The Gallic misadventures of a Milford village idiot abroad.
Friday: Collected our friend, Viv, from the station tonight and then back for a magnificent spread of a dozen or so cheeses, cold meats, pates, dips and of course a few baguettes. As we started planning the next few days, my wife mentioned a stroll along ‘La Planches’. Viv gave a quizzical look. ‘The ironing board?’ she said. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is that Viv is a linguist (A bit like myself), speaking French, German & Spanish. Oh, and she likes a drink. Her confusion was relieved when she suddenly realised ‘Les Planches’ means both ‘Boardwalk’ and ‘Ironing board’. As previously observed, for some reason the French have not bothered to get their own words for some things, (Like: casino, croissant, foie gras or champagne), and then they have also decided it is a good idea some words that are the same, but mean different things.
As the evening progressed we shared a bottle of Bordeaux wine or two, while my wife stuck to her bucket of Bacardi & coke. We decided that tomorrow morning we would visit nearby Lisieux Basilica, which is now the second most important site of pilgrimage in France, after the town of Lourdes. As we continued our cheese-fest a litre bottle of Porto Cruz port was opened. The bottle must have had leak, as within an hour or so it was empty. As the evening drew to a close I rejoiced in being a French citizen, and wondered why things were moving around a bit. As Viv and I started singing the "La Marseillaise" French national anthem, my wife emptied her bucket, and decided it was time for bed.
Saturday: Plans for the early morning visit to Lisieux were postponed as Viv and I were feeling somewhat wobbly. I identified that our instability must have been caused by the blue cheese, my blurry eyed multi-language friend agreed, and we vowed never to eat that particular blue cheese again. My wife, continued to perfect her Gallic shrug and this time added a French sneer. Sometimes my wife has no pity on the weak. A quiet morning followed.
Late morning, the food poisoning was slowly clearing, so we trotted off to the brocante market in the next village along the coast, and then of course to the supermarket for the daily baguette pilgrimage. (And for some more port, as we seem to have run out.) Over lunch, Viv started telling a couple of stories that sounded hazily familiar, my wife subtly said; “Think you told us that last night”. (A d’ja vu moment. There you go, - another one they have no word for!) Suitably embarrassed, Viv tried to recall what she had said last night, ...... with little success.
My wife decided it might be best if she made her maiden drive on French roads this afternoon, (probably wise, due to normal drivers condition), and soon we were on our way to Lisieux Basilica. It proved a worthy visit in spite of the driving rain. The entire interior was decorated in mosaic, but we did not have the time to count how many pieces completed the impressive decoration. On our return, we took in a visit to Chateau du Breuil, a well-known Calvados distillery. I pretended that the free tastings were a surprise, and ordered a glass of the 15 year old apple brandy for all of us. I had of course ‘forgotten’ my wife was driving, so I had to have hers. Then, the biggest shock of the afternoon,.... Viv didn’t like Calvados! To find any drink Viv did not like was of course a new experience for us all. I am not sure who was most surprised, us, or Viv. Only one thing to do, so I had hers as well. I then enjoyed the 12 year old one, and was just starting the 'Fine Calvados' when my wife let me know that I apparently wanted to go home.
Sunday: This morning Honfleur was our first call, yet again another brocante market full of tat and stuffed animals, but the harbour is spectacular. I am now reaching the limits of how much shopping one man can take. Next, our traditional Sunday trip to Trouville Fish Market, this time for crevettes and sole for tonight’s dinner.
Late afternoon our mates, Alistair & Natalie, arrived to join the house party. Alistair celebrated his arrival with half a bottle of bubbly, as he told me about the magnificent firework party he had held for his family the night before. Natalie wondered why there had been no fireworks in France, my wife explained as subtly as she could about Guy Fawkes. Just then, Alistair got a text from Georgia, his ten year old daughter; “Good night dad, just been to really cool firework party, much better than yours. No offence, love you.” Crestfallen would probably be the best description for my bald friend.
Over dinner Alistair easily dismantled two bottles of Sancerre. As the evening got later, Viv got sleepier, Nat and my wife delicately consumed various types of alcohol, whilst Alistair’s face just got redder, voice louder and his stories became more boring than usual.
