Les Choux – Entre-deux-Eaux Week 5

This week seems to have vanished very quickly, with not a lot of events, but some good meals and some excellent football. The weather has been very mixed, starting with showers on Sunday and ending up with unpleasantly humid weather today.

The flea markets on Sunday were disappointing. One was small; one (which was listed in the local paper) was concentrating on the elections that day and had postponed their market); the third was recovering from a heavy shower of rain when we arrived, though spirits revived as the sun came out and people unpacked their goods again. It’s interesting arriving at lunch-time as many of the stallholders turn their backs on the public and concentrate on a convivial Sunday meal (after all no one would be mad enough to try to buy anything during the sacred 2 hour lunch break!) Back home, John consoled us for our lack of success by cooking quail with grapes which was delicious, and we followed it with strawberries (from the garden) and ice cream.

Monday was a “pottering” kind of day, mainly cleaning and gardening (the latter including putting down slug pellets for the disgusting creatures which were aiming to strip all our young tender seedlings and plants.) The highlight was an evening meal with Ann and Michael and two of their friends at Nicola’s house. Some years ago Ann and Michael had stayed at our house as part of our summer lettings, and during their stay our friend Nicola kindly popped down from her village to sow some seed for us to cover the newly installed septic tank filter bed. Ann and Michael got friendly with her two dogs and ended up promising to return house sit for Nicola later in the year so that she could travel back to the United States to visit her daughter and old friends. Well this has become an annual event (sometimes twice a year; Nicola left last week for another trip to the States. It has become a joke between us and Nicola that something to do with water always goes wrong whilst Ann and Michael are here, or the grass cutter gets damaged. But the arrangement works well, the 2 dogs and 5 cats are quite happy, the house is lived-in and Ann and Michael are very fond of this part of the country. (They’re almost tempted to buy somewhere here rather than their beloved Hay-on-Wye which has got so expensive since the Festival brought that area to the notice of people form London). Anyway it was a sociable and enjoyable meal (and they are  able to report that all is well so far with plumbing and electrical equipment!)

Most of Tuesday was occupied with a visit from a financial advisor, which was very useful. However, we didn’t forget about eating well, as we all had lunch at one of our favourite restaurants (Le Petit Chantilly) in St Die, which Helen thought was even better than last time.. After he left us, we went back in the late afternoon to St Die, where John succeeded in subscribing to a Wanadoo special internet offer (after only 15 minutes queuing at France Telecom this time – they wouldn’t accept UK-issued credit cards on the web site so we needed to subscribe using direct debit from our French bank account) and Helen changed and renewed books at the library and was spoken to by the librarian (this was a great relief, as I was beginning to feel invisible in the library!). Helen hoped it wasn’t just because my library subscription was due for renewal. However the librarian noticed she was interested in local history; Helen asked if there was anything else on witchcraft in Lorraine (as Toby’s girlfriend will be doing her dissertation on that). It turned out that St Die had provided the microfilm to enable the Latin work of the  Lorraine Procurator General (who was responsible for the trials of over 300 people, mainly women, for witchcraft before 1595) to be translated into French (presumably they have the original!)

Wednesday and Thursday were quiet days (apart from watching the football!), though Thursday was enlivened by a gift of 40 young cabbage plants from our neighbour, Mme Laine, who was thinning her plot (some for us and the rest for her rabbits). Once the heat of the day died down, it was back to rolling back the plastic sheeting still further and digging over a big enough section for 4 rows of cabbages. It was getting dark by the time Helen came in (after, we should add, Mme Laine had cycled by to inspect “her” cabbages and the rest of our vegetables). She also took a look at our herbs and pronounced that our bay trees were quite different from French ones – and she had never come across rosemary before, which surprised me. Meanwhile, John had made dinner!

However’ John’s main culinary skills were devoted to Friday’s dinner, when  we were returning hospitality to Ann and Michael. Friday was hot and beautiful, and Helen got four lots of washing dried and ironed. Helen also had a surreptitious clean up of the children’s books she’s trying to sell for French friends as they looked so grubby and uninviting (all those years of library work are never wasted!). The cabbage plants meanwhile soaked up the sun, then wilted and flopped and did not look any happier after watering in the early evening. It was a wonderful evening to sit out on the terrace. Our meal, of asparagus quiche (some which Nicola had bought us from near Colmar which is famous for its asparagus), pork with a wine-soaked apricot stuffing, followed by cheese, and a mango mousse with chocolate sponge based gateau, lasted about 3 hours and ended by candlelight. Around 11 o’clock John spotted a satellite passing overhead on a rapid curve round the sky. The sky was so clear and the stars so bright that we couldn’t believe it would cloud over and rain as had been forecast.

However, when we woke Saturday morning there had been a thunderstorm in the night, the cabbages had perked up in the additional rain, and the weather was distinctly cool. However, the weather got hotter as Helen gardened, and, by the time England were due to play Denmark, it was unpleasantly humid. Even the bathroom and barn floors were wet (?with condensation or rising water table). Ann and Michael joined us for a light lunch of last night’s left overs, then we settled Ann into a comfortable armchair in the cool of the dining room with all the cookery books (she hates any kind of sport, but collects cookery books) whilst the three of us trooped upstairs to watch the very exciting match on BBC (Nicola’s television only picks up French television with a very fuzzy picture, and a lot of foreign stations from another satellite). After a quick celebration, they went off to St Die and we prosaically washed up, then decided it was time we saw the outside world so drove to Baccarat. We used to drive through this famous little glass making town on our way here before a motorway was built round it, but we hadn’t explored the part away from the glass industry and crystal shops. So it was a pleasure to find an old tower and some picturesque houses. We got stopped several times by “outsiders” looking for weddings. We later found both weddings, one in the ugly post war Baccarat church and one in the hilltop church of the attached fortified village that Helen walked up to. We drove back along a very picturesque road (through a village where John had enjoyed a flea market when he was working here on his own last summer) to Raon l’Etape. Here we stopped at a second hand emporium, though were not tempted by anything. It was sill very muggy when we got back here. Now we’ve had dinner (finally finishing up the leftovers and polishing off more strawberries, this time with ice cream). In a few minutes there’s an Agatha Christie “Poirot” on, so I’m hoping it’s not one we’ve seen. It’s a bit cooler now, so it will be nice to relax in front of the TV.

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