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’

A Day with Simon and the Pieman

And so it begins.  The annual jamboree with my clique of CS friends has come round all too quickly.  Which means in the blink of an eye, not that it is a chore.  At least I hope it will not be.  This September we might have to cope with an elephant in our midst.  Wait and see.

Saturday we converge on a very pleasant converted barn near Bantham.  Seven of us will share this abode for a week.  There is an adjacent building that goes with the property, a games room which will serve very nicely as a lab.  Nick and I arrive first to open up and bag a room.  We leave the lovely master suite for one couple on that basis that one of them is convalescent.  There are three other rooms with beds to sleep six people.  Although all rooms on a sharing basis are equal, clearly some rooms are more equal than others.  Nick and I have a couple of hours before anyone else arrives which allows me to make a start on the turrid material I have brought to curate.  These are from Stella Turk’s collection and will be useful, even though many of them have no locality data, because turrid specimens are few and far between.

Gradually the others arrive.  Hail fellow and well met.  We all move into our rooms and I serve the assembled a fish pie for supper followed by a plum tart.

On Sunday we are going to North Sands Bay, Salcombe which is the shore below the Winking Prawn café.  Once parked I need a comfort break so Nick and I repair to said Whistling Whelk so I can use the facilities and take in a flat white.  It is then time to hit the shore and I follow the cliffs on the left hand side of the bay and make for the lowest point on the shore.  There are a few shady recesses with weak crevice development which might be hopeful for the usual suspects but although there are plenty of winkles about it is not a propitious habitat.  cupcoralretracted  caryophyllia3By the time I reach the waters edge, if I look around towards the outcrop on top of which is perched the old Fort Charles, there is enough shore to start turning stones and rolling boulders.  Time flies when you are engrossed in staring at the undersides of rocks on a shore.  Together with the rest of the group which includes Simon the Marine Recorder we plodge around in the shallows and together manage to compile a respectable list of mollusc species.

Reaching the law of diminishing returns Nick and I eat our sandwich on the beach then repair to our car in the carpark of the Wisecracking Wentletrap.  After I process the small amount of rockscrubbings and weedwashings and sit down to compile the joint list on paper we have recorded 64 species of mollusc and one Devonshire cup coral……….. and still counting.  Whilst restricting myself to the amount of weed etc that I take back to the lab., I do collect some cushion stars (Asterina gibbosa) to see if by any chance they will be harbouring one of the tiny mollusc species.  When I get back to the house I put these little treasures into a shallow dish of seawater to see what if anything might crawl out.  After my picnic lunch on the beach Nick and I drive back to the house so that I can start to process my samples.

Peter the Pieman is in charge of supper.  That’s great, I can just get on with my stuff and after we have eaten I can barely stay awake and after a fruitless attempt to interact with the internet (it is suffering from too many residents and not enough go-go juice) I go to bed where I promptly fall asleep in front of the printed word with my glasses on my nose.

 

 

A Woody Conundrum

Paul and Viv come to stay with us at the beginning of May.  They are en route to a destination on the Cote de Granit Rose where they have rented a gite to share with one of their daughters and her family.  The last time they came to stay with us they were again en route to Brittany, to Saint Lunaire west of Dinard, where they would be celebrating the marriage of their son to a young French woman.  On that occasion they were accompanied by Hilary, a long-standing friend who is a painter.  Hilary fell in love with our house and did several preliminary sketches with a view to working a canvas for us.  We are still hopeful and waiting……………..

But things have changed since Hilary made those drawings.  One of the group of three Mimosa trees, the largest and most beautiful, which was a prominent feature in the painting envisaged, has since died and has been felled in stages.  Nick is reluctant to take the former tree right down to its stump because it is useful for the hammock.  But, coupled with the rusty coloured, diseased-looking deposit on the bark, this tree trunk is quite simply ugly.

Paul has an idea.  Let’s take the chain saw and take off some slices to expose the naked wood beneath the bark.  This done the effect is still stark and even though we hang a basket of Auricula from the top and place our lovely slate slab which sits on a metal basket thus serving as a ‘table’ for a coffee mug, a wine glass or three wooden mushrooms, we are yet a long way from a pleasing structure.  We must think on………..  The suggestion box is empty.

