Friday, 17 July 2015

Night walk II

Lovely crabstick salad!
(Note spare wine.)

Al and I did the Corme Royal ‘randonée pédestre nocturne’ last year.  Then, it was our first time. Tremble.  This time we knew what to expect, which is never quite the same experience. 

We set out just as the match I’d been waiting for all day began.  Andy Murray stuffed a tennis ball into his shorts and threw the other one up to serve.  Bugger! I thought.  I wonder whether I could just sit here and…  No chance!  The tickets had been paid for, it would be a serene family outing.  Not to mention a nice bit of exercise.

Outside, the temperature was still in the high twenties at 7.30 and we’d put on jeans and long sleeved tops against the mozzies.  There was Al, my husband, Alfie, our teenage son, and yours truly, already too hot and just a little petulant. 

Up to the recreation ground we went, stepping out enthusiastically.  We collected our tickets, tied them to our clothes with a thoughtfully provided red ribbon, and waited to be released into the French countryside in staggered groups (there were over a thousand of us, apparently).  

France in July. There were sunflowers everywhere.  There were also leggings filled by thighs and bottoms of all shapes and sizes, and merry banter together with the odd gasp from people who passed by (we are slow walkers and enormously tall). 

Bathed in the fragile tranquility of wide open spaces invaded by we walkers, and keeping an eye on the dust that rose from children who kicked it up in front of us, we entered into the spirit and smiled our way onwards.  The first stop was for sangria (very nice and very strong) accompanied by salty biscuits.  Alfie got squash – poor Alfie - the expectation of a Coca-cola on ice had been strong within him!  Still, it was a nice way to start our adventure and we set off again rehydrated.  Al and I felt distinctly loosened up, living on alcohol fumes from the bottom of our plastic cups, and raring to sit down and have another drink.

The conversation was football oriented and so I went into a daze and thought about my current work in progress, imagining clever twists that would be forgotten by the time I got home.  The views were most lovely and the air simmered up gently.  We were all looking forward to the starter before long.  The previous year there had been a delicious tuna salad.  This time, we were handed a nice looking mayonnaise coleslaw which turned out to be mostly sliced crabsticks.  I tried not to think about it – I was hungry.  Alfie just ate bread and attempted to hide his disgust (not very successfully).  Al said he hated crabsticks, although he didn’t really need to say anything (see above photo).  The highlight was being served by an authentically rotund Obelix, complete with two-horned helmet and an air of French pride at representing all that is good about France’s cartoon heritage.

"Encore du vin, Monsieur? Madame?"
"Bah, ouai!"

By this time Al and I were fairly tipsy, taking pictures of a caged gorilla, a playful caveman, and each other.  We were all enjoying the evening in spite of the after effects of the fishy dish.  So when we came to a field in which there seemed to be various games being organised, we plunged in on the basis that we were in for a penny and in for a pound.  We were intrigued by one game in particular.  It seemed to be a variation on blind man’s bluff, involving the enforced participation of a goose. Politically correct?  Not in the slightest. Several men and women wearing blindfolds were groping around for a goose that had been shown to them beforehand and then (much to our relief) removed.  How wonderful to have the welfare of the animal at heart, we mistakenly thought.  Moments later, the games master set down the bird, who was pounced on and almost throttled by an over-enthusiastic competitor. We lost the ending of the video (divine intervention?), but have the first part here.  Very funny (see for yourself). Note: the goose was not actually hurt.  There were another four geese - so they could have a rest between bouts. (Hmm.) 

 French Quacking

It was still light when we arrived to sample the main course and were handed a plate of ham and dish of beans.  And more wine.  We sat on hay bales and were entertained by backward facing horn players, some of them new recruits by the sound of it.  Fabulously different and all in good fun.  (See video.)

Darkness fell and there were stars.  We walked on through woods marked with luminous paint where a tree stump or rock may have tripped a walker.  The crowds had thinned and when we came to an enormous cornfield I found myself alone.  Al and Alfie had gone on ahead spouting names of footballers who had been bought and sold for millions of pounds, which was, apparently, quite normal.  I savoured the solitude, enjoying the sound of the wind in the corn, until I started to remember scenes from ‘Signs’ – you must know it.  Of course I wasn’t afraid.  There are no such things as aliens.  I just had an urgent desire to walk a bit faster, that was all. Al and Alfie were waiting for me at the end of the field.  They'd had the same thoughts – Mel Gibson swinging away with a baseball bat. 

By the time we saw the lights of the village I was on the verge of getting tired of walking through heaps of stinking dried grass, wondering whether I should have eaten all those crabsticks and beans and sure that this walk had been much shorter than the previous one (not complaining).  Al and Alfie investigated the desserts at the final stop, but left the slices of fruit tart alone in the end.  I think they’d been hoping for a nice ice cream or chocolate mousse.  It was getting on for midnight and I made hot chocolate when we got home just for a bit of sweetness to end the day.

We were tired and clammy, but very glad to have gone.  Andy Murray won his match and I had the chance to watch Federer make mince meat of the poor chap a couple of days later.

Many, many thanks to all the folk who organised the food and the fun.  No doubt the English giants will be back for more next summer.

fromage et vin - delicious


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Review: The Undertaker's Son

Cathy Ryan reviews The Undertaker's Son.  Set in France, this is the story of Martha Burton, who is ready to start a new life.  The people she meets have their own hopes and dreams, some not so admirable...  The people she doesn't get to know will nevertheless have a profound influence on her, none more so than Claude Cousteau, the undertaker's son...

Author's note: This review is of the original edition of The Undertaker's Son. The current edition has been substantially revised and edited with a new ending.

Cathy Ryan reviews The Undertaker's Son