Sunday, 13 May 2007

Un peu loufoque has productive ponderings


The household was up early this morning to bid a fond “au revoir” to Chief Patissier who, good as his word, set off at first light with Antoine for “Gay Paris” for Le weekend, or possibly longer, in order to purchase the necessary accoutrement's for my forthcoming foray into the world of art. When I say the household, of course, I mean the children and Madame Grognonne as I myself very sensibly elected to stay in bed and bathe in the peace and serenity afforded by the absence of Chief Patissier and his early morning ritual of cleaning out his nasal passages. I did however wish him a cheery farewell from my window as I called down to Madame Grognonne to bring me my breakfast tea. If the truth be known I am still smarting slightly from his refusal to allow me to accompany them on their jaunt.

Meanwhile it was glorious day and we fully intended to make the most of it. Any idea of venturing too far must be dismissed as Chief patissier has taken the Motorcar but I ordered Madame Grognonne to prepare a lavish picnic for myself, she and the children on the presumption that what ever we may do it will be out of doors and we shall require feeding.

I find it incredibly debilitating when I am house bound with nothing but the village bus or Yannick and his cart to rely upon and often feel I am virtually a Prisoner chez Nous! . It goes without saying that I do of course enjoy a good promenade, weather allowing, but really if one is considering taking the three children dogs and all the necessary trucs that are required for a civilized day out then walking is just too, too impractical. I have considered purchasing a handcart but even if Madame Grognonne’s undoubted robustness were sufficient to propel it over long distances, I fear we might very easily be mistaken for a tribe of wandering gypsies which is hardly very seemly for a lady of social standing such as myself.

It would seem to me then that we must either resign oneself to remaining confined ici for the remainder of Chief Patissier’s absence or seek some solution to this vexing problem toute suite. It was thus with this preying on my mind that Youngest and I walked up to the village to purchase some baguettes for luncheon , leaving Eldest to sort napkins, tablecloths and cushions for the picnic and middle to collect eggs for Madame Grognonne to boil.

As youngest and I walked hand in hand along the lane stopping to admire and name the wild flowers and listen to the birds, I was reminded of my own childhood and similar walks with various governesses, of which there were, upon reflection, several. I am not sure why we seemed to exhaust our domestic staff so swiftly, but upon reflection I wonder if it may have had something to do with my father’s keenness for sports. I can see him now, fervently chasing various members of the female domestic staff along the nursery corridors of an evening attempting to encourage them to join him in some athletic pursuit or other. I seem to recall that my mother, from the few vague memories I have of her, was not in favour of his sportive tendencies which I have always felt was a great pity.

Images of my childhood flooded back and I recalled how we had often travelled into town or out into the campagne in a small horse drawn carriage eluded to as the governess cart, which was for the sole use of myself and whichever governess was in service with us at the time. I seem to have had so many that I have only hazy memories of their faces which have over the years, become ,regretfully, somewhat of a melange . I am sure this was partly caused by the fact that all were addressed as “Mademoiselle” and appeared to have no names of their own, in the same peculiar way cook was cook and nanny was nanny and all house maids were called Marie regardless of what they had been christened. I think my Mother found this a far easier method than having to learn the pre-noms for each new maid whilst living with the knowledge that, by the time she had done so, they would have, in all probability, already left us.

Suddenly it came to me, here was the solution to our present predicament ! We too must have a governess cart ! Forgetting the urgent need for baguettes I rapidly retraced my steps homewards, stopping only briefly to retrieve youngest who, oblivious to my change of direction, was blithely still toddling happily in the direction off the village boulongerie. Together we raced back towards the maison, calling loudly to the others as we approached and set all to search the barns and stable blocks, for I was sure at one time I had seen a small dogcart tucked away somewhere. Within minutes I was, naturally, proved right for “Voila!” there was discovered in a corner near buried in hay and old sacking the very thing for which we sought, a long forgotten trap quite like the one I had had Chez Moi as a child! Once Madame Grognonne and the children had cleared its shroud away, it proved to be a fine little thing just large enough to take myself, 3 children ,Madame Grognonne and a suitably large picnic out into the world! All we lacked now was an appropriate means of locomotion!

