Tuesday, 1 May 2007

An impromtu day at the seaside

Today, much to everyone’s delight, I decided upon an impromptu jaunt to the seaside en famille .This uncharacteristic act of spontaneity was prompted by my waking this morning and realising with horror that today was le fete du travailI ! In my experience I have found that if one does not make an excuse on May day to absent oneself from home one inevitably spends ones fete day visiting or being visited by friends and neighbours armed with pots and bunches of lily of the valley which, although a charming custom in moderation soon loses its appeal once ones foyer begins to look like a funeral parlour and smell not unlike a tarts boudoir!

Reasoning that if we left at break of dawn we might with luck avoid the worst of the inconvenience , I was up smart and early cajoling Madame Grognonne to pack the picnic basket tout suite with whatever delicacies she could muster at short notice so that we could be off before the arrival of the first floral tribute.

I cunningly armed myself with an entire basket of the wretched muguet plundered hastily from the garden and a few yards of yellow ribbon whipped from an old petticoat and swiftly delegated Eldest to tie them in bunches of blossom. Thus by 6 am she and her brothers were out in the commune delivering the small bequests to all and sundry saving me the trouble and discomfort of being bisoued and forced to drink an early morning Kir by each householder no matter how hygienically challenged their hovel or how minimum their connaissance with our family. I am sure that the charm of being woken by my three angels all clean and pressed in their best attire and bearing tokens of friendship would have more them compensated for being dragged out of bed at such an ungodly hour!

Chief patissier was shaken awake and thrust into his standard beach kit of blazer and cricket whites then pushed hurredly towards the motorcar, which Madame Grognonne, still in her dressing gown was dutifully filling with hampers and all the necessary paraphernalia such excursions require. As soon as the children has returned I had them changed again into more robust clothing and we were all packed like sardines in to the vehicle with Madame Grognonne, now thankfully dressed, sitting at the back on the trunk which contained the boules, parasols, windbreak, dinner service, chairs tables and all the other little trifles needed for a successful picnic.

I thought we had done well and was just beginning to relax and breath easy in anticipation of a day free from callers when Chief Patissier put his foot down on the accelerator and narrowly avoided running over a figure hopping up the drive easily recognisable in his red leather boots ,slightly shrunken trousers and cape bearing a veritable wreath of the dainty waxy flowers ! I am not sure how Poles celebrate May day but am almost certain that delivering ostentatiously large floral tributes to their employers housekeeper is not recognised as one of them. I was most put out with this unexpected incursion into family time and ordered Madame G to dispose of flowers and follower post haste which she did rather grudgingly, dumping the flowers by the well and watching his diminutive figure waving forlornly at the departing car calling “come back soon my little dumpling!” Thank goodness Chief patissier’s grasp of Polish is more limited than mine otherwise I fear he may well have hit reverse gear by mistake and run over the strange man!

We tore through the village stopping only to catapult Madame Grognonne at the open door of the boulongerie for the necessary purchase of baguettes and a tarte aux frais and sped on towards the coast. When I say sped I am sure you will appreciate that I may be exaggerating somewhat as, at its very top velocity, the automobile travels little faster than a headstrong horse and seems to be just as thirsty . However we can make an impressive 30 miles an hour providing the wind and gradient are in our favour .

Obviously for safety reasons in each small hamlet we travelled through we were obliged to slow our considerable speed to a more moderate one. As we did so we were unfailingly surrounded by grubby street urchins peddling bunches of lily of the valley which we were obliged to purchase before we were allowed safe passage along our way. By the time we arrived at our destination , we had amassed such a great number of muguets that our motorcar looked not unlike some bizarre carnival float with Madame Grognonne sitting astride the trunk the rather disagreeable and extremely unattractive Queen of the May.

Once Chief patissier had managed to park the motorcar, (an unexpectedly arduous task since several of the local peasants took us for a wedding party and wished to kiss the bride for luck) we proceeded to our chosen place on the sands and breathed deeply of the ozone whilst Madame G unpacked our belongings and set up camp. I was most aggrieved that she had left behind the apostle spoons in the rush this morning but felt it better not to dwell upon the matter for she had at least had the foresight to include the axminster rug and card table.

Within minutes the children busied themselves with searching for shells and pretty stones and dabbling their toes in the water whilst for his part, Chief Patissier settled himself into a deckchair and promptly fell fast asleep in the warm sunshine. I myself of course was not allowed such careless luxury as not only did I have the unpacking of the china to oversee but also had to issue Madame Grognonne with repeated instructions regarding the placing of the parasol and the repositioning of the rug over my knees, which kept shifting in a most vexing manner. I believe one can never be too careful when it comes to protecting ones skin from the harmful rays of the sun, particularly when one has been blessed with perfect alabaster complexion as I mine own !

