Image via WikipediaSome time ago I looked at the heading of this blog and discovered that while I had covered most of the attractions advertised I had not dealt with the subject of snails.
So I dealt with snails.
As it is now the month of maying when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of barley break, it is time to deal with sex.
Now, I am aware that I do not mix in the sort of circles where the women spend all day laying on makeup with a trowel only to take it off with a chipping hammer at night or deciding which dress to put on in order to take it off for the 'cinq a sept' - the time when any self respecting French mover and shaker visits his mistress.
The mistress' husband will be doing likewise and in my view this explains the whole restaurant thing in Paris...with all this cinq a septing going on, no one has time to cook.
French Presidents don't seem to confine themselves to the ritual hours.....the only person who knew where the bucolic Chirac was after dark was his chauffeur...and as he was out driving Chirac from one cow's bottom to another no one could ask him anyway.
Oddly enough, Giscard d'Estaing, seen as a far more aloof figure - well, until l'Ex saw fit to write that damn fool novel about Princess Patricia of Cardiff - drove himself to his assignments...thus the collision with a milk van in the early hours of the morning.
While the least said about Felix Faure the better.
Presidents didn't tend to be seen in my neck of the woods....except for Giscard d'Estaing when hunting....so my views on sex in France have been formed and informed by my life in the backwoods of la France Profonde where female animals should be born with iron bloomers and the market in wellingtons shows a steady demand.
However, the pigs won't squeal and the ducks are exercising their right to silence so we'll have to make do with sex between people.
My first intimation of what went on in the rural scene was noticing a table in the local bar-cum-newsagent permanently occupied by three ladies...grandmother- all elastic support stocking and bits of salmon pink corset visible through the blouse - mother - where the varicose veins suggested that the support stocking would be making an imminent appearance - and daughter, whose real features were invisible under the make up.
They always seemed to be there...if not all three then at least the other two...so, meeting Monsieur Untel, source of all information, in the square after buying my newspaper, I asked him about them.
They were, he explained, the local prostitutes. Didn't we have them in England?
Yes we did, but not in the newsagents.
So how do you know where to find them?
They hang about on street corners.
How uncivilised. The English always were a bunch of hypocrites.
Yes, but tell me....they're not the most appealing to look at.....why...?
Because the local chaps are about the same sort of ages and think of them the way they were when they were young......it's a sort of habit, really...the looks don't matter.
So that was that, then.
These ladies used to take their customers home, which was why there were always at least two of them at the table at any one time, but in the last place where I lived the encounters took place in a rather smart wooden cabin further down river alongside a footpath.....as I discovered when walking the dog.
From sniffing and snuffling along he suddenly put his nose up in the air and headed for the open door of the cabin at a rate of knots.
Screams, shouts, dog ejected, door slammed shut.
This was clearly not the time to offer apologies, but I asked my neighbour's daughter in law who owned the cabin and she put me in the picture, which accounted for the cars parked up by the calvary at the top of the footpath.
I kept the dog on the lead until the cabin was well behind us on later walks.
My next encounter with the beast with two backs had been when I was picking grapes.
I had been accepted on Papy's team by then and quite looked forward to the afternoon stints....it seemed to be over too quickly, somehow, so when Papy announced that Denise could do with some help to get her grapes picked I was happy to go along with the rest.
Papy took us in his van, along with his dog, the buckets, the secateurs and the bottles and mustard glasses and unloaded us at a parking spot alongside the vines behind Denise's bungalow.
There were quite a lot of cars and there seemed to be more men than usual in the picking parties already at work, but that apart it was business as usual...just more varied gossip as people from different ends of the commune met up.
We were all at work when the shutters and window of a room in the house flew open.
A naked man clutching his clothes leapt into the garden and came running through the vines, closely followed by Denise in a similar state of nature but not clutching clothes.
It was like a sequel to 'le dejeuner sur l'herbe'...the sylvan setting, all of us clothed and the naked couple legging it towards the parking area.
They got into a car and as it sped away another man came round the corner of the house.
Clothed this time.
Where's Denise, then?
Clement's just given her a lift to the shop.
So that was Clement, then.
Nothing more was said.
Clement and Denise, clothed, returned and we all went on working until it was time to clean up and enjoy the supper Denise had prepared.
I noticed she had changed her clothes again but, all through the evening, nothing was said.
I saw Jean at Papy's the next day, and he had obviously heard all about it because he said
Picking grapes was a bit more exciting yesterday, by all accounts! Clement was nearly caught with his trousers down!
You don't want to get the wrong idea about Denise...she just likes a bit of life, that's all and that husband of hers is a miserable old stick. It could have been any of us in Clement's place!
Which accounted for the number of men among the pickers....men dedicated to giving Denise a bit of fun in her life and not averse to giving her a hand to get her grapes picked either.
I don't know if Papy was or had been one of the band of brothers...but by that time his interests were centred in his store of pornography, the pride of the commune and the surrounding area.
He lent them out in a sort of rural version of the circulating library.
Mamie showed me the chamber of horrors one day while he was out and the books I picked up seemed rather dull except for one which featured a priest in the confessional with a female parishioner....you flipped the pages at speed and got an early version of animation.
It reminded me of a book I had had since a child, where you flipped the pages to reveal Bradman demonstrating the cover drive....but Bradman offered more variety.
It must have been in the blood with Denise.
Her real father was a chap who had been maire for years before the war and who could aptly be called the father of his commune...you saw likenesses everywhere, far outstripping the best the postman or the garde champetre could do.
But Denise let the commune down in one respect. She let one man get away.
Despite taking part in the dentist's amateur dramatic troupe her charms had failed to fascinate him.
He was far more absorbed by the cavities of the wife of the owner of the chateau in the next commune and, one day, the two of them ran away together to that haunt of vice, La Baule, never to return.
No dentist and no more Feydeau farces for the village.