Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Pleasant Surprise

Story contd.

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 France. Our younger son didn’t fancy the idea; he was very adventurous and would set off with a back pack and hike round the West Country alone, visiting stray relatives and camping in fields.

By now I had driven through France many times with some theatre club friends who had given me valuable experience. They would often depute me to go and get rooms en route to practice my French, so whilst my son drove I was responsible for bed and board. We drove down through Normandy to Brittany stopping at Mont St Michele for crepes and then had a blissful few days with one of us getting sun burnt (he never listens to Mum) losing the car keys in a fairground (an occupational hazard with # 1 son) and retracing the foot steps of Heloise and Abelard on the Rose Granite coast where it is said Peter sang love songs to her. I still have a fragment of granite from that romantic spot.

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 hotel- Madame to save us a difficult explanation. They both had a good laugh and cursed ‘La Boule.’ And we went back to the hotel. Her explanation was that when she saw all the keys there she assumed everybody was in and locked up. We had forgotten or not bothered to leave the key. Much of the hilarity had been because there was a new French film that everyone was talking about concerning a mother and son who had an affair. Charmante!
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

* Forth Bridge –an enormous bridge in Scotland that is repainted each time the painting is complete.


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a great great story, Pat....! LOL! Being shut out of your French Hotel....with your son....! Marvelous, my dear. What was that French movie, pray tell?
I have seen Boule being played in films and it looks like a lot of fun....! Though I was never sure of the skill involved. It looks similar to Bowling but not really....!

I found it so interestinmg that your husband decided that the house should be in both your names and that you saw this as a generous gesture. Doesn't it say a lot about the position of women, back in the day....And in many cases, STILL, today? There are some terrible stories about this very thing where the house was NOT in both names and the home that was so loved and cherished was lost to the surviving spouse....!

kenju said...

Pat, this IS a great story! And so well told. I think your mr. crouch and mr. kenju would have a lot in comon - color wise - LOL.

kenju said...

P.S. I forgot what I originally came to say: if my new kitchen color is eau de nil, then I may grow to like it, since I love all things Egyptian!! Come to think of it, that was the name of a perfume I bought for a friend in the Paris airport.

R. Sherman said...

Interesting comment on the house. Here, a spouse automatically has a marital interest in real estate owned by the other, whether acquired before the marriage or otherwise and regardless of whose name is on the deed -- a throwback to the days of Henry II.

The EMBLOS and I honeymooned in Normandy, Brittany and then Alsace. We had a fabulous time and it was much more convivial than our time in Paris.


Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Oooh I love it that he was a Mr. Crouch - how deliciously Dickensian! And tweenies!

Well done on your business successes, Pat. You must have got a lot of satisfaction from it. You clearly earned William's respect for your financial savvy.

sablonneuse said...

What a lovely episode. It seems the French don't think it odd if a mother and son share a bed. When I took my son and daughter and her friend on holiday the lady at the 'chambres d'hotes' put the two girls in the room with two single beds and my son (aged 14) and me in a room with a double bed. His reaction was much the same as your son's.

Casdok said...

Wonderful story!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Your younger son setting off with his backpack reminds me of one neighbour's son...when that boy went a wandering, nobody could tell which part of the jungle he was.

How I LAUGHED at your son sticking that bolster down the middle of the bed!

Guyana-Gyal said...

How I LAUGHED at your son, sticking that bolster down the middle of the bed.

Your other son setting off with his back pack reminds me of a neighbour's son, when that boy went a wandering, we never knew which part of the jungle he'd gone to.


Brilliant! Ta for't giggle.

I've been locked out of lots of places but I suppose you can guess why eh? ;-)

PI said...

Naomi: I can't tell you the name - I never saw it. It came out some time in the seventies. I'll see if I can unearth it. I'm no good at ball games but liked the company and the Calvados:) French wives do a wonderful despairing gesture at the mention of boule.

Judy: how I could do with a Mr Crouch now, here in this house. Do you know I never realised nil was from Nile.

Randall: re houses I think there is more justice in the American way.
That must have been a fabulous honeymoon; the French countryside is like another world after Paris although I have some great memories of there.

PI said...

Naomi: re houses - that could have happened here if MTL died before me so he has made it that I live here or equivalent - as I wish - until I kick the bucket. I'm hoping to go first.

Sam: the business was one of the things I was really proud of - almost like a child.

Sablonneuse: I wonder if you can discover the name of the film: It came out in the seventies and there was quite a furore about it. What did our sons think we were going to do????

Casdok; glad you enjoyed it.

PI said...

4D: I have a vague idea:)

GG: I used to worry a lot - no mobile phones but he was a sensible lad. Still is - in fact he's ace at sorting me out.

Eryl Shields said...

How fantastic to not only go on a road trip with your young son, but to repeat the trip the next year. You must have a great relationship with him. I'm not sure what Bob would think about going away with me, although he always accompanies me to odd places it's usually only for an afternoon.

Magnolia was THE colour in the seventies if I remember.

PI said...

Eryl: I was very lucky. Make the most of him before he gets married - then we have to back off. Both boys have become valued friends but I still prefer them to call me Mum.
Yes Magnolia reigned supreme in the seventies.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

I grew up in a magnolia bed-room. Woodchip magnolia. Then, when I was about 7 they replaced it...with magnolia woodchip. Gaaaah!

PI said...

Sam: I blame the Scots - I think the whole thing was inspired by porridge. Still it was a change from the violent swirls and patterns and oranges and purples which preceded woodchip and magnolia.