Luncheon was a charming bucolic affair with an assortment of assiettes of cold meats and pates, a roast duck, several salads and raised pies, a haunch of beef , smoked salmon and gherkins. with of course the requisite wines and aperitifs before with brandy to follow after. I do find a picnic such a pleasant change from formal dining once in a while don’t you?

After lunch Chief patissier played a game of cricket with the children along the strand whilst I watched Madame Grognonne prepare a refreshing cup of tea using a small copper kettle and a paraffin stove which she had luckily discovered in one of her commodious pockets.

Alas all good things must come to a close and having checked we had retrieved all the children and our other paraphernalia we headed homewards a band of rather sandy and fatigued voyagers. We did have a slight moment of anxiety when we found one child was missing and Middle finally admitted , rather sheepishly, that it was highly possible that he had inadvertently drowned youngest in a rock pool whilst attempting to teach him to snorkel. However Madame Grognonne spotted him in the nick of time , marooned on a rock out at sea and swam out to retrieve him. She then complained loudly about having seaweed in her undergarments, comments which I found incredibly irksome and unseemly.

Unfortunately the circumstances of our return journey put a little bit of a damper on our otherwise good day , for it would seem that, in our undue haste to quite the Maison cette matin, Madame Grognonne had failed to pack the spare petroleum canister. Hence we found ourselves spluttering to a halt some few miles outside a small hamlet in the middle of the countryside as dusk was falling. Undaunted I dispatched Madame G in search of help whilst Chief Patissier and I searched in the trunk for the remains of the brandy. She arrived back sometime later with a a large Breton horse but no fuel. Thus it was we returned home sometime after midnight all of us more than a little weary and slightly the worse for wear the motorcar having been towed the last 12 miles by the horse ridden by Madame Grognonne and a friendly farmboy.

We have kissed our sleepy children and wished them goodnight and are now off to bed ourselves leaving Madame Grognonne to tidy up the detritus of our day out and deflower the motorcar.

Bonne Nuit a tous!

The illustration is a painting by Renoir of a boy on a beach and I like to think it looks not unlike middle child in his beach clothes. He has that same sweet “ I am admitting to nothing” expression Middle had on his face when asked when he last saw his younger brother.


Frances said...

You have given us a May Day to long remember. Merci.
A demain. xo

sally's chateau said...

Is there any other way to take a picnic ?

Inthemud said...

Wonderful Un Peu! your day out sounded such fun and you just describe it all in such a brilliant way! So funny and so cleverly written!

Have just noticed the 666 on photo, yeek!!

ChrisH said...

Stream of visitors or day on the beach? Hmn, no contest esp with Madame Grognonne to look after you!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Wonderful - I can see it all!

annakarenin said...

Our bank holiday isn't until next week I didn't even realise it was May day until I went on the site. shame really as we have loads of lily of the valley growing in our front garden. Oh I could have been sooo popular shame wrong country!

Just wiled away my lunch break castching up with you, it might be easier if you wrote a book then I could carry it around and read it in the bath etc, now got to finish decorating urgggh I usually enjoy doing it but it is too nice to be inside.

Suffolkmum said...

Wonderful blog. How lovely to escape to the beach, with a picnic, and Mme G to look after you all. I don't know how you manage to write so fluently and entertainingly each day, but glad you do!

Posie Rosie said...

Fabby blog un peu, getting very confused about un peyu and Mme G, must pay morre attention, please don't report me to matron!! Lunch sounded delicious, but hate people putting foot down on accelorater, happy farmer guilty of that too.

Her on the Hill said...

Merveilleux! I love a good kir - even early in the morning. Hic.

Pondside said...

Mervielleuse Blog Un Peu! Loved the thought of the well-dressed children dashing around to deliver the posies so that you could 'get out of Dodge City' before everyone was up and about.
Thanks for asking about my daughter. She's in Paris for now and intends to head down to Venice, do a bit of a circle and end up back in Paris at the end of the month.

muddyboots said...

gosh, it sounds oh so civilised there, here plump kids in unsuitable clothes for 4 years olds stuff fish n chips with mushy peas the artisitcally drop the chip papers onto pavements where they can be viewed as works of art by future generations. Such are weekends at the coast.