All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.
Friday, 31 July 2009
Play has been abandoned at Edgbaston
Having spent the morning in the company of Jonathan Agnew and assorted Australians, the household is plunged into disorder by the news that play has been abandoned for the day and we all have to find something else to do.
Why cannot Agnew et al continue to talk? It is always interesting...you learn all sorts of things like Geoffrey Boycott describing his hotel in India as containing the 'corridor of uncertainty', and if, like me, you have been interested in cricket for years, you hear the background to things that puzzled you at the time...a time when the press was reticent, there was no Twitter and real men did not ride pedaloes. Test Match Special on the BBC is rightly an institution, though I do not agree with the widely held view that it is better when rain stops play and the commentators are driven back on their endless resources of gossip and reminiscence.
However, plans have to be changed....and so, if we are going out, will be the clothes. The ladies are already heading for the bathrooms, the hum of the hairdryer will soon be heard in the land and the men are thrashing out a plan of attack. It runs rather like this... The ladies haven't hit the beer at lunchtime, so they will be driving. That means they will want to go shopping or sightseeing. How can the men contrive to avoid the former and make the latter tolerable? There is a further factor......it is raining cats and dogs.
That factor knocks out the favourite solution, a run along the Loire and a visit to a chateau with a pleasant bar nearby where the men can continue hitting the beer while the ladies soak up the culture. No one wants to sit inside in a French bar. We could stay at home and read, watch television and listen to music. We could, but by now the ladies have changed and done their hair, so we're going out. What do you do to amuse your visitors on a wet day in rural France? They've bought their wine, so winetasting is out, the men revolt at the mere mention of Ikea, the Resistance museum is off the agenda as far as this party is concerned.....mention of the French army as the sunburned armpit brigade is sure to be made and someone at the museum will understand and we will be banned, historic buildings bring the men out in hives, so what are we to do? The answer is a long drive, but well worth it and as the ladies are driving, they have the last word.
The chateau d'Oiron.
This is a chateau well off the beaten tourist track, south of the river Loire, built in one go in the sixteenth century so not a ragbag of styles, with a well preserved interior. However, the main point of interest, and the whole point of this visit, is the art collection. Well, yes, art, but not art as we know it.
The chateau is an outpost of the national museum services and houses a collection of modern interpretations of the 'cabinets of curiosities' which were apparently popular with the upper crust of the renaissance. There is one reproduction of the renaissance cabinet upstairs in one of the towers, but the rest are the works of modern artists, including one room resounding to the buzzing of myriad insects. How French. The video which I hope I have managed to download properly will show you more, including the set of crockery featuring the profiles of the local people which is used every summer to serve a lunch for the models...they find their place at the table by identifying their profile. What happens if your nose is broken or you lose your teeth in the interim is something I prefer not to consider. There used to be an exhibit involving glasses of wine balanced without any visible means of support, but the room was closed this time. Probably knew who was coming. Still, there is plenty else to have the alarm bells sounding as our party tours the building...the sphere was inevitable and I should have known better than to have let the men get near it, but, wonder of wonders, this visit to a chateau is a success!
The ladies loved the architecture and the frescos, while for everyone the art provided a subject of commentary all the way home and well into the evening. Not all of it complimentary, but commentary none the less.
As we unloaded the cars, I noticed that one of the men had his portable radio in his hand. I eyed him and he said sheepishly
'Well, I know they said play was abandoned at Edgbaston...but I couldn't help hoping....'
Retired, I'd lived in France for about twenty years after leaving the U.K.
Tired of listening to the 'living the dream' nonsense, tired of people shooting my rooks, I thought it was time to spill some beans from the cassoulet.
And having spilled the beans, I'm starting on the rice...out here in Costa Rica.