Les Petits Gris a Midi and much more…..

 

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. resizeescargots-2Mimi 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. img_5236 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.

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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.spookyhouse

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.  jigsawCharlotte 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.  RubyGymnast.jpgThe 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.

 

 

 

Seven Shellers wash up at St Vaast

Earlier this year the Programme Secretary of the Conchological Society made a plea for offers to lead field trips.  I looked at my diary and the timing of spring tides and offered a few days in October.  The year wore on, our diary filled up, the EU referendum happened and my enthusiasm waned somewhat.  However an Offer means an Offer so here we are awaiting the arrival of three couples and a single woman – all these people are members of the Society but are, to all intents and purposes, friends too.   Although we are all mollusc enthusiasts and we are gathered to look for and record occurrences of marine molluscs,  the second discipline that unites us is archaeology.  Seven out of the nine share that skill, whereas only five us could be said to be mollusc experts.  By Saturday evening we are assembled and sit down to share our welcoming House Special, a fish pie.

On Sunday I propose that we should visit the shore where Nick and I found two live ormers (Haliotis tuberculata) about eight years ago. Despite the benefit of several pairs of eyes we do not succeed.  I keep my eyes open all week and it is only on the last day of fieldwork that some of us find fragments of abalone shell on a beach on the north Cotentin at Plage des Sablons.  I know that the species is living at Cap Levi because I have witnessed pecheurs a pied coming off the beach with ormers in their string collecting bags.  Although we are working springs I think we probably need the best spring tides to have a chance of finding the animals.

We work several shores and Nick, Bas and Terry go out twice on Aroona with our small Naturalists’ Dredge.  They have some success with these trips and Bas seems well pleased with the hauls.  I think the highlight of shore excursions must lie in the foray that we make onto the sandflats on the seaward side of the town marina.  This is the area that is traditionally dug for Razor Clams when spring tides prevail.  Our good friend Andre agrees to accompany us onto that shore and show us how it is done.  Nick has had this experience before and in the past I have gone down onto the beach to observe the locals wielding their clamming forks.  It is a bit of a feeding frenzy and at the end of the afternoon the sandflats are a devastation.  Fortunately in comes the tide and many of the spoil heaps are washed over although the following day does still bear witness to the upheaval.  The darker sediments which are turned over in the hunt for razor clams remain near the surface for several tides afterwards before they are taken back into the mix.

At the end of the afternoon we have a very decent haul of Ensis arcuatus and assorted clams, a couple of Buccinum, and some King and Queen scallops.  Over the next couple of days we eat some of our foraged molluscs with risotto, and enjoy razor clams with tagliatelle and a wine, cream, garlic and parsley sauce.  These things taste so good.  I feel like a ‘creature’ of the sea.

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At the end of the trip our house guests go home.  It has been an interesting week and we have pulled some decent species lists together for the various sites we worked.  Three of us couples have been spending a week in September together for the past seven years.  We have rented a big house and have been working on stretches of coast in various parts of the country: Skye, Pembroke, Connemara, north Devon, Scarborough, Anglesey and most recently south Devon.  It has always been fun, notably because we thoroughly enjoy going to the shore whether to shell or birdwatch of just to amble.  We three women thoroughly enjoy cooking for the assembled.  We take it in turns.  But something has changed and we can blame that on Brexit.  Would that we had all voted the same way but you cannot turn the clock back.  Divisions have riven the country, communities, families and groups of friends.  The damage runs deep for some more than others.  As I say, something has changed and our particular golden age of sharing a capacious house with a large table to eat and discourse around has passed.  In these recent days I have read a cleverly worded definition of ‘Leave’ in the context of the EU:  it will be ‘To regain what we never lost by losing everything we ever had’

