Some things I learned on holiday
French People Take Holidays, Too
I went to visit VivinFrance and her lovely Jock – as in Jock, her delightful Scots husband, not jock, her meathead athlete; though he could have been a meathead athlete in his day, I suppose: he did once play ice hockey in Canada.
The trip was organised fairly last minute but Viv had some ideas to entertain me: a poetry workshop with two of her writer friends; a meal at the excellent restaurant in the village; shopping on Saturday.
Unfortunately (for me, not them; I have nothing against the South of England, honest), her friends went to Cornwall as I arrived in Europe; the restaurant closed so the owners could take a holiday (at the height of the summer season: the French have their priorities right); and Saturday was a public holiday, therefore many shops were closed.
My hosts are lovely people
I didn’t really learn this on holiday but I need to shoehorn in the fact that when I went to bed, I found a box of fudge under my pillow, called Mrs Tilly’s.
I was too tired from the drama of flying alone to take a photo of my delight that night, but here’s a dramatic re-enactment from the next morning:
I like to go with the flow
France being closed didn’t bother me – I was with my dear Viv and we read poetry (some), talked poetry (more), critiqued poetry (a lot), wrote poetry (a little). We managed visits to a supermarket and a hardware store that I thought was a supermarket (schoolgirl French never covering le tool shop), as well as the fulfillment of a childhood dream when I entered a pretty boulangerie-patisserie straight out of a French text book drawing. I bought elephant ears, a French biscuit. First introduced to me by blogger Laurie, who sent her home made version from the States, I have long wanted another go at them.
Nostalgia is weird
On our daily walk into the village – There was fighting on this street during the war, Viv casually threw out; as if the French also have lots of history. I thought it was only us Brits – we popped into a corner shop and I spotted and had to purchase a box of Maizena!
If you don’t know, I lived in South Africa for fourteen years and learned to make gravy with cornflour – Maizena, a popular brand. If there was any other brand of cornflour, I never saw it nor bought it. Even now, nineteen years later and back in the UK, the grocery list often says ‘Maizena’ instead of ‘Corn Flour’. Of course I had to buy a box. Probably the oddest souvenir I’ve ever had. But I don’t care – Maizena!
French folk are funny
Viv, her lovely friend Annette and I rested during a trip to the seaside (I don’t think France wanted to meet me – even the tide was out). A man on a bike shouted as he passed, A kebab of old people! It was funny once translated, until I realised that I was part of the kebab.
I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t think he was really French: he was on a bike but he had no garlic, onions, beret, baguettes or striped shirt.
Goats and lemurs get me going
We had a trip to the zoo: Zoo Champrepus. Say it aloud; it’s fun, especially with the French rising inflection. I haven’t stopped saying it since I got back. It’s up there with ‘giggle’ and ‘hitch’ as one of my favourite words.
Our first stop was to feed popcorn to the goats and I was chuffed when a goat stood up against me to make sure he got his fair share i.e. all of it. It was the highlight of my day until we visited the lemur enclosure at feeding time. The animals wander around amongst the visitors, who are not allowed to touch them. However, they are allowed to touch us. One cutie pie, deciding he hadn’t been given enough, stood up against my leg, wrapping his adorable little paws around me and giving me his best Puss in Boots from Shrek impression (previous post refers). I’m in love. I haven’t felt that aglow since my wedding day. In the zoo shop afterwards I bought a lemur cuddly toy, lemur keyring and whatever lemur else I could find to remind me of my new favourite animal.
French food is the best
Viv and Jock fed me well, including Jock’s homemade Waldorf salad and Viv’s (drool) garlic lamb; but the culinary highlight had to be a trip to their favourite restaurant with some old friends and a bottle or three of good French wine.
Viv translated the menu (which had no prices listed; need I say more?) but I had no clear idea of what I was ordering; I just trusted it would be good and it was, more than good, viz. photos below:
Talking of wine, I couldn’t drink when I first arrived in France (surely a crime against nature?) because I was on antibiotics for an abscess, but I made up for it come Saturday-Wednesday and spent a lot of my time tipsier than the hour before a flight. I don’t think my hosts noticed, apart from the night I sprawled across their couch, giggling uncontrollably at re-runs of M*A*S*H.
Flying ain’t so bad if you know the pilot
I’m terrified of flying. Mostly, I’m afraid of take-off; once I’m up there, I’m committed and, as a pragmatist, I relax enough to loosen my seat belt to Victorian corset strength. Due to the aforementioned antibiotics, I was unable to have a fortifying beverage on either of my outward flights (to Exeter and then Deauville). I compensated for my unusual sobriety by taking deep breaths, praying really hard, and singing hymns quietly (don’t want people to think I’m nuts; terrified is enough) in the spirit of Whistle a Happy Tune and I Have Confidence. Musicals are good for more than Saturday nights in bed, you know. I could have sung Nearer My God To Thee but I opted for Lord I Lift Your Name On High; it seemed appropriate.
It wasn’t so bad coming back because I still had my pickle on thanks to Jock’s single malt; and on the Exeter-Manchester flight I was delighted to find myself sitting next to a FlyBe pilot (one of six dotted about) who had been on a course, and who flew the route regularly. I bombarded him with questions – How can this thing even take off? What happens if one engine fails? Why don’t we crash? When you’re a passenger, do you judge the actual pilot on his technique? – and he gently slapped me about the head with facts, figures and common sense. He added to his goodness by pointing out landmarks I’d never have spotted, such as Blackpool Tower (you know, that great big pointy thing with delusions of Frenchness) and allowed me to enjoy the first flight I’ve ever almost enjoyed. And I was sat by the window – not a matter of choice; I always ask for an aisle seat so I can be one of the first off the plane when we inevitably go down.
TB: Did you miss me?
Hub: No, not really.
TB: Why not?!?
Spud: We didn’t have one cross word while you were away; and everything got done.
Hub: Yeah. We came to the conclusion that you’re a stress head.
I was going to tell you about the romantic thing the Hub wrote to me while I was away, but I don’t think I’ll bother now. Suffice it to say, I’ll pay my own way to the moon, thank you very much. When it opens.