Image via WikipediaNow 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 numbers...you 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 steak....as 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 ground....smile 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.