Fishing off St Tropez: Oblade, Sar et Saupe

So………. to use common parlance, we arrive back at Frejus.  We have had a three and a half hour sail to the straits between Les Iles Lerins where we swam and ate bavettes before making a run for our home port.  We have a drink at La Terrasse before eating a light supper around avocadoes and a handful of prawns.  Before I go to bed I surf the internet and find various articles and commentaries amongst which is this piece in the Guardian regarding Boris Johnson and whether he has been outmanoeuvred:  if he runs for Tory leadership and fails to trigger Article 50 he is finished, if he does not run and abandons the field then he is finished, if he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will be over.  Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession, broken trade agreements.  Then he is also finished…………..  In actual fact things play out rather differently over the immediately succeeding days which just goes to prove that in politics you cannot predict anything.  And as I and others are prompted to say several times as events unfold in a way beyond the most fanciful of fiction “You couldn’t make it up…..”

On the morrow we have arrived at the penultimate day of our holiday with the Tailles.  Nick and I plan to take them out to lunch in one of the nicer restaurants in the marina.  After lunch we have some quiet time on the boat then Olivier turns up to help Francois and Nick install the new batteries.  Finally.  We give Olivier a thank you apero at La Terrasse before returning to the boat for supper.  I log on to read my messages and download thirty including one from Liz with a photo of Mum and the legend “She’s been all smiles since she got here!”  I know what this means 🙂

Next day we take the boat along to St Tropez.  Asked where I would like to go I make this suggestion which does not immediately find favour but this is because our hosts think I want to land and explore.  No thanks, I am happy if we anchor offshore and chill out.  As we are leaving the marina someone asks where Rachel is.  ??!!!  Well she is certainly not on the boat so we motor back to the pontoon and spend about twenty minutes searching for the errant cat who has hidden herself behind the console on a neighbouring boat.

Once anchored off St Trop in the Baie de Canebiers Francois and Nick try a bit of fishing both before and after lunch (Christine Street’s chicken curry) and are successful in landing enough for supper.  They catch three species: oblade, sar and saupe which are all bream-like fish which fillet nicely and give us a delicious supper.   Then there is the Joy of Packing.

Bass Notes

My husband is a fisherman.  He fishes mostly out of St Vaast where we live some of the time.  At the weekend he went fishing with friends, it was a long distance fishing trip, twenty miles to the northeast.  They were two boats.  There were four fishermen in total and they fished Pollack, mackerel, whiting and one enormous bass.  It measured 75 cms and weighed 4.5 kilos.  It was caught on an English rig using a mackerel bait.  Such a fish is a prize and an act of generosity is to share such bounty.

So we found ourselves chez Tailles on Tuesday lunchtime where Dede, having caught this splendid fish, had given Francois the responsibility and pleasure of cooking it for a gathering of friends.  This wonderful fish was filleted, descaled and then stuffed with lobster and crab and finally wrapped en croute before being baked in the oven.  Before we tucked into our share, we ate an entrée of pink grapefruit and crevette roses, this having been composed by Odette.  The combination of the grapefruit and the prawns was impeccably colour-coordinated but even more importantly, it tasted delicious.

It was a very convivial occasion and I was delighted to have an appropriate anecdote for the occasion.  Rather a letter to read out of Nick’s copy of The Week.  Translating as I went the letter (originally published in The Times, ran as follows:

‘You flagged up your complete seafood guide with the words: “Lovely lobster, but what can I do with it?!”  In the early 1970s, I was living in Dublin.  My neighbour was presented with a live lobster and had no idea how to prepare it.  He put it on the lawn and shot it’.

This would never happen in France, not then and not now!  The passion for seafood is deeply embedded in French culture.  I have never understood why we, across that narrow tract of water that separates the British Isles from its European neighbours on our shared continental shelf at the present day, have never come to espouse a tradition of eating all fruits from the sea, not just bony fish with a few members of the shark family thrown into the pot.

There we are.  Things are changing.  Oysters have always been available but for many have been just too yucky.  Until relatively recently they tended to be offered for sale in exclusive oyster bars in London and some further flung satellites, such as English’s  the restaurant and oyster bar nestled in Little London of Brighton.  Oysters are farmed more widely now and they feature on fish counters in supermarkets.  Similarly nets of mussels can be bought over the supermarket counter and their popularity gathered momentum, it seems to me, when pubs started putting moules marinieres on their menus.  So in my lifetime I have seen a resurgence in seafood eating in my native land.

