we could blame it on a number of things not least the very nasty blanket of fog which has enveloped our bit of Normandy but honesty wins over. It is a very pleasant, and distinctly English, occasion with the majority of the guests being ex-pats including two Americans. I start to chat to American Gerry, who we met last time, and am completely mystified and shocked when she tells me that although she could not vote she would surely have voted for Trump because she did not like or trust Hillary. She feels we should wait and see because it won’t all be bad and in any event, she tells me and I don’t know if this is true or not, Trump is currently touring the States, talking to voters, telling them he didn’t mean everything he said, he wanted to get elected. I feel a wave of dislike and anger rise up and fortunately Lorraine calls us to order for the singing of more carols.
Fortunately we know some thoroughly interesting and thoughtful Americans who have real political integrity and as it happens are great friends. They come to supper on Sunday to celebrate their arrival in St Vaast that afternoon and I make Rick Stein’s seafood tourte and we play a hand of Spite and Malice. The fog, which has been hanging around, continues to come and go and Ty later sends me a photo of our house.
On Monday I start to make my curries. The Tenorios, the Daniells and the da Costas are coming to us for a curry evening. They will Christine Street’s Chicken curry and our own Pollack Goa Fish Curry, with a Daal and some Naan breads. Our own house Lemon Pickle is hugely appreciated. Which reminds me that I must make some more.
This soiree brings our pre-Christmas social activity to a close and we then prepare for the arrival of the Perrymans. When they arrive the adults are ready to switch off. They work long and hard hours. Teddy is full of excitement and we will spend the next few days doing Christmas, tout tranquille a la maison, just us and some presents and some good things to eat. Charlotte starts a Christmas jigsaw and I work on finishing my jigsaw in progress. Our differing approach to tackling our puzzles, and how we arrange our pieces, is quite amusing. The Hackneys send us some lovely family photos including one of Ruby who has excelled at gymnastics! We learn that the new best friend she made that day is standing on the podium numbered 1.
The Perrymans head for home after Boxing Day, in time for their New Year celebrations with their usual suspects. We had a similar thing going with the Pitts, Leathers and another couple when we decamped to the Pitt family holiday home at West Wittering during the afternoon of the 31st. Unlike the Perryman cohort who do fancy dress which they order off the Internet, we used to wheel out our black tie and ballgowns. These were special occasions and they make for good memories and it was a tradition which endured a good while. On New Year’s Day we would walk the shoreline around West Wittering, returning for lunch before driving back to Surrey. And then things started to unravel, but it was fun whilst it lasted and all these things are of their moment. “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune” In St Vaast we celebrated New Year with the Poulets, who are the best of neighbours, and a day or two after we undressed the house and would be heading for Dorset and 2017.