Thursday, 10 May 2007

Un Peu Loufoque has a trying day

What a dismal day we have had, with nothing but household duties and drizzle . Since Chief patissier has returned to work after yet another “pont” and the children are back at school Madame Grognonne and I have been bestirring ourselves about the place, I catching up with my letter writing and she restoring the village salle de fete in to something resembling a state of normality after the party last evening. After some deliberation it has been agreed, in the absence of the Mayor who has still sadly not quite regained consciousness, to preserve an Arab theme to the Salle de fete, partly as it looks so Jolly and partly as we suspect it will be prohibitively expensive to redecorate and partly , I must admit, as we are all in agreement that it will prove to be a source of constant vexation to the new President of the twinning committee.

It has been almost cold enough to have a fire but as the Hirondelles have nested in the chimney I am loath to ask Madame Grognonne to light one, so may be seen wandering about ma maison shrouded in a cashmere shawl and wearing mittens. It is most unseasonable for May. Normally I would be wearing my organza by now and to think only a week ago we were picnicking at the beach! C’est terrible!

Luckily last night’s extravaganza has left us with a rather a plentiful supply of couscous and kebabs, and thankfully no Raki or Algerian wine. However, man can not live on couscous alone, so one of my onerous duties this morning was to visit the market in the next town and restock the larder, which I am quite sure you will remember was sadly depleted after Madame Grognonne’s extravagant entertaining this month of Slavic émigrés and horse handlers.

Although our household is amply served by the excellent village shops which manfully cater to our basic requirements , today I have other needs that Monsieur Eduard le Gumes, our green grocer, and his fellow tradesmen sadly can not meet, namely poultry.

If we finish our chores and are ready at a reasonable time we are often fortunate enough to waylay young Yannick and travel into the market in his horse and cart. I find it quite an adventure to sit next to him and gaze out across the fields, secretly imagining myself to be a young milkmaid rather than a lady of stature.. Madame Grognonne does not , as ever, enter into the spirit of the thing and can be quite snippy if I suggest we travel thus. She has some silly objection about her riding in the back with the livestock and is forever complaining loudly that the various animals are trying to eat her hat.

This morning much to Madame’s joy Yannick did not appear, so we had to make other plans, and proceeded to walk to the village to meet the local market bus in the square. En route Gilles the electrician stopped and offered us a lift with him to market which we happily accepted. Madame Grognonne sitting in the back atop his trunk of tools clutching our empty baskets and I squeezed in next to him in the tiny front seat a trifle too cosily for my liking!

What had started as a not very promising day in terms of weather had grown into one heavy with the promise of precipitation and as we stepped, in my case rather precariously, out of Gilles’ little vehicle I felt the air moist with that penetrating drizzle that makes one damp to one’s very bones without doing one the courtesy of developing into real rain. Fortunately I had the presence to carry an umbrella with me which I bade Madame Grognonne hold over my head whilst walking two steps behind, thus preventing her from jostling me with her baskets, as she is apt to do unless I am careful , being, as she is by her very nature, somewhat clumsy.

I think I may have mentioned to you before how therapeutic I find visiting the market. However today with the disagreeable weather and the need to keep up a steady pace in order to avoid Madame Grognonne ploughing into me should I slow my step even briefly, the whole business was excessively aggravating. If it had not been for my urgent need to purchase a new tablecloth for the kitchen and to inspect the poultry I should have stayed at home!

I am well aware that any lesser woman may well have left these purchases to their housekeeper but in my experience Madame Grognonne is prone to show such an alarming lack of taste in fabric that, had I done so, there would have been a terrible risk of our kitchen table being enveloped in some hideous floral confection in beige and dull ochre tones rather than the rather striking Madras I had my eye on.

As for the chickens I was keen to seek the advice of the rather pleasant and well presented young “Fermier d’avicole” Phillipe Le Plume, who is quite a specialist in old French breeds. He and I share a fondness for the the native Breton bird the Coucou de Rennes, an excellent layer indeed and a good meat bird to boot, and with its lacy white on black marking it is exceptionally pretty in my opinion and thus poses a pretty picture as it teeters about the orchard on its long legs. Madame Grognonne however would have purchased “Barbu d'Anvers” if left to her own devices, an inferior Belgian breed and as any sensible person knows nothing good ever came out of Belgium.

Sadly monsieur le Plume had left his stall by the time we arrived, delayed by a small incident involving a stall of Globe artichokes . I had turned aside to admire the Provencal tablecloths Madame Nappe was selling and Madame Grognonne, as ever not paying me sufficient attention, did not alert herself to my changing course and thus continued full steam ahead, her sight barred by the Umbrella , and managed to knock over in one hit a veritable vegetable mountain. Luckily I was able to shelter under the cover of Madame Nappe’s stall and continue with my purchases so did not get untowardly damp without the protection of the umbrella , whilst Madame Grognonne and the irate stall holder re-righted themselves and stacked his stock. Needless to say we are now having artichokes with our couscous tonight at dinner.

