This is the final part of my early memories of moving to la belle France:
John has discovered the delights and efficiency of the French health system. Before we left the UK his diabetes was out of control and he should have been placed on insulin but was informed it would take six weeks for the change process, so it would be best to wait until we got to France. He duly signed up with a local doctor and was immediately sent to see a diabetic specialist (what, no waiting?!). He saw the diabetic specialist on Friday and was in hospital on Monday, not because his case was urgent, but because that’s the way the system works here. If you need treatment, you get it – and quickly. He checked into the hospital at 8am and by 8.20am he had had a blood test, pee test, poo test, insulin drip, cardiogram, blood pressure, weight, temperature and breakfast! He had to stay in for a few days so they could monitor the insulin and teach him how to inject, see dieticians, cardiologists, etc, etc. It was very quiet without him but I’m thrilled that at long last something has been done and he’s already feeling better.
On Valentine’s Night John took me to a local recommended restaurant. We popped in two days before the 14th to order our food as they only did fresh seafood cooked to order. We booked for eight o’clock in the splendid rooms of the ancient priory/manoir and duly turned up. Seven other tables were laid with rose petals and romantic décor so we realised we would not be dining alone. Our fellow diners gradually began to appear at about 8.30 pm but no sign of food. The most expensive menu was “plateau de fruits de mer” (which roughly translated means half of the Atlantic on three plates) and personally I don’t think it is something to be eaten on a cold February evening so we opted for fish soup, followed by scallops, sea bass, sole, cheese and dessert.
By 9.30 pm the “plateau de fruits de mer” tables had been served and Alain (chef) was getting more and more dishevelled. Approximately every half an hour the electricity would go out, Alain (chef/patron) would mutter under his breath and disappear outside with a torch. We quickly realised that every time he went outside and returned his gait was a little more unsteady. As he was the chef/patron we waited (and waited and waited) and eventually had our first course served at 9.50 pm. The only other staff was a young girl and the kitchen was open to the dining room. The music was Elvis or Edith Piaf and played very loudly. Alain (chef/patron/drunk) would turn it up on his favourite track and when his back was turned the waitress would turn it down. By this time everybody else had received their main course except for us and Alain (chef/patron/drunk/roué) was touring the room, lurching from table to table kissing and fondling everybody. We gestured for our main course, received a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and with that he disappeared outside again. Our fellow diners took pity on us and we were passed langoustine, prawns, crab, etc from their plates to sustain us. Alain (chef/patron/drunk/roué/Keith Floyd look-alike) returned and was hastened to the kitchen where clouds of burning butter belched forth. He then returned to further converse with the room while the young waitress was looking a little fraught and we were looking somewhat ravenous. He lurched over to our table, ruffled my hair, walked sideways to the kitchen and reappeared with our main courses with a round of applause from the rest of the room – burnt sole and sea bass poached in orange juice. Best not to dwell on that, however after cheese, appeared the most divine individual heart shaped gateaux which were as light as a feather accompanied by champagne on the house for all the clients. When Alain (chef/patron/drunk/roué/ Keith Floyd look—a-like/appalling singer) started to sing we felt it was time to pay the bill and depart. As I say memorable, not for the food, but the entente cordiale of our fellow diners who pitied “les anglaises” and the unusual service we had received!
We plan to start building the two chambres d’hotes rooms next week and hopefully will have them ready by May. We’ve already had our first visitors (John’s sister and her fiancé) and they were bowled over by the house and area. So are we and keep finding new places of unbelievable beauty which we didn’t know were around here. Wooster loves it and now bounds up the stairs without a thought – spoof dog! We’ve had occasional moments of fraughtness (is there such a word?) when the language barrier has been difficult, but our French is improving rapidly. It’s quite amusing when the locals speak slowly and loudly at us because we are “Johnny Foreigner”. They also have a strong dialect around here and what should be pronounced “matin” is pronounced “mateng” and many other words have “eng” put in but we are getting used to that too. We’ve had problems with the boiler again and it’s taken six weeks for France Telecom to sort out the problem we’ve had with the phone. We’ve bought a lawn tractor from ebay France (trying to make myself understood with that was tricky) but it’s being delivered today. It’s already lefthand drive headlights, so no thoughts whatsoever about donkeys!
We have very quickly taken to the slower pace of life and whatever happens will happen when it happens and if it happens……