Sadly even I at my most optimistic could not hope to find a suitable quadruped standing forgotten in the stables but Madame Grognonne ,who was quite fired up by my enthusiasm and the prospect of days out into the countryside, thought it might not be too difficult to swiftly acquire one of these creatures and set off post haste to seek out her friend Marie Louise Chevalle who is a half sister to Henri Jacque Le Cravacher, a stable boy at the hippodrome at St Juste and who, therefore ,was well placed to find us a sprightly pony for the job

The children set to work with buckets and cloths and polished and cleaned until the governess cart gleamed like new and then sat on the cushions on the grass, in the shade of the apple trees, and occupied themselves with the splendid picnic Madame Grognonne had prepared earlier.

I reclined on a chaise with a glass of chilled Chablis and looked upon the happy scene, turning my eyes from my charming offspring to the little cart which they had cleaned so successfully and back again, content that we shall all very soon be the proud owners of a smart little pony and feeling the call of the open road cheering my soul.
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The accompanying photograph is one of the very few surviving from my childhood. It shows the governess cart. of which I spoke earlier. replete with my last governess and the remaining domestic servants who, for some reason unexplained to me, quit our families service on the same day. I remember the occasion particularly clearly as my Mother had departed earlier herself by train with her own domestic staff and the following day I was dispatched to distant relatives in Bordeaux . I believe I never saw either of my parents again.

12 comments:

Pondside said...

You are truly the bird in the gilded cage! Your good husband obviously loves to think of you at home, protected and cossetted while he is away in the big, bad world. Luckily you are woman of some character and resources and no one to be left pining! Good for you to have thought of the trap. Fly, fly, fly!

Frances said...

Oh, but what a sad little photograph you have shared with us. Is it not painful to remember the little governess cart? You are indeed a strong woman and an inspiration to us all to again seek solace in such a vehicle.
May your Sunday be pleasant, out and in doors. And may your reunion with Chief P be all that you both desire.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

You are just sooooooooo clever - i can see every picture you paint and can remember them even after I have nearly been ill laughing - I thought MMe was going to pull the cart herself at one stage....

ChrisH said...

I have a touch of the Mme Grumpiness ce matin so this has cheered me up!

Elizabethd said...

Does one need a permis de conduire a dogcart?

lixtroll said...

You have just made me hanker after a chilled glass of chablis, vous etes tres civilised and I look forward to the next instalment with smart little pony and cart!

PS don't blame you for avoiding the nasal passage ritual in le matin, the Jan. does the same and it is quite offensive and a trial to the nerves of a well-bred lady.

Grouse said...

A word of caution my dear...my first venture out in just such a mode of transport ended in disaster and a tangle of broken shafts and broken bones. I dont wish to distress you but please do ensure the creature is of the GENLEST disposition.........

Withy Brook said...

Your blogs get better and better - pleeese never stop!! I can't wait for the arrival of the pony and your first outing. Mme G will drive, presumably. Is there anything she can't do?

muddyboots said...

ahhh, l do hope that you have taken care to protect your complection from the sun, a fine parasol is just the ticket old fruit. too much sun is not good for one.

l am please to hear you are imparting your botanical knowledge to your youngest. so important to differentiate between the safe & poisonous plants n'est pas?

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh dear - how will your husband respond to your cart and pony. I do hope he approves - either that or he will have to buy you something he feels is suitable for a lady of your standing!

Suffolkmum said...

Yes, I think he should buy you a carriage suitable for a lady of your standing in the community. I agree - your blogs get better and better.

annakarenin said...

Have spent most of the day on and off catching up and really enjoyed as per . I have been reminded of an incident in my teen years invovlving a close friend her polish uncle and copious amounts of flavoured Vodkas. Much of the evening itself dissapeared into oblivion and the hang over!!!!