I was fortunate to have a father who not only enjoyed fishing, and transferred this enthusiasm to my husband, but was exceedingly fond of cockles.  blogIMG_6278 (2)When he was moved to Portland Naval Base in the 1960s we, as a family, found ourselves adjacent to the sand flats at Smallmouth, Portland Harbour where we enjoyed the bonus of a double low tide.  blogIMG_6280 (3)On the occasions of the low spring tides, and for four hours, we could paddle across these sands gathering all manner of Venus bivalves, razor clams, and cockles.  My father had a childhood tradition for eating cockles and he would go and gather beauties from Smallmouth.  He had his own method for soaking the cockles in their shells, in fresh water with oatmeal to encourage the cockles to purge themselves.  Then they would be boiled until the shells snapped open, the little mollusc bodies would then be removed and popped into a jar with a little vinegar.

At that time I was in the salad days of my growing enthusiasm, and dare I say, talent for shelling.  In addition to the above species I was able to add some beautiful rarities to my collection, notably Tellina squalida and Pandora albidablogAngulusblog100112_pandora (2)Latin names are changed by taxonomists in time, but these are the names that resonate and transport me back to those heady days when you could wade through those shallow waters inside Portland Harbour  searching for the familiar outlines and colours of those lovely shells.

At the end of a special day I find myself enjoying a new experience.  Dede, he who caught the magnificent fish that we ate at lunchtime, has invited me to join him, his granddaughter Auranne and a few neighbours for a late night swim off La Chapelle near the St Vaast boatyard.  I have not swum at 10 o’clock in the evening before, nor from the promenade along there.  At high tide you can descend the white wooden staircase and lower yourself into the deep!  After a warm day and with a balmy evening, the sea felt positively tepid.  With quite a bit of undulating movement, the sea rocked us as we swam in a tight group, keeping an eye on our neighbours for their security and one’s own.

 

Prim, Proper and some Bridges to Cross

It is that time of the year, when banks of primroses grace the roadside verges and you just want to keep stopping the car and take photos.  I captured a few today on my way back from Valognes after an appointment with Manu.  I’ve got primroses out in my garden and there are two clumps underneath the large Euphorbia which grows by the pergola which is covered in Honeysuckle which seem to flower the whole year through.

 

After our three gastronomic events with friends it was time to eat at home and try to tackle some of freezer stock.  The day before I arrived in St Vaast Nick had been fishing and and taken a good haul of Pollack.  We now have a good stock of large white fish fillets and he has saved me heads and frames to make the other kind of stock, which I find so useful as a base for soups and for poaching.  Once cooked it is a fiddly job to pick the white fish bits of the heads and bones to add to the gluey stock.  I used this to make a big vat of bisque, taking carrots, rice and some leek to thicken the liquid, as well as some of the fish and scallop frills and then some spices.  It has to be bizzed up and the result is an orange seafoody looking bisque which tastes wonderfully savoury and gets stowed away for lunches for forthcoming visitors.

I’m only in France for just under week before I need to board a ferry to return to WK for a Bridge tutorial weekend.  Our tutor Barry is scheduled to teach us for four hours on Saturday and Sunday.  He arrives just after lunch and we settle down to learning some new ‘tricks’.  It is time to find out about the Blackwood convention and with the addition of this system to our repertoire we can hold our heads up and begin to play in the wider world.  We enjoy a meal at The Greyhound in the evening, a chance for the pub to redeem itself after the disastrous serving of crayfish which Barry received last time we treated him to his meal.  On Sunday morning Cybs cooks us a fab full English after which we settle down to another four hours with thirty minutes for tea, coffee and cake.  At the end of all this brain exercise I am quite spent but needs must, and there is a house to re-order for the kids’ Easter break, before I leave on Monday morning to rejoin Nick in la belle France

Etre dans Le Coup

Summer is upon me, that is to say that for the time being I can remain put and concentrate of summery things like going to the beach and gardening.  I have looked forward to a lengthy interval in France for numerous reasons but one of which is that I hope, during the 6-weeks planned, to lick the garden into shape.