Monday: My red faced friend was slightly delicate in the morning, claiming to be another victim of the blue cheese food poisoning. So our now perfected guided tour of Deauville started later than expected, and concluded with lunch before Viv had to catch her train for the homeward bound journey. An afternoon of a fish market visit, pastries and hot chocolate followed. Walking this evening, my wife decided it would be funny to guide us through some particular virulent quick sand, where I promptly lost a shoe in the freezing cold water. Alistair’s head resembled a belisha beacon in his hilarity, and I think he was impressed with the compendium of French swear words I had mastered.
As night time fell we were off to Deauville Casino to give them some more of my money, the ornately fashionable O2 bar with Lalique style lamps and changing colour Romanesque busts, provided refreshments as the gaming tables emptied our wallets. Next we moved on to ‘La Flambée' restaurant, and had the finest meal of our emigration, superb. I am enjoying being French!
Spent most of the late evening drinking, whilst participating in a nonsensical debate about black lobsters and enduring fits of Alistair’s trademark maximum decibel laughter. Alistair being a self endorsed marine expert, (having been to Bridlington recently), insisted he had seen three black lobsters at Trouville Fish Market, and embellished his lack of knowledge, by claiming that they stayed black when cooked. I, also being a marine expert, (because I live by the sea in both France & in Milford) said he was wrong on both counts. I was quite confident, not that I knew the facts, but more based on many years’ experience that there was a direct correlation to the correctness of Al’s facts and his level of alcohol consumption. Google revealed that black lobsters do exist, but you only get one in every two million lobsters. Also all lobsters turn red when cooked. The more Alistair drunk the more convinced he was he had seen them, I inquired why other 5,999,997 lobsters weren’t in the market, but he did not have an answer for that one.
My wife and Natalie got bored with the conversation, so talked about handbags and pointless husbands.
Tuesday: A quiet morning meandering around the delightful harbour and medieval streets of Honfleur, followed by a lunch of croque monsieur & frites. It was then time for Alistair & Natalie to leave, and for our ears to return to normal.
Wednesday: Our guests over the past couple of weeks had excelled themselves in emptying bottles for the fledgling French recycling cause, and my wife of course maintained her impressive contribution of Bacardi bottles. So it was a trip to the bottle bank this morning, thankfully we have a large estate car. A very long beach walk with dogs this afternoon. Made it all of the way to Blonville sur Mer and back, surprisingly without the need for oxygen. My wife is most impressed that for the past six weeks I have been resplendent in shorts almost every day. My shapely calf’s have attracted numerous admiring glances from many French women, ..... and a couple of strange men.
Thursday: I got to meet the Mayor today. His mayoral chain looked very impressive as he arrived at the front door of our holiday home, accompanied by twelve gendarmes. His French was not as good as I expected, but he seemed to like my warm greeting of three kisses. After informing me that Deauville was already twinned with Cowes, he handed me an official looking document with a rather impressive embossed coat of arms. I tried to explain that he would love Milford on Sea, as it was full of people like me. For some obscure reason he was unimpressed and I am sure I saw a little tear in his eye. As I read my new friends letter, I explained to my wife that it was offering me the key to the freedom of Deauville, and welcoming me to join the town council as an honorary cultural member My wife un-ceremonially snatched the papers and read out loud; “It actually says you are a public nuisance and you are being immediately deported”. As I left with my new friends, my wife tried to contain her obvious pleasure.
On leaving the custody of my escort party from Deauville, I had a pleasant journey across the channel. When arriving at Calais I thought I better call my wife. She was surprisingly calm, in fact said she had just had the most peaceful day of her holiday.
As I arrived back in Milford on Sea little had changed, in fact little has changed since the 1950’s. I then realised I had a more immediate problem to resolve. My wife was due home tomorrow and I thought it might be a good idea to perhaps go away for a few days, France was of course not an immediate option, so I planned to hide in the hall cupboard.
Friday: My wife returned home, and headed directly to the hall cupboard. After quite a minor beating my head was a tad sore, but things soon returned to normal.
As we wandered along the Milford on Sea beach later that day I looked due south west towards our vacated French home, and I recalled stories of the fun I had had across the water. “We will have to start planning our next emigration soon”; I excitedly exclaimed. My wife just mumbled; “I was thinking more about separate holidays in future.”
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