Friday, May 23, 2008

In a good place. Part 1

Story contd.

Nothing is miserable unless you think it so;

Conversely, every lot is happy if you are content with it

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus

I had much to be thankful for. All the family were well and healthy William and I were getting accustomed to seeing less of the boys and appreciating our extra freedom and we both enjoyed our individual occupations – his important job in the city and my successful emporium. For leisure William could go sailing on his brother’s boat and I could go to France with my friend Sally, and we still visited Greece together.

Sally was a stalwart of the theatre club, she was quite a bit older than me and had had an exciting life She had been an actress in the professional theatre and experienced many adventures travelling round Europe with her friend Elizabeth David, when the latter was doing research for her revered cook books.

In spite of her maturity Sally believed in having fun: buying a second hand car became ‘Hunt the Mini’, rehearsals were never dull if she was around and she gave the most wonderful parties with delectable food. I remember one dinner party – for some reason we were all in full evening dress. She had cooked – I think it was a Creole recipe, where the meat had been soaked in rum and it was so delicious we all sucked the string. Afterwards she was determined that we should learn to do the Gay Gordons and it is with an ache in my heart that I realise how rare it is now that one sobs with laughter. We did that night.

After our visit to Le Puy, Sally and her husband decided to buy a house in France. I missed the exploratory trips but after they had bought an old farmhouse in the Dordogne, I was invited to accompany the two of them in their car and share expenses whilst the others went independently. It was a beautiful spot – near Riberac. The plumbing had been fixed but there were lots of jobs to do and mine was to wash all the blankets and I spent hours jumping up and down on them. Determined that no-one would ever forget this mammoth task I had taken on, I embroidered a scarlet P on each one. When Sally – ever restless – later moved further south, I was very cross when she admitted she had left the blankets at the farm house.

Life was idyllic. First one up would go for fresh bread – croissants were just for Sunday and NO butter as croissants are all butter she would declaim, in her booming voice (Sally could be quite bossy but we were happy to humour her) Then if we had worked on our allotted tasks to Madam’s satisfaction there would be champagne cocktails – with frosted sugar round the glasses and oysters and always one of her delicious salads. Siestas followed lunch (I started reading Proust) then lots more work until dinner time. We ate out on alternate evenings and took it in turns to cook on the evenings in.

Sometimes at night when the lights were dimmed it could be quite creepy. I had a small bedroom on the ground floor and using the downstairs loo, an enormous creature jumped in through the open window behind me and was there on the floor between me and the locked door. My screams brought the others down and as I didn’t dare step over it, they had to remove the door. It turned out to be a giant cicada.

Another night I saw a something scoot down the door lintel in my bedroom. I knew either a centipede or a millipede could kill you – I didn’t know which and in any case there wasn’t time to count the legs. I didn’t dare rouse them again and lay trembling and praying for most of the night.

In spite of the new plumbing there developed a very unpleasant smell and finally we had to get the plumber. It seemed that Sally had been putting bleach and disinfectant down to keep everything sweet which then killed the bacteria that made the cess pit work. That’s the science bit – more or less.

Next door was a farmer and his wife who spoke no English but were very helpful and friendly. During a thunderstorm Monsieur Chabot lost his beloved cow and he told Sally how the cow had been struck by lightening, with tears streaming down his face. We felt so sad for him and took round a basket of goodies including a bottle of whisky. In return they asked us round for supper. Unfortunately Monsiour Chabot was under the weather that day, but he had a little box bed in the kitchen so he could join in the fun. In the middle of the meal he became unwell – it was a tummy upset, and rose to go to the bathroom dressed only in short vest. Being British we all treated it as perfectly normal and carried on eating. I guess it was France Profonde.

Sally’s next move was further south to the Languedoc, an affordable Provence and I was delighted to be invited once more.

32 comments:

Mei Del said...

on my quiet day of the week, i came across your blog probably via greavsie and i have been hooked reading your 2006 archives. i hope you won't mind if i tell my blog friends about your inspiring read?

PI said...

Mei Del: welcome! That's the nicest think anyone has said to me today - thank you. And of course tell your friends. The more the merrier.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

France profonde nothing, he was trying it on! Old perve.

R. Sherman said...

No photos? The Dordogne and Languedoc are great areas.

Cheers.

PI said...