It is a huge treat that our lovely Tuttles invite us to supper the day we arrive.   Claire cooks something called Company Casserole which is divinely comfort food and I must try this on the family.  She serves a dark rich chocolate and red berry torte for pudding, laced with chilli.  An interesting experience!

On Bastille Day, La Fete Nationale, we potter around at home during the day then go down to the port at 11p.m. for the fireworks.  Claire posts an enchanting drawing that her granddaughter has made to mark the coup d’état which took place on July 14th 1789.  The following day brings a phone call from Francois Taille inviting us to drinks at midday.    We have Anne’s nephew Lucas with us during the day, working for some spending money for his forthcoming trip to London.  He comes in the morning.   Lunchtime drinks roll into a fest of crab claws and grilled lobster and we roll home afterwards for a bit of kip.

Thursday brings a day of mixed weather when a swim at Le Dranguet with Anne is off, then on, then off and in the end I take myself to Pointe de Saire at the end of the afternoon to rummage in the beach pockets for holed shells and wentletraps and I find one of the latter.  There is always one!  Meanwhile Nick has been fishing and brings home raw material for smokerel pate and ceviche of sea bream.

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Friday arrives and I have still not achieved much in the garden.  Nothing immediately evident that is, although I have started to work on a long and varied list of tasks that will need to be completed to lick it into shape by the end of August.  We are eating globe artichokes, rhubarb and sorrel – useful ingredients which are able to wait until I get round to picking them.  I make a fabulous seafood bisque that I am unlikely to be able to recreate: it has Pollack stock, crab and lobster stock with bits, mussels in their juice, crab eggs, female Pollack roe pieces.  Thickened with a bit of flour and some cream and soya yogurt.  Trop bon!  In the evening Nick goes fishing with Georgy off Utah Beach and I settle down to my Oxbow paper.

Blog-NickandGurnard                                 glasswindchime

On Saturday I spend more time in the kitchen than I had reckoned but ceviche of bream, lentil, butter bean and sorrel salad and rhubarb jam roll off the production line.  In the evening we have an apero soiree with the Poulets and the Bougouins and munch fish contributions from the Light household, Thai and Indian snacks and pate crostinis from the Poulet kitchen.  With champagne and an Irish Coffee to wind it up, it is enough.  I hope the bathroom scales will tell a good story tomorrow.

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A Neighbourly Interlude

Cybs and Eamonn spend three full days and a bit with us.  We spend much time relaxing meals and Cybs and I play cards.  She teaches me Bezique which I am immediately enamoured by.  We also play Barbu as a foursome.  Eamonn is a willing candidate for fishing and more mackerel, whiting and Pollack come to the kitchen.  We all get involved in making further batches of smoked mackerel pate.  Cybs and I make jam with a €4.50 box of apricots from Intermarche.  We use a Delia Smith recipe which involves layering the halved fruits with the sugar and leaving them overnight to firm up, and also adding some of the blanched kernels to the finished jam. On Sunday we take a turn round the perimeter wall of La Hougue and then have a salmon and courgette quiche salad at La Hougette which is excellent value.  In the afternoon as a last minute idea we decide to visit the British and Commonwealth Cemetery at Bayeux (which Nick and I have not visited before), stopping first at La Cambe to see the German one.  How very different in style and mood are these two memorial sites for the WWII fallen. Our hosting role is uncomplicated and a great pleasure.  Whilst Cybs and I know each other well through our bridge, Eamonn and Nick have hitherto had a largely peripheral friendship but they got on extremely well. On the final day it is all hands on deck readying the house for a late afternoon departure.  A spanner (but a welcome one) is thrown into the works when Daniel arrives with 3 live lobsters, 2 tourteaux and a spider crab.  These are gifts from Fabrice to thank Nick for a large pack of fishing lures surplus to Nick’s requirements.  Without ado I have to cook all these crustaceans and chill them readying for packing.  With the garden bedded down as best I can manage and the house closed up we drive to Cherbourg and cross the Channel on a ‘Fast Cat’ bound for Portsmouth.

