A Pleasant Surprise
Although it varied each month – because that was the way Mary and I liked it - we were getting a healthy financial return for our hard work in the shop. This gave me the wherewithal to have fun making the house beautiful. For years I had run myself ragged trying to decorate the large rooms myself and teetering on the top of the tallest step ladder in an attempt to paint the ceilings; now I could afford Mr Crouch who steadily worked his way through the house. I never did count the doors (this house has probably the same number but they are Edwardian rather than Victorian, so are smaller and easier to paint) but it was like painting the Forth Bridge* Mr Crouch was fine as long as one steered him away from his beloved chip paper and the colour magnolia.
I had one of the sculleries made into a wet room – before wet rooms were heard of -and the bathroom, which had probably been the tweenie’s * bedroom with a dainty iron fireplace, I converted into a sort of boudoir bathroom which was a daily delight. William had central heating installed - which was the icing on the cake for our much loved home.
One day William asked me when I could be free to go to the solicitors with him. Puzzled I asked him why, and he said he was going to put the house in both our names. In other words he was giving me half the house. I was so surprised and thought it was very generous of him. How our circumstances had changed; it didn’t seem long ago that I had been exercised at not being allowed to buy a new bathing costume. I also now had a generous house keeping allowance - ironic really.
The elder boy was planning on going to university and both William and I realised how much we would miss this young man who had morphed from an enfant terrible into a fun companion. He was anxious to get driving practice so William took him for a Scottish holiday and I took him to
By now I had driven through
Each evening we would have the same delicious meal of langoustines which we dunked in heavenly mayonnaise, washed down with a bottle of Muscadet. It wasn’t all sweetness and light and there were some quite heated discussions regarding the driving but it was enough of a success for us to repeat it the following year. How I wish one of us had kept a record of what we did. There are just a few isolated memories but one which is as clear as if it happened yesterday was the evening we played boule.
We had settled in our hotel which resembled the home of Norman Bates in ‘Psycho’.
It was a lovely evening, so after dinner we found a homely drinking place which was a Relais Routiere We wanted to taste the Calvados which is renowned in that area. The bar was full of jolly French men and as they were very friendly we accepted their invitation to play a game of boule. More Calvados was consumed and son and I were having a ball practising our French, learning the game and doing our bit for entente cordiale. It got darker and darker and we learnt that this was a place where long distance lorry drivers stayed. Eventually I remembered to look at the time, saw it was late and so we bade an affectionate farewell to our new friends.
We weaved our way back to the hotel and there wasn’t a single light on in the place and the door was locked. Feeling like naughty children we knocked politely on the door. Nothing! We knocked a little harder with the same result. Now I was getting worried, there wasn’t a soul around in the small town and we were very tired. We started to hammer and call out but it was like trying to waken the dead. Utterly useless. And then salvation! A car drove past – saw us – and reversed. It was one of the locals who had been in the bar. We told him of our plight, He added his voice to our chorus but to no avail.
Finally Maurice – that was his name – said he would drive us back to the bar and see if they had rooms for us. Madame at the bar said she only had the one room and by this time I was moaning that I had no clean clothes or tooth brush and how would we explain to the other Madame but she firmly said it was not important, showed us the room and bade us good night – in French.
My son was as appalled as I was – not about little things like toiletries but the fact that he had to share a bed with his mother and firmly put the rock hard bolster down the middle of the bed. By now I was too tired to care and went to bed with make- up on - quelle horreure! The next morning there was much hilarity – not from us I may say.
We had breakfast and the bar- Madame phoned the
Madame very kindly refused to charge us in spite of my protests, so all was well that ended well.
*Tweenie – house maid who lived between stairs