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.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Welcome guests

The Louis XII wing at the Château de BloisImage via Wikipedia

Now that we and our friends are older, visitors could come all the year round, rather than having to crowd everything into the school holidays, but old habits die hard. A number now have their own full time or holiday homes in France, so the visits are for a day rather than for a week or two, but there is still an influx in July and August which fills the house to overflowing on occasions. I look forward to it....we live a rather solitary life for a number of reasons, and it is good to have congenial company, catch up on the family news, see the photographs of the new arrivals and have the chance to meet the partners of the young entry. Goodness only knows what these partners make of us, but they are generally too busy entwining with their particular member of the young entry to take much notice of anything. I prefer them to do this in the shrubbery rather than under my feet in the kitchen and they are normally kind enough to indulge my whim.

Having company makes me realise how set I have become in my ways...without their visits I think I risk becoming an automaton, my day's course set in stone from dawn to beyond dusk. Thanks to their influence, I can throw my cap over the windmill and go out for the day for a picnic without feeling obliged to combine it with a shopping trip to get best use of the petrol. I can sit on the terrace with a holiday book that someone has brought without thinking that I should be organising the lunch....because the welcome guests treat my house as their own and are doing the organising themselves! It's great to go shopping together, buying something that I would not normally cook as it doesn't figure highly on the list of preferences of the man in my life....with the numbers involved, two or three different dishes can be served, so everyone is happy. I like to cook for can try things that don't work for two...and it is lovely when the guests take over and do their own thing...including the washing up! I may never be able to find the zester again, but it's not the end of the world. We have had incidents that have become part of our folklore....Mr. Spaghetti, you know who you are....and the summer influx brings the house and ourselves to life.

While whipping in the guests to go out for the day is a nightmare, it is only so because I am hard wired to get out before the shops and chateaux close for the lunchbreak and the markets wind up on the dot of one o'clock. The guests are not infected with this obsession and will happily pause for lunch in places that would normally have me getting back in the car and driving to the nearest supermarket for a loaf and some cheese. Thanks to them, I have found some delightful spots...and a great many that figure in the list of 'the worst places I have ever eaten in'. The andouillette in Chinon lingers still in all its aromatic horror. As does the half defrosted does the place with waiters lifting domes from plates like a synchronised swimming team to reveal the flower arrangement masquerading as food beneath.
The lunch break drives me wild when I am out for the day...I have had shop assistants rushing to shut the doors against me at five minutes to twelve, just in case they could not close down their tills on the dot of noon, so sacred is the two hour pause. The guests are unmoved. To them, this is France. To me, it is France, but we seem to have a different take on the fact. They are on holiday, determined to enjoy themselves, and I should take a lesson from their attitude which would help my blood pressure when dealing with the lunacy and obduracy of French beaurocracy, the complacent incompetence of French commerce and the manners the French don't have.
It doesn't matter...the idiots are only running themselves into the and pass on.
I can manage this in theory...but not in practice! One more artisan francais who calls me 'ma chere dame' while trying to con me that he knows about what he is proposing to charge me a fortune to mess up and the blood pressure is back up in the stratosphere.

Still, it is the holiday period, the beaurocrats are solemnly counting their thirty five hours on the beach, and the welcome guests are here, so it's time to indulge in pleasure. The man in my life will be doing his impression of Rommel, standing on the terrace with binoculars directing the picking of herbs and vegetables for supper, someone will not be able to pull the plug on the jacuzzi, and we will all be going to Blois for the nicest chateau in France and lunch in the surprisingly formal dining room behind one of the scruffiest caffs on the road south therefrom.

Thank you, the welcome guests. You enrich our lives and we hope you will continue to visit the two old cranks for as long as your cars can make it.

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  1. Isn't it wonderful to see your life through others' eyes? City friends are so envious of our move to the south coast yet often, like you, I lose sight of why we moved down here. It's the middle of winter over here, today being the first sunny day in a while, so I did the tourist thing and drove round the mountain and took in the fabulous views of ocean, islands and town. It did me the world of good, although I was disappointed not to spot a whale (it's whale season down here and, like Chicken Man, they're everywhere, they're everywhere).

  2. I could do with some of your discipline.

    I fear that Sir Prancelot and I, after a lifetime of order, routine and organisation are in danger of becoming feckless.

    I love the notion of you, "throwing your cap over the windmill".


  3. Yup, our two young French friends arrive in a couple of weeks and the house party begins. Since we work at our studio where they will be staying there will be an effective stop to work.
    The disruption is good for us or we would work all the time. And she makes huge piles of lovely crepes. And their need to get out and do tourist things makes us do them. As a tourist marketing person, I have free passes to almost everything which I never use. So the trains, the gondolas, the flumes, maybe even the auto road and cog railway.
    We'll have other friends over to meet them, so cook outs and pizza at the Irish pub. And kayaks on the lake.

  4. Michele, you're right. I get so enmeshed in the daily grind that I need a prod with a cattle goad to get me moving. Stupid to be such a slave to routine. We have family in Perth, and were just discussing whale watching off the W.A. coast the other day.

    GG....I'm trying to become feckless in my old age - a long held ambition!

    Zuleme, we know we enjoy doing all these things, but we only do them when friends arrive. Why don't we value ourselves and our pleasure in diversion?