Back in the Swim

Somewhere in the middle of June we cross to St Vaast to prepare for the visit of village neighbours, Cybs and Eamonn.  Before they arrive we enjoy a series of social events which involve food – this is, after all, gastronomic France.  La Marina restaurant hosts a Beatles tribute band which is surprisingly good.  We eat steak and chips with Daniel and sing along between mouthfuls.  Tanou and Jean Pierre invite us to supper and we meet Antoinette who is going to open La Hougette which is a snackery bar close to the Vauban tower at La Hougue and serves residents, tourists and the adjacent tennis club.  She is a vivacious character and we decide to call in at lunchtime on the following Sunday when she opens up for the 2-month season.  We owe Bri and Georgy a meal so they come round for supper and cards.

On June 21st it is International Yoga Day and Tina Foley has organised a ‘stage’ based at le Manoir du Houguet.  It is owned by the Cottebrune family and Patricia attends the same yoga class as I do.  There are morning and afternoon sessions with a bring and eat picnic lunch we share.  There are some delicious salads including at least four different coucous ones which must all be tried.

Tina has been extending her learning in England and bringing back some new tricks, taking me and I think some others well outside our comfort zone!  One of the nicest interludes of the day is a post-prandial walk to the beach, undertaken in silence.  We hear the birds, listen to the waves lapping on the shore……..  When I get back home I find Claude Osmont has invited us to eat dinner chez Genevieve.  So my gluttonous lunch is topped by too many tempting and irresistible yumminesses

Before our guests arrive for their long weekend Nick fits in a fishing trip and catches mackerel, whiting and Pollack.  He fishes with Stephen and Georgy and they are lucky enough to see dolphins.  We make smoked mackerel pate, I keep some for house fish and chips and make a fish pie.  Christine and I make two swimming excursions.  Yes the cold is a shock (14 degrees) but I have learned that I will always warm up and it feels so good in my head to be back in the sea.  Interspersed is gardening.

On Thursday morning I have an appointment with the charming Manu who fixes my hair, giving me a great cut.  The Tuttles arrive in the afternoon and in the evening we give them supper in exchange for a hand of Spite and Malice.  The following day the McGoverns are due to arrive…………

Les Cholseys Rendent Visite

A couple of days after our arrival in St Vaast we are delighted to welcome the arrival of les Cholseys.  They are on half term and we know we will have a great time with them.  Claire is hoping for a leisurely and quiet time which is achieved, by and large, because Sam and his siblings are easily involved in activities revolving around boating, beach excursions and general chilling.  The children, after all, need their down time after a busy first half of Spring Term.  Joel and I have a bit of fun in the kitchen.  Together we make a Turkish dish, Lamb Biryani, which is quite labour intensive, and delicious.  He learns to fillet fish which he and Sam catch with Nick one day, and I watch him make sushi with Carl.

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On Friday night, Claire’s birthday, we have a seafood extravaganza with seafood both bought and foraged from the shore.  During the week Claire and Ty bring their two grandchildren over for a bit of Jenga and high tea.  This is a great success as the children enjoy a few turns of sardines,  a game that transcends all language barriers, as does Jenga.  Amelie and Emma are of similar age and hit it off instantly.  There are hopes that they can all get together again in the summer when they return to St Vaast.