We take a walk each day and our first excursion takes round La Hougue.  This circular route never fails to please and is all the more enjoyable for its moments when you trace the fairly narrow fortification wall which skirts the fort and from which it is separated by a tidal moat.  One afternoon we go to Pointe de Saire.  We reach the region of the shore which I favour for shelling to the strains of a lone bagpiper.  The tides are particularly low just now and the channel which normally separates the beach at this headland from distal offshore rocks has dried out.  paintedtopshellWandering over the bed of this channel is like crunching over seabed and I see lots of painted top shells crawling about.  They feed on the sponges which colonise the boulders which normally remain submerged during the majority of low tides.  There are mussel beds on the seaward side of this outer rock outcrop.  I had no idea they were here, but something to remember for future low shore forays.

Really we have come to this shore because Paul fancies a bit of shelling and in particular he would like to find a wentletrap, I think because they are beautiful and scarce.  In the event wentletraps are not to be had but he and Viv make a collection of selected shells from this locality and this will be used as an assemblage to compare which what they might collect in Brittany.

The walk to the Point is made from the Pont de Saire and after our foray we amble back along the upper strandline,  which has shelly drifts, to pile into the car and head for home.  We have an invitation to aperos with the Poulets, which is a pleasant social interlude, to wrap up P and V’s visit.  The following day they head for Brittany with not just their souvenir shells, but the rules and scoresheets for the card game Barbu which Nick and I are reliably informed will greatly please our niece who loves playing cards, and so do I.

And so to Bryher

I think Bryher is my favourite Scilly island.  For one thing it’s a nice shape to negotiate.  You get dropped at one of two quays on the eastern coast. map_bryher It is a short hop from Tresco and during exceptionally low Spring tides you can cross on foot.  The island is 2 km long and 1km wide at it’s broadest point.  Easily circumperambulated in a day with plenty of time to stop, linger, look.

The so-called settlement at Great Pool / Hell Bay Hotel is the westernmost in England. The centre of Bryher is mainly low-lying with arable fields, pasture and housing with a shop, a café and Island Fish.  The latter is a small shack-type establishment where you can get freshly-made crab sandwiches or a lobster salad with change from your fiver or tenner!  On the west side is the Great Pool overlooked by the Hell Bay Hotel and in the south are sandy beaches, a common feature on the island, Rushy Bay being an example. BlogIMG_4018 (2)

Setting foot on terra firma Nick and I strike uphill, westwards.  WNickLobsterSalade pass Island Fish thinking to buy a crab sandwich but in the event the proprietor is out of crab but can offer us a lobster salad.  Although strictly a take-away establishment we are able to sit at the small table outside to eat, and enjoy our lovely little salad with the pot of tea she makes for us as a friendly gesture.  With that wonderful feeling of having eaten some food of the gods we set off and crest the ridge of the island then we vere north slightly to follow a track which skirts fields and which then loops round to take us Great Popplestone where we enjoy some mazes more modern than that of St Agnes.  There are also a few discreet cairns at the top of the beach there, each composed of a single boulder upon which a slightly smaller one is placed and so on………..  There is also a composite one.

On the beach here Nick lingers to take photographs of beach birds and I notice interesting patterns of stranded shells and also the fine and glistening quality of the sand.DSC00243 DSC00241 (2)

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We call in at Hell Bay Hotel and spend a happy hour in their lounge over a good cappuccino and the daily papers.  DSC00229 (2)Continuing around the coast we pass the western flank of Sampson Hill and suddenly happen upon a host of golden daffodils and a beautiful vista thrown in.

The meander round the rest of the island takes us along the southeast coast then by some leafy tracks and under leafy bowers to reach the quay where I gaze out over crystal clear water towards Cromwell’s Castle and from which we will be picked up and whisked back to Tresco.10BlogIMG_4065 (2)

 

A Unique Des Res

Whilst on Orkney various field trips were set up by the organisers.  Although aware that there is so much archaeology to see on the islands, I wanted to have time to do some shore work with Bas.  However, there was one site that was not to be missed and indeed, had been a magnet for a number of the delegates at the meeting.

Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, the largest island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. It consists of eight clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3180 BC–2500 BC. Europe’s most complete Neolithic village, Skara Brae gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as one of four sites making up “The Heart of Neolithic Orkney.” Older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, it has been called the “Scottish Pompeii” because of its excellent preservation.

What more is there to say?  It was a fine day when the Famous Five visited the site, clear and cold and with high seas rolling in to good effect.  I walked round the ‘ramparts’ of this bijou hobbit village and marvelled.

Afterwards, having a double ticket, we walked round the former home of the man who discovered Skara Brae at the bottom of his garden.  William Watt of Skaill, the local laird, began an amateur excavation of the site, but after four houses were uncovered, the work was abandoned in 1868.  The site remained undisturbed until 1913, when during a single weekend the site was plundered by a party with shovels who took away an unknown quantity of artefacts.  In 1924, another storm swept away part of one of the houses and it was determined that the site should be made secure and more seriously investigated.  One can only wonder what accessories to the lives of the former inhabitants were removed from posterity.

After afterwards Sonia drove us to Birsay where we grabbed a light lunch in the cafe with the amazing view then Bas and I descended to the shore and causeway to investigate for shells.  We were looking for good seams of shellsand which were not immediately evident.  This is a serendipity pastime, it just depends on what the weather and the sea have combined to throw up for one’s delectation.  th[1] After searching for a while we were joined by Alastair Skene who confith[4]rmed that we were searching in the right place.  I was hoping to find Erato voluta, of which I picked up one example 🙂 and maybe even Simnia patula, of which Alastair found a fragment.  ArjanGittenberger__Stiefelslak_Simnia_patula3[1]

The photo on the left shows the living mollusc on its host food, Dead Man’s Fingers, Alcyonium digitatum.  Until very recently there was only one Simnia species described from our islands.  However Keith Hiscock noted that animals found on the sea fan Eunicella verrucosa were sufficiently different to investigate the possibility that they might be a separate species.  Which they were found to be…..  Keith has the honour of giving his name to this second species, Simnia hiscocki.  Before we left the shore Alastair presented Bas and me with a bag of shellsand to sort at leisure.  What treasures it might hold!!

 

In Search of the Great White…..

Back in the 80s I went on a field trip to Skye with the Conchological Society.  I had not long joined the Society and this was the first week-long trip I had joined.  Nick came with me.  The meeting gave me a series of shelling experiences the like of which I had never experienced.  Investigating the shore at low water was a revelation in showing me molluscs and other marine invertebrates living in their habitats and within their niches.  My most memorable experience, and one that has stayed with me throughout my many shelling highlights, was the finding of a freshly cast-up snow-white Chlamys.  This was the lovely scallop species Chlamys nivea.  I was very taken with the shell and also curious to understand its distinction from Chlamys varia.  One thing led to another and a fellow CS member, Phil’ Palmer, encourage to measure a few shells, carry out some biometric tests, track down other specimens in museums and the like and eventually write a short paper for the Journal of Conchology.  This was my first foray into the scientific world and was to lead me  ultimately to unimagined places, both physical and intellectual.

Some of the shells that I borrowed to measure were Orcadian giants.  These were examples collected from Orkney shores by Ian Smith, who first discovered a colony of large white Chlamys living at low water along a causeway leading from Grimbister out to the small island of Holm.  So it was that finding myself on the doorstep of this distinct, possibly unique variety of Chlamys varia I wanted to see if there was a tantalising possibility that the population would be extant.

