Ain't blogged lately. No real reason. Mainly laziness and the fact that nothing much has happened recently. It's a dull time of year. Still, Christmas is fast approaching and Georgie's due to fly out next Sunday so that's something to look forward to.
Talking of Christmas, I was invited to a Christmas lunch for all the elderly locals at the village Mairie a week ago last Saturday. It's an annual event, paid for by the state, and it's the first time I've been invited. Taken me seven years to be officially accepted by the community, or maybe in previous years they just thought I was younger than I really am. Anyways, having been invited I had to go, despite severe misgivings about being the only Brit there. Plus, of course, my rubbish parlez-vous lingo and the fact that none of the locals speak a word of Anglais.
The 'do' kicked off at mid-day. Six hours later, I finally staggered off home, feeling somewhat wobbly. Amazingly, most of the oldies were still at it, noshing, boozing and nattering. They're tough critters round these parts. I just couldn't take the pace. Called it quits after the pudding cake. Neighbour Colette seemed a bit disappointed that I didn't stay for the final onion soup (apparently a traditional end to a boozy lunch), but I just didn't have room. Lost count of how many courses the ladies of the community had knocked up in the Mairie kitchen. Must have been about seven or eight, or more. And I definitely lost count of how many (free!) bottles of plonk and glasses of champagne the lads on our table got through.
On arrival at the Mairie there was much hand shaking, smiling and kissing as the locals greeted each other. Most of them have probably been chums since primary school and, indeed, are probably related in some way. It's a close community up here in the remote hills. Despite hardly knowing anyone (well, maybe a dozen or so), I was warmly welcomed. I think they know me as the artist that showed his paintings at the village fete a couple of years ago. But, other than that, they probably refer to me as that Anglais who lives by the church.
Introductions over, we took our seats. Neighbour Alain perched me next to him. Sat opposite were an elderly couple (Marcel and Lorrine?) who, despite being married for sixty-odd years (I found out later) held hands with surprising frequency. Very cute. Marcel is a farmer, aged 81, who apparently gets up at 4am every day - yes, every day (that's 3am in English money). Lorrine told me, a bit guiltily, that she stays in bed 'til about seven. I told them that I generally get up at around 6.30ish to let Jock out. Didn't tell them I then go back to bed when Jock comes back in. Marcel's quite a character with his toothless grin. Kept telling funny stories, even though I didn't understand a word. Massive hands for a little bloke, with sausage-like fingers. Typical local farmer.
The official dignitaries sat at the top table. The mayor (another farmer) sat in the middle, flanked by his wife and some local official. Also on their table were neighbour Chantal (or is it Chantelle?) who is the mayor's sister and who does most of the paperwork and running of the Mairie, and a couple of local cops (gendarmes), plus others. They were the youngsters of the gathering. Having a couple of gendarmes present didn't seem to put anyone off. Again, they're probably related in some way to most of the guests. And, perhaps surprisingly, they didn't start breathalising anyone when people started leaving before the dreaded onion soup. Mind you, I could imagine one of the gendarmes saying "breathe into this bag, uncle" and then being told "shove it up your arse, sonny." That's the way things are round here.
Can't remember exactly what we ate, but it was all fairly simple and very delicious. I think different courses were prepared by different ladies of the commune. The starter was a sort of crab seafood thingy. Bloke next to me didn't like seafood so I had a couple. This was followed by a bit of quiche. Then a sort of lemon sorbet (bit weird having pud before the main course, thought I). Then a bit of fish in sauce - had two 'cos, again, the bloke didn't like seafood. By this time I'd lost count of the wines I'd had (both white and red) so my memory was blurred. Then meat, mash and a stuffed Provençal tomato - luverly. Then lettuce with sauce and a bit of cheese (there were other courses but I've forgotten what). Then a super-duper slice of raspberry ice cream cake with meringue - stupendous. Then, er, chocolates, coffee and a glass of some lethal pear-flavoured paint stripper. Then a quick getaway after saying thank you to the dignitaries and before the onion soup.
Took a couple of snaps of the Christmas lights outside. Bit blurred, but that was exactly how I saw them. Staggered off down the road as the lads, and probably some of the lassies, continued demolishing the vino stock. Arrived home, got a bollocking from Jock about leaving him alone and in the dark for so long, gave him a walk, lit the kitchen fire and poured a welcome scotch and dry on the rocks. Perfect end to a damned good 'do'.
Taking a pause
1 month ago