So Long and thanks for all the Turkey ……

Late on Sunday evening the Perrymans arrived after a bumpy crossing between Portsmouth and Ouistreham.  Cue for a platter of cheeses, biscuits, pickles and a glass of red wine.  On Monday top of the list was the Christmas tree, saved for decoration by Ted.  We also made recycled wrapping paper chains and looped them around our lovely charpente on the top floor.  Then we looped our vintage strings of coloured fairy lights above the juke box and in Ted’s bedroom. On Tuesday we lunched at La Pernelle, with a table by the window we looked down onto Quettehou, St Vaast La Hougue and our patch of coastline.  One moment sunny, the next cloaked in a mist and then we watched rainclouds shed their burden before the vista cleared to reveal the familiar landmarks. xmasJaNick

We took Christmas Eve at a gentle pace, without the need for too much preparation for the ‘big meal’, we enjoyed a supper of scallops and black pudding, preceded by salt and pepper squid; my recently acquired skill with this method of cooking squid being put to good use.  Ted went to bed at the appointed hour but took ages and ages to go to sleep, fearful that if he did not sleep La Pere Noel would pass him by.  As if ……………..

Christmas morning arrived all too soon, especially for those men who had sat up till 3 a.m. in debate.  Ted would not open his presents until all were present and correct so we curled up on sofas with hot drinks and watched him work his way down a pyramid of presents until he had arrived at the base……….. a Playmobil Pyramid!

I always enjoy Christmas breakfast, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with good French bread and champagne. The Perrymans announced that their Christmas lunch might just be the best that they had ever eaten.  Certainly I am won over my Nigella’s method of marinading a turkey before roasting it, and if there is oodles of bread sauce and not forgetting Goethe’s brussel sprouts, well you cannot go wrong.  A leisurely and tranquil afternoon drifted into evening and once young Ted was in bed the adults were very content to choose their sofa slot and relax with a device or a good book.

On Boxing day we skipped cold cuts in favour of a pizza at Le Debarcadere.  I chose my usual Choucroute de la Mer which was so dire that I will never order it again.  When I first started choosing this dish it was a delicious mountain of sauerkraut with a smooth, thin white sauce, some pieces of white fish and salmon and dressed with prawns and mussels.  Over the years the sauerkraut mountain has eroded and is no longer succulent, the fish and prawns are rather indifferent and the mussels have disappeared altogether.  Tant pis!

The Perrymans departed on Saturday and we spent the evening chez Bri and Georgy celebrating his birthday.  The evening after, we welcomed the Poulets for pool and cards on the top floor, a chance to enjoy the festive ambiance up there. The Hunters arrived on the 30th and we were all invited to Le Vast to celebrate New Year which will ever remain fondly remembered for the banquet we enjoyed and the Methuselah of 30-year old Bordeaux gifted by a friend of Alain and Martine’s.  We rose from the table at 3 in the morning!

We did manage a wine tasting one evening, this is becoming a regular feature for English visitors.  created Saturday departure.  This gave rise to shopping excursions to buy supplies for the Hunter cellar. On New Year’s Day we dropped by the Tailles at the end of the afternoon to wish them well and enjoyed some glasses of bubbly and a Twelth Night galette.  We then walked round to call on some English people whom Nick had met and had a drink with them too.  On their last full day we at lunch at Le Debarcadere and I chose raie a la crème.  After, Eileen and I walked round La Hougue then called in at a sale of Antiquites et Brocantes at the community hall in rue Marechal Foch. There I found a set of 12 individual oyster plates and a large platter for 80 Euros.  Finding 12 plates a little de trop I offered to share the set with Eileen, which suggestion found favour with her.

The Hunters left us on the 3rd and we again found ourselves in the fortunate possession of an invitation to supper on guest departure day, this time chez Daniell.  Lorraine cooked us delicious partridge, preceded by Stephen’s excellent home cold-smoked salmon.

We spent the remainder of our sojourn undressing our Christmas house and getting ready for a departure on the 8th.  We enjoyed one last fling with the Poulets when we invited them for a Beef Vindaloo with a bit of pool and cards thrown in.  This impromptu no frills supper thing suits us four very well and certainly lifts the pressure of expectation when you invite people for a meal.  None of us wants to be up late, a sign of our times 😦