Bas and I found our way to the site as described by Ian, with the assistance of Sonia as our driver.  We arrived on the shore whilst the tide was still ebbing.  But a causeway was beginning to reveal itself, along with an isolated and artificial stone slab wall projecting perpendicularly from the beach.  The slabs were stacked like books with plenty of room for nestling species to settle in the joints and spaces between.  I found a few very large mussels which I steamed out of their shells later and popped in my mouth there and then.  But first I waded about in the shallows and picked up plenty of valves of large white scallop species.  Some very fresh and there was evidence of predated shells on the beach, most probably left by feeding otters.  The predation traces on the shell are all similar.  We found empty mussel shells too, all broken in the same pattern.  Bas also found one articulated individual containing a decaying body so the population would appear to be extant.

As the tide ebbed Bas and I picked our way along the causeway to the little island of Holm. At some point a man came wobbling his way along the slippery and uneven ridge of the tract of rocks and slabs carrying a petrol can and a bucket of brambles to start planting a hedge.  We talked.  He owns Holm and has done for 21 years.  An Essex man, he lives alone and has another property on Orkney.  He keeps a bit of livestock on the island but has never fished or potted for food from the sea.  He knew nothing of otters on his patch although he had seen seals, but not this year.  He reminded me of Harry Enfield.

Although Bas and I worked the rollable boulders along the causeway methodically we saw no sign of living Great Whites.  However at the end of the day I had a very large bag of white scallop valves to measure.  Time to revisit my 1986 J. Conch paper.

 

Slim Pickings on Orkney Shores

I flew to Kirkwall on Mainland, Orkney for a meeting of zooarchaeologists including a working group who work on marine shells.  I was picked up from the small airport by Sonia and Terry, driven to our temporary home for the next 9 days and a cassoulet from scratch cooked by Rosemary.  It is good to be reconstituted as a group of baby boomers who make it our business to send at least one week a year under the roof of a large house with a big table and a room which we can adapt to function as a lab.  Our Orkney pad is hardly large.  It represents an economy of living but provides adequate accommodation and a useful utility room where Bas and I can do our mucky processing of shore collectings.  And a kitchen table large enough to cluster round when we are eating and otherwise occupied.

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Despite atrocious weather Bas and I decided to do a bit of shelling so Sonia dropped us of at Taing of the Clett for us to work the shore and see what we might find in the way of shells cast up and living molluscs.  We walked along an ebbing tide with narrow foreshore of flattish slates and slabs.  Our species list was meagre with no amazing finds.  We continued along to a small headland then continued along the upper shore grassy bank, passing Kirkwall airport on our left until we reached a small bay with some sands.  By this time we decided that we had had enough fresh air!  We walked along a road and up a small hill leading away from the beach whilst I searched intermittently for a mobile phone signal so we could summon our personal taxi.  Eventually I managed to get through to Sonia who came to pick us up.  We sorted through the few shells we had collected in order to make a site species list then hunkered down for the rest of the day.

In the evening there was to be a wine reception after Terry’s Plenary lecture on the subject of Islands.  We ate an early Supper at The Shore.  After the lecture we were entertained by three young sibling Orcadians on stringed instruments whilst we sampled a selection of Orkney cheeses on oatcakes with a glass or two.

Splashes of Pink on a Grey Day

Six days into the New Year and still it rains.  The outlook from the house is a grey one but I must be undeterred to take myself out for fresh air and exercise.  So the day after our Baie d’Ecalgrain jaunt I make a short trip to the north coast of the Cotentin and park by the blockhaus site at Neville sur Mer.  I’m to see what sort of strandlines there might be there.Blog-NevilleHeadland2

The tide is coming in and washing before it tangles of fucoids and kelp.  Little else.  Even looking at the strandlines at the top of the beach they are remarkably clean of other detritus.  Which is a good thing, in a way.  So little in the way of plastic, decaying organic matter and nothing to excite the attentions of a hopeful beachcomber.  So I walk the waterline eastwards and the upper driftline back.  Two solitary fisherfolk and a walker or two are the only other human presences on that windswept beach.  Nearing the end of my walk I catch sight of a splash of pink.  Blog-NevilleScallopIt is a Pecten shell, chipped at the edge but a bright item to enliven an otherwise drab substrate.  The pink matches the other splash of pink that caught my eye this morning as I walked across to the storeroom to look for some ingredients.  The camellia which I potted last year, because it was clearly failing in the flowerbed where all the Hellebores are, has rallied: the leaves have re-greened and there are a few buds and some flowers already open.  I now think I will pot the other two camellias to keep on the terrace too.Pink-Camellia

