Friday, 18 May 2007


If you remember my saying yesterday to you, Madame Grognonne had sent the children off to collect a barrel of sherry from the next town claiming we had run out so that we might the better secretly prepare for our surprise camping adventure, disguising our trip by telling the dears we were to go hunting for violets in the wood.

On hearing that we might all go out in the governess cart pulled by Marron our new pony in search of spring flowers the children rallied themselves beautifully, despite having dropped the sherry barrel on youngest toes several times during their walk back from town, and being chased at one time by Yannick’s bull whilst trying to negotiate a shortcut through the meadow.

After they had washed and refreshed themselves with a cool citron presse they all climbed into the cart and settled themselves down whilst Madame Grognonne kindly helped me into the driving seat behind the reigns. There was a slight moment of panic as Madame Grognonne climbed in herself and the cart tipped violently backwards nearly taking myself and poor Marron with it, but this was quickly rectified by her moving to sit directly in the centre of the cart on the floor, looking I admit not awfully elegant but providing perfect ballast for the numerous hampers that lay hidden under the seat.

At one stage, youngest, who has always been far too intelligent for his own good, enquired as to why we had so many wicker hampers with us, to which Madame Grognonne retorted smartly that we were hoping to pick very large quantities of violets to preserve in sugar and if he did not mind himself it would be him who would be doing both the picking and the preserving all on his own. After which he sat quiet as a mouse and did not move a muscle. She really does have an extraordinary way with children.

Marron trotted on in his high stepping way, his shoes clattering on the cobbled lane and we soon turned off the public highway down a leafy track towards the wood and the river. Chattering gaily of inconsequential things whilst desperately trying to recall the directions to our hidden camp, I guided Marron and the trap under the overhanging branches of the beech trees heavy with new life and under the green shade of the wood along the less frequented paths until there in a clearing we came upon a scene transported straight from some school room book of the tales of the Arabian nights. There beneath the trees a bright jewel tossed in the grass stood a low Moroccan tent al set about with carpets and cushions.

The children gasped with delighted surprise to see such an unexpected thing here in the woods so close to our home, who can it belong to? They asked, how could it have arrived here? Could it be some Arab traders who had somehow taken a wrong turning en route to Istanbul? Or perhaps, some visiting potentate, seeking local delicacies for his table or travelling far from home in search of some beauty to be his wife? Knowing as I do so much about our region, I thought this suggestion highly unlikely unless he had an unusual appetite for sausage made entirely from pig’s intestine and young women of dubious virtue, however I thought better of saying so!

Feigning ignorance I climbed down from the trap and, tiptoeing across the grass, bade them peek their little heads inside the tent to see what was hidden there in! Being admirably well brought up children they immediately recoiled in horror at my suggesting such a thing but nonetheless they did as they were told and gently pulled back the curtain that veiled the entrance.

And who should at this signal rush forward from the tent , arms out stretched and shrilly shrieking and warbling with delight but Fatima and many of her numerous cousins and sisters and aunts to welcome us, with much kissing and hugging, welcoming us all like long lost family and dragging us into the interior to recline on silken cushions amid the jasmine scented air whilst they busied themselves with drinks and delicacies to eat draped us in exotically fashioned garb of their culture swathing Madame Grognonne eldest and myself in sheer veils of transparent silks and adorning the boys with Bedouin cloaks and headdresses tied with cord.

As darkness fell the lamps were lit and the women sang to us strange songs of the desert until the children fell asleep where they lay. Someone led Marron down to the water to feed on the lush grass and drink at will, whilst another emptied our cart and stowed it under the shelter of the trees. The strange exotic sounds drifting into the night and calling me far away to the desert lands I had never seen.

I do not think I can ever be as content as I am tonight, watching the sparkling happiness in my children’s faces and sipping champagne cooled in the river as Madame Grognonne performs the fan dance in the adding light of the campfire. I thank God that I am alive.


The illustration is an early depiction of a Bedouin tent, not terribly realistic but it does I hope capture perhaps a little of the spirit of the thing.


Pondside said...

What an adventure! I just hope it doesn't rain as that would really spoil the mood. It's lovely to see that you are bridging the cultural divide un peu, Un Peu.

bodran... said...

OOOhh a bedouin tent i want one! your expedition sounded wonderful.x

The Country Craft Angel said...

Wow! It does dound wonderful. What an exciting life you do lead!

How magical

warm wishes

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I am so going to miss my daily dose of MME Chronicles next week!

Frances said...

What a beautiful adventure. What a stylish expedition.
How can the family ever return home after this evening?

Fennie said...

Ha! And where is the camel? I did really think the camel would have appeared today.

Wonderful tales! Whatever will be produced next out of the transparent silks?

sally's chateau said...

Oh my dear Girl, if only I could have been there rather than here for I fear the evenings entertainment by the 'natives' was not quite to my liking !!!

Withy Brook said...


Wizzard said...

The words leap from the page - you have a brilliant way with words that draws the reader into your world. Thank you for sharing with us

lixtroll said...

The Un Peu chronicles indeed transport us to some exotic and exciting worlds!
I am glad your youngest obviously takes after his daddy X