Randall: there's just no pleasing some folk! And it's a VERy sore point that I wasn't camera concious then and missed so many opportunities

PI said...

Daphne: oh and I thought he was a funny, sweet, little old man.

Janet said...

I absolutely LOVE that quote! Hi, Michele sent me :-)

sablonneuse said...

What a wonderful taste of life in rural France, though I'd have been petrified of the unkown wildlife too.

gautami tripathy said...

Good to be here to read about France. Michele will love it too!

Last Girl On Earth - Deni Bonet said...

What fun. I know the area and it's fun to go back there in my mind while reading your post. Michele sent me today and I'm glad she did!

barbie2be said...

popped over from micheles to say hi.

craziequeen said...

Good morning Pat, Michele sent me here this Saturday morning :-)

We're off to Caerphilly Castle again this weekend, so I'll be sleeping among the creepy creatures again :-)

cq

Jean-Luc Picard said...

So well written Pat. Michelle sent me.

PI said...

Janet : it's even better in Latin.

Hi Gautami!

Last girl: it's years since I've been.

Hi B2B!

CQ: it's warmed up now so you should be OK

Jean-luc: Merci bien!

problemchildbride said...

This might be one of my favourite PI posts. The passing of the cow, the wild beasts, the saucy Frenchman, the croissants and rum-soaked meat. Such stuff are crazy dreams made of. And it all really happened, that's the best part.

kenju said...

I love reading about your life, Pat. You know some fascinating people!

sister AE said...

Pat, I so enjoy reading your stories! And that means I'm even happier that Michele sent me today.

colleen said...

Roughing it in France. I'm game! It reads like a real life story well lived.

You and I posted at Michele's at the exact same time. Where I grew up when two people would say the same thing simultaneously, we'd say, "You owe me a coke!" ??

PI said...

Judy: alas many of them have gone on ahead.


Sister: glad you enjoy it.

Colleen: It was real at the time:)
Is that diet or straight?

PI said...

Sam: that's praise indeed. I'm just going into a chorus of 'Those were the days my friend, we though they'd never end...'

Bob-kat said...

Ah, it reminds me a little of 'A Year in Provence' :) It sounds wonderful, apart fro m the millipede - ugh!

Thanks for the congratulations!

Michele sent me over to say hello and I am always happy to visit :)

LOM said...

Nothing is miserable unless you think it so;

Conversely, every lot is happy if you are content with it


How very true

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

How truly WONDERFUL Pat, to have spent so much time in France...The "Farmhouse" experience sounds a bit like 'camping' in a way...(lol)..what with the creatures jumping about in the house....But, a pure joy, too!
I look forward to the next installment.

PI said...

bob-kat: I never did read beyond the first page although it was in my DIL's bathroom.

LOM: sometimes the most obvious sayings have the greatest resonance

Naomi: it was like camping in lots of ways: luxury one moment and deprivation the next. And we used to have to empty the poo- bell - rubbish bin - in that beautiful countryside.

Leigh in Atlanta said...

"I realise how rare it is now that one sobs with laughter."

Unfortunately you are too right but maybe those who read this particular post, or anything that you write for that matter, also realize that it is very important and therefor seek it out more frequently. You are such a good soul.

Michele sent me to sy hello, but I would have been here anyways. You always seem to write about something that I need to know.

PI said...

Leigh: that's sweet of you to say so;)

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I loooove France, especially the south. This post makes me want to go there right now, away from rainy England and off to the land of sun and wine and delicious food and fascinating characters. But as I can't do that, I'll go and read the next blogger on my blogroll instead - Petite Anglaise!

PI said...

Hi Zinnia! I wondered if you were in Greece.

Eryl Shields said...

I try and tell my husband 'NO BUTTER' when we have croissants but to no avail.

Very sad about Monsieur Chabot's cow. Hilarious that the loo door needed to be removed to release you from the clutches of a giant cicada!

PI said...

Eryl:I've got a husband like that and he has the tum to prove it:)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Weeee heeeeee how I laughed at Daphne's comment.

Mosquito nets are good for keep away LOTS of things, not just mosquitoes!

Sally reminds me of my little sister.

PI said...

GG: Daphne is a one alright! I wonder how your sister was like Sally. There was nothing little about her. She was larger than life and twice as noisy.