Sunday, 27 May 2007

UnPeu Loufoque the blushing bride

On the eve of our the anniversary of our nuptials I rest amidst memories , pensive and pondering on all that married life has held for me here at Chez Loufoque. The brooding portrait of Chief Patissier watching me from the overmantle colluding in my cogitation.

It is many years since I arrived as a blushing bride here at the ancestral residence of the Famille Loufoque in the heart of the French countryside, deep in rural Brittany. I remember the day well, it was raining hard, something that I perhaps should have taken heed of as a warning, and there on the steps to greet me stood the formidable figure of Madame Grognonne the chatelaine of the house. I thought at first she must be suffering form chronic indigestion but later upon knowing her better realised that she was in fact attempting a welcoming smile. The effect achieved falling somewhere between rigor mortis and dyspepsia. She was much younger then of course, but then so were we all.

The house itself was, and is still today, quite charming, a solid structure covered in clambering roses and wisteria. Hewn from the local granite and slate and designed to withstand the intemperate weather for which this part of France is so renowned. Having spent my later childhood years in the intense heat of the South, the thought of living amongst the lush fields and woodlands of Brittany with its flowing rivers and wild flowers, so much like England, sounded terribly enticing. However, a few short months of constant rain and unpleasantly damp clothes is bound to take the shine of such illusions and the appeal has at time worn horribly thin. One was taught however to do what one could no matter dire ones circumstances and to rise above such things, and thus after almost fifteen years it has become my home.

My husband, Chief Patissier, is the sole surviving heir to the family fortune built entirely upon biscuits, his brother having died just after the start of La Grande Guerre when he suffered a fatal injury after his braces became entangled in the dough mixing machine whilst supervising the making of Galletes for the troops. He was, of course, accorded a full military funeral. Thus my husband was called upon to take over the family business. Sadly his Parents died of grief soon after. He had little experience nor inclination to work, having, as a younger son, been somewhat indulged , disporting himself as a gentleman of some considerable independent means in Paris and the South and knowing nothing whatsoever about biscuits .

So it was that we learnt the intricacies of the enterprise together and I like to think that I have held a firm hand on his tiller on those odd occasions when the rashness of his youth threatened to run away with him. Our first child arrived soon after our marriage and was born here at the Chateau which had, until their deaths, been the abode of his paternal grandparents and their grandparents before them. Chief Patissier’s brother and parents preferring to live at a more modern abode next to the biscuiterie. There was some gap between the safe arrival of eldest daughter into the world and that of her two brothers some years later. However now our family is complete and suffice to say there is thankfully no likelihood of expanding it further.

My own childhood was not I suspect a happy one although I have few memories of it, I believe myself to be, like Chief patissier, an orphan with, to the best of my knowledge, no surviving siblings . We are then all alone in the world excepting of course Antoine, Chief Patissier’s dearest and most intimate friend who is practically a member of the family

As befits a house of stature, Le chateau Loufoque stands outside the confines of the village and is surrounded by substantial grounds. Before La Guerre we did have, as one would expect, several servants both inside and outside but sadly many of them did not return from the fighting and we are left now with little more than Madame Grognonne and Henri Jacque Le Cravacher the groom who does odd jobs when necessary and our dear old gardener Loic, who despite having one arm and a wooden leg and being badly shell shocked in the trenches is perfectly safe as long as you do not surprise him. Regrettably, Middle and youngest have developed the unfortunate habit of launching firecrackers in the general direction of the greenhouse so our vegetable production is not always as reliable as it could be.

I doubt there is a woman the world over whom, upon reflecting back on her married state, has not found some small regret to mar her connubial bliss. I wonder perhaps if I would not have been better joining a nunnery or even heaven forbid, going to live in Lisle, both unappealing prospects I warrant but none the less potentially less vexatious than life Chez Nous has proved to be at times.

On mornings when I find we are yet again out of Absinthe for the horse or Madame Grognonne has accidentally harpooned Monsieur le Facteur delivering the post or inadvertently set fire to the laundry I do wonder briefly if I did the right thing in agreeing to Chief Patissier’s proposal of marriage.


The portrait by Gari Melchers, entitled simply “, The Bride” was painted in 1907. Note it is not the smiling bride nor the happy bride. I have in my art research of recent weeks tried my utmost to uncover a picture showing a bride in any state other than pensive, anxious bored or at the worst peeved with her impending fate. Whilst, as a mother, one may appreciate that one does not want to frighten the young bride with ones superior knowledge of what life holds before her but do wonder should each girl on her engagement be handed a small portfolio of portraits of brides by famous artists whether she might upon reflection be able to divine for herself that the estate of marriage is perhaps not all she has been led to believe.


The Country Craft Angel said...

I found this blog how shall I say, 'interesting' and rather deep and reflective UPL-I am so used to your cavalier style that I was a little perplexed by the tone of this one. Maybe I am imagining something which is not there. But your blog today has made me think that there is clearly a lot more to you than meets the eye.

However, your writing, as always
is delightful.

warmest wishes and a big hug from me.

Pondside said...

Well Un Peu, marriage is really like a vocation, as I am sure you know. In the words of my dear old teacher Sister Ste Agnes Martyr "Offer it up" - of course she always said this as she scraped my hair painfully back into French braids each morning. Would you have M le Chef be a lightfooted, barhopping 'fun' boy toy??? No, of course not - he is a sober, responsible devoted husband, weighed down by worries about you and the burden of your considerable estate.

Woozle1967 said...

A firm hand on his tiller, eh, UPL? Behind every successful man is a long suffering woman......... or so they say!!x

sally's chateau said...

Might I suggest Madam as befits your class that you straighten your back and stiffen your lip. You are fortunate at least to have retained some of your live in staff, your present situation is not ideal I agree but I am sure that you are fully able to rise graciously above such tiresome difficulties.

bodran... said...

The portfolio for brides to be is a brilliant idea,and may as you say work as a warning to some girls that dissapointment is

Fennie said...

"Non, rien de rien! Je ne regrette rien!" Where else would you have found such a beautiful home, rain or no rain?

Posie Rosie said...

I did enjoy catching up with your blog, and your arrival at your new home in Brittany. Good to catch up with you un peu and as always a lovely blog, now understand who MMme Grogonne is!! At last!!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Ah well Un Pue you will find a way through as befitting a lady of course.

Cait O'Connor said...

I love your story and look forward to reading each instalment.Truly unique, I can see it being a success if it was published.

Frances said...

Bon soir.
This latest sharing of life at the chateau Loufoque is indeed a bit different, but it is good of you to take us around another unexpected bend.
When one listens to a symphony, one wants to be introduced, then to listen more closely, then eventually to be transported to a new level of understanding.

There is still much to learn about the chateau.

Meanwhile, thank you for another Melchers painting. I know that I have seen an exhibition of his work, but think that it was some years ago. I cannot remember if it was in this country or aboad. My memory continues to weaken. Funny that my visual memory is much stronger (always has been) than my verbal.

May your Monday be eventful.


countrymousie said...

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman I always say!!
You made the right choice - you could be living in Suffolk with the "look"!!
Staff, I wish!