In his absence Phillipe le Plume had left the Poultry stall in the charge of old Hervé le Puant, the one armed marker sweeper who earns himself a few extra sous each week by guarding traders’ stalls whilst they go the various bars for a quick glass of wine and to discuss business. Although the lack of Phillipe’s presence meant the matter of choosing which hens to buy was faster, as I had no-one with whom to discuss in depth the merits of each bird , having only one arm meant it took Le Puant rather a considerable time to catch the four hens I chose and then a further 10 minutes to secure them in their crate. As a result of all these unnecessary delays we were forced to return home on the village bus having missed the opportunity of a return journey with Gilles.

We arrived at the crossroads to find the vehicle, with its grubby windows fogged up and already bursting with damp passengers and luggage. However with a little judicious shoving Madame Grognonne managed to secure me a seat for which I suppose it would be churlish to appear ungrateful. I had rather an unpleasant journey wedged between Jean Luc, whose personal hygiene standards are noticeably lax, and his wife Rose, who sadly for me does not live up to the sweet perfumed promise of her name. She was clutching a pair of apparently incontinent piglets to her chest. whilst he spent the entire journey smoking an odiferous pipe filled with some foul smelling brand of tabac . Madame Grognonne herself stood at the front of the bus in relative comfort resting her baskets and the crate of chickens on the driver’s head.

It goes without saying that by the time we arrived at our destination I too smelt like an unwashed peasant. This is not how a lady expects to travel.
Madame Grognonne , by dint of threatening to set the chickens loose, had persuaded the driver to divert from his ordained route and let us alight at the foot of our lane for which I was greatly relieved as I was not anticipating our walk back from the village with any fondness.

I left Madame Grognonne to unpack and stow away our goods and chattels and had her run me a bath after which , despite the water having been liberally scented with essences de lavendre, I was still conscious of a distinct aroma of pig excrement about my person. Thankfully Chief patissier is out this evening so I shall at least be spared the humiliation of his remarking upon the fact.

How a lady of my breeding is to maintain her decorum under such circumstances is beyond me.
It had been a tiresome day and were I not made of sterner stuff I should have wept!


Pondside said...

Really, Un Peu, you are too, too brave! What you put up with would break a lesser woman - and you have to do it in French too!
I hope that the weather changes for you soon as I have a picture of you in organza in the garden,sipping lemonade and nibbling halvah!

Blossomcottage said...

You do make me laugh, and its what I need. Thank you so much for your very kind comment and now I must cheer up and get on with things that is what Lesley would want. Keep writing and making me smile.

Blossomcottage said...

Thank you I will do just that. x

Suffolkmum said...

You do put up with sooo much from that woman. I love Edouard Le Gumes. Love French markets too, sigh. I love logging on and reading one of your blogs in the morning, it always makes me laugh.

toady said...

Herve le Puant indeed. Strangely I've blogged about les nappes today.

Inthemud said...

Heavens you do have to put up with so much from that woman!

I think shopping in French markets sounds much more congenial than our English markets, I so enjoy it when the French markets come to town here!

Wonderful blog as usual!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Thank you Un Peu for finding my flower and leaving a comment - I was so surprised - I took the photo - because I had found my camera and wanted to experiment and the colour of the flower - which is in a pot in my living room is so striking - exactly as it is in the picture. I put it up as a test - never expecting anyone to see it - so thank you. As always I have journeyed with you whilst drinking and spluttering into my morning coffee - thank you!

ChrisH said...

Bonjour! Was on the point of suggesting that you send Madame Grognonne to collect my frumpy slippers but it has turned a tad nippy noodles here so fear I shall be needing them myself.

The Country Craft Angel said...

I think you are amazing-that Madam woman!! Love you pictures you paint in my head-aahhh, French markets...

I had heating on last night-would have put a fire on if had any fire lighters!!

warm wishesx

Frances said...

A visit with you has gotten my day off to a smiling start.
I also thank you for the japanese coverage site. I will look at it later today, after I have my own marketplace experiences.

Tattie Weasle said...

Having to travel with the great unwashed would test a saint! And I feel for you greatly. I used to be give lifts to the vice chair of the Village Hall but the overpowering scent of his body odur gave me a headache and would make my morning sickness intolerable so for the sake of the internal cleanliness of my vehicle I opted to take the long way to town..!

countrymousie said...

Organza - now thats a word from my younger days. Very Audrey Hepburn and open top cars in the South of France dont you think. I feel you are more organza than chickens!
Its umbrella and raincoats here today and not an open top in sight.

lixtroll said...

Umbrellas and raincoats here too, I simply do not know how you cope dear Un Peu! I will have you know, however that my dog Bogey is from Belgium and he is lovely.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I have the picture of Jean Luc and Rose and the incontinent piglets firmly in my mind and will refer to it in times of stress!I shall then be taken away in the white van with the red and yellow wheels!

sally's chateau said...

Your ability to maintain your decorum speaks volumes my dear !

LittleBrownDog said...

Oh, Un Peu - you do make us laugh with all your gallic goings-on and splendide tales of the irrepressible Madame Grognonne.
I'm sure you must have told us at some stage what Un Peu Loufoque translates into English as - I'd love to know.

LittleBrownDog said...

Thanks for your translation, Un Peu - makes sense!

I just had an afterthought - I could have looked it up on my Babel Fish translator. Lord Knows what they would have come up with!