The following day I choose to investigate my beach pockets at Pointe de Saire and Nick accompanies me.  The wind has come up but the rain holds off for the duration of our ‘balade’ across the middle of the day.  My so-called beach pockets appear to have been swamped by sand.  It is evident from the sweeps of sand creating irregular sand waves and ridges that large amounts of sediment are being moved around those rock outcrops where the beach pockets occur.  The fresh deposits of colourful shells are not where they ought to be, but I find them.Blog-PointeDeSaieShellline  At the foot of a slope before the shore flattens out to the area of gravels and shallow standing water there are two of three sweeps of shelly material containing lots of whole shells.  This is where I place my kneeler and look for all the usual suspects which are markers for the possibility of a wentletrap.Blog-PointeDeSaireWentletrap  I find the Calliostoma top shells first then Trivia and just as Nick strolls up I say to him that I am finding all the indicators that I am searching in the right place, sweeping my hand gently over the surface to turn up shells just below the top layer as I do so, and there lying on the surface is a large white wentletrap absolutely on cue.  I have written elsewhere on my blog about wentletraps, check out this post of June 2013.

 

 

Mermaid’s Purses, Egg Wrack Bladders and other Red Herrings

After a too long interval of activities which have kept me grounded in my houses, Nick and I took the opportunity to make a trip to the coast for some walking.   As we stepped out of the car near our chosen beach we were a bit non-plussed to see a view that suggested that it was already high tide.  However as we walked down some steps we could see that access to upper shore was still available and the morning’s strandlines were still in place.   We chose Baie d’Ecalgrain because it is on the West Cotentin and I was keen to see if there would be interesting material mixed in the strandlines of seaweed, driftwood and other detritus.  Blog-EcalgrainPebbles14The south and southwest coasts of England have been receiving assorted exotica and long haul drift items – like Velella, and plastic containers such as fish boxes and other substrates to which are attached several species of goose barnacle.  Columbus crabs, non-native to the northeast Atlantic, live in the goose barnacle colonies and in consequence sail the high seas.  The plastic items also have attached non-native bivalve species such as ChamaThree species of these ‘Jewel Box Clams’ (worth checking out this link to see variety of images) were found on one item which helpfully had the name of the Florida-based fishery to which the fish box had belonged!  Clearly a long haul stranding.

But there was none of that.  Instead along the strandline at the foot of the cliff I found the usual suspects: bottle corks and tops, pine cones, feathers, mermaid’s purses, cuttlebones, limpet shells, and bits of seaweed, particularly fucoids.  One species in this group of algae, Ascophyllum nodosum  carries particularly large air bladders and when these die and start to dry out they turn a kidney red colour.  Blog-EcalgrainPebbles12There is something that I have been searching for ever since I discovered the delights of beachcombing and that is a Sea BeanHow I would love to find one.  A friend in Dorset has found three on the beach at Kimmeridge in the past two weeks.  Rarely do they get carried so far up the Channel after they have survived an Atlantic crossing.  Sea Beans and Nickar Nuts do get stranded around the coast of Cornwall more frequently but they are still rare finds.  So when I spotted the Ascophyllum bladders my hopes soared for a fleeting moment before I realised that the shape was too oval for the bean. Blog-GouryColoursRedPebble I also had a moment or two of expectation when I spotted the occasional round and russetty red pebble lying in the weed and detritus tangles.  But as of the moment the search goes on.

What the shore at Baie d’Ecalgrain does have to offer is a wonderful colour range of stones in a wide range of lithologies.  I picked up one or two but there would be far too many eye-catching pebbles to weigh down my rucksack so I contented myself with some pebble photography of which a small selection are presented in the gallery below.

When Lola and Ruby met Tobias and Agatha

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.