Saturday, 4 April 2009

Val's Duck

Back aways, after the great wind of late January, angels descended from the Vienne going by the name of Val and Ron. In tow behind them was the replacement caravan for the now-dead gazebo which had done us proud all through the winter, and in the back of their car: fodder. Val is an excellent cook, and came with provisions. PLUS, meat from her smallholding: leg of lamb, lamb chops, and pieces of stewing lamb. Plus some local pork. AND a duck. All frozen. We have no freezer. Down the road to Sara of the Camels the meat went, there to reside for a while.

And it came to the time of distribution. Along to Sara I went. On my bike. There to retrieve but only a portion of the meat, the donated pieces being bigger than I thought. A bike is not the easiest of vehicles to manage when the handle bars are festooned with plastic bags carrying chunks of frozen meat. Tends to make the bike feel unsafe as the wobble factor increases.

Met, at Sara's, a white camel who a Dutch girl had had shipped down from Russia or somewhere similar, so she could learn to ride it and then travel back to Holland via one of the pilgrim routes of which there are quite a few. However, the camel was too young, so she had bought a donkey from the Ju Beloc donkey farm which Lester and Bruno have raided for donkey manure, said manure being a subject I raise quite frequently in these blogs. Anyway, here she is, on a practice walk up by our bridge. At the time this was taken, the donkey was having a bad moment: he doesn't like dogs, and he doesn't like cars, and he doesn't like bridges. Put the three together, and on strike he goes. He is actually heading in the opposite direction to the one she wants him to go in and she is trying to pursuade him to turn around. It had already taken her ages. He is a stubborn fellow. She leaves today. I think 'all best wishes' are urgently needed for her.

So, duck and pork retrieved. Pork went into pot. Duck was donated to Claudine and Daniel over at the Chambre d'Hote to say 'thankyou' for all the help they have given us, and for the splendidly huge repast they invited us to on New Year's Eve. And it wouldn't have gone into the caravan oven anyway. It was well received.

An email arrived shortly afterwards. To dinner we were invited. Our hearts sank. They only speak French. It can be a long evening when one doesn't. We wrote back with a 'yes', there being no way we could do a tactical withdrawal.

Wednesday night: over the road we went. Starter: cochon noir pieces. Next: Cheese souffle. Followed by: Duck, quartered. With flagelout beans. Then: Hard goat's cheese, soft goat's cheese (from local goat farm - we are going to recce that out when we get the chance). Next: Cake made from Daniel's Mum's recipe. Then: prunes in almangnac. All interspersed with quantites of red wine, and white wine which is like nectar and nothing have I ever tasted which is as delicious as that wine.

So the duck was laid to rest. I was proud of the fact that it was my English friend who had provided it, - the French have a tendancy to make jokes about the English infront of us. Since we can't understand their language they think we don't know that they do. But they can never disguise the word 'Anglaise' sufficient for us to remain oblivious to their in-house jokes. Curiously, we don't mind. It is their country, after all, and the English do not always show themselves very well here. We feel as if we are good ambassadors for the England because at least we are trying to integrate with the French community, and Val's duck, that very kind donation, pushed us forward with this. Not one word of English was spoken, although there was another guest sharing the meal, who did. But he gave no quarter to us, which is another thing we are finding: that the French will not speak English until we have made the effort to speak French first. And I think this is quite right and I have much respect that they do this. As I say, this is their country after all.

We survived the evening. And felt all the stronger for doing so. We managed to hold our own with French conversation, Claudine has invited me along to the local swimming pool on Monday afternoons if I can find my swimming costume, and the Duck was great.

So thanks to Val and Ron, thanks to Claudine and Daniel, and thanks to the Universe for giving us an opportunity to partake of an evening of excellent French hospitality.

Now onto the leg of lamb.......

UPDATE ON THE DONKEY-GIRL: She is on her way, having just this minute passed by. A minor problem is that it has taken her nearly two hours to get to us from Sara's, which would normally take ten minutes walking time if without a donkey who is not enthused about embarking on this adventure.

And I think of the other people I know of, who are also embarking on 'mad-cap' ideas, who are having a go a doing something different, including us. And I think how safe the majority prefer to stay, and how few 'have a go'.

It is better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all. As Dianne, a fellow English woman, said yesterday: "I don't want to be one of those people who say 'Oh I wish I had done this, or I wish I had done that, but now it's too late.' " I agree with her totally. So good luck to the madness of the Donkey-Girl, however far she manages to get towards her goal of Holland. Even if she decides to pack it in at four o'clock today, at least she gave it a try. But then, she might surprise herself, and get further than what she thought, and she might learn a lot about herself along the way.

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