Monday, 4 June 2007

Un peu Loufoque home at last .

Oh ma Chere Amis! How glad I am to be once again Chez Nous, for I own that there have been times over the last days when I harboured serious doubts as to whether I would ever return here to civilisation unscathed ! However, now that Madame Grognonne has unpacked disinfected and scoured our luggage and I have afforded myself the luxury of several cleansing baths during which I thoroughly scrubbed my entire body vigorously with carbolic soap and a loufah, I am beginning a little to recover myself although I admit to being a trifle tense and weary as a result of our expedition.

To describe our trip to Brest as being a tad different to that which I had anticipated would be possibly as gross an underplaying of the truth as Noah tentatively hazarding the comment, as he ushered the animals in deux pas deux, that he thought it might possibly rain a trifle in the not too distant future

However let me write un peu of our experiences so that you may be the judge.

We left Chez Nous early in the morning, Jacque, formerly known as Henri, driving us to the Station in the Governess cart, full of expectations for a pleasant journey by train through the Breton countryside. For the first part of the journey we were not disappointed. The sky was clear, the day warm and in the fields we passed women already hard at work pulling ploughs and tending to crops. It is on first glance a rather incongruous sight, seeing woman and children dragging a plough behind them in the fields but then one remembers sadly that so many Breton men were killed in la guerre that they have in choice in the matter, it is either that or starve. Try as we might, this poignant reminder of our nations sacrifice was bound to make us a trifle less jovial. However, to cheer ourselves up Chief patissier promised he would step out at the very next station and he would retrieve hot coffee to accompany the still warm croissants Madame Grognonne had packed for us in a small but thankfully well stocked hamper.

Good as his word as ever he leapt from the train at the very next station and had just successfully purchased some coffee from the buvette when, without warning, the train began to pull away from the platform and my dear husband was forced to run after it in great haste, spilling the beverages en route and only managing to reclaim his place in the carriage by dint of my hauling him up by the lapels on his overcoat , sadly tearing the astrakhan trim in the process.

Despite the small mishap with the coffee, as a result of which my husband unfortunately scalded his thigh rather unpleasantly , and the damage to his outer garments, most vexing as I feel it reflects unfavourably on myself to be seen in the company of a gentleman who does not look at his best, I maintained my humour and I was determined to enjoy our little adventure.

Chief patissier however was quite unnecessarily disagreeable as a result of these minor irritations and his temper was further aggravated by the need to change train five times en route for various unexplained reasons. He complained vociferously at the inconvenience of having to carry not only his but my own portmanteau as there appeared to be no porters on any of the dismal stations at which we were forced to alight! It will come as no surpise to you I am sure then that Chief Patissier was decidedly not a happy man when finally we approached our destination. Matters were not helped by the lack of refreshment carriage on any of the trains nor the fact that with each successive change we were reduced to even lower levels of comfort than the previous one we had endured. The final train, a far cry from the luxury of the first class carriages of the Paris to Nice Train that I had so hopefully imagined, was little more than a cattle cart with the addition of crude wooden benches.

Quite unexpectedly ,the locomotive came to a sudden halt against and ceased its locomotion with a great hiss of steam. We sat puzzling on the reasons for this until a rather disagreeable guard stuck his head through the grubby window of what passed as a carriage and informed us this was the end of the line and we must dismount poste haste or be taken back whence we had come. The prospect of an immediate return journey under such inhospitable conditions sent us both scurrying to our feet and the grabbing our luggage we were climbed down and found ourselves deposited us at the entry of the once noble and now sadly dilapidated Napoleonic fortress in the middle of what at first appearance seemed to be an abandoned shanty shunting yard in a field of mud . This then evidently was at Pontanezen and not one haberdashery nor hat shop in sight!

The train drew off back into the failing light, it had been an inordinately long day and we were left in the dissipating steam and soot like a pair of impoverished refugees on an empty station, our clothes soiled by our journey and our bodies filled with fatigue . There was sign of neither hotel nor restaurant anywhere. At that moment we were both horribly aware that the thankfully still half filled hamper prepared by Madame Grognonne which we had in our possession was very probably the sole thing between us and the very real prospect of starvation!

I hope my chere Amis that you will forgive my closing here , I am somewhat fatigued and have a rather unpleasant itching sensation in my scalp and think therefore a further session au salle de bain might be expedient just for safety’s sake, after which a lie down in fresh laundered linen sheets scented with Lavender and a large brandy are the very least I deserve after my ordeal.

A la Prochaine!


The illustration above is a poster for the Riviera blue train. Such a jolly and bright little affair it image conjures up all the joy and anticipation of my somewhat short lived childhood train travel which I had hoped to recapture on our recent journey. It is however nothing at all like the harsh reality of the experience, a photographic or even artistic depiction of which I refrain from offering you here for risk of offending your delicate sensibilities. Concentrate my chere bout de choux on the jolly image for to dwell too long on the reality is bound to send you cauchemar dans le nuit!


Exmoorjane said...

You poor souls - adrift in such a wild land. I grieve mightily for CP and his burned limbs, and poor UPL's scalp. Very relieved to hear that you are restored to civilisation and now clean. A monstrous place by the sounds of it. jxx

sally's chateau said...

Oh my dear there is nothing but nothing like ones own freshly laundered linen sheets, with the family monogram obviously !!

The Country Craft Angel said...

One of my favourite things is to get into bed when the linen has just been changed.

I hope your scalp soon feels better! Camomile shampoo may sooth it.

warm wishes

Suffolkmum said...

Oh dear what a wonderful catch-up I've had. So glad you are home safe, having risked life and limb inthe wilds of Finisterre. Poor CP - hope the burn is better!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I take it the bath had been cleaned out well?

ChrisH said...

So pleased to here that Un Peu and CP have been restored to the bosom of the family after such a truamatic journey.

Frances said...

Bon jour,
After my own recent train journeys, I am able to commiserate with you. When our train arrived at our destination, the sliding double door leading to the platform slid closed abruptly, catching between them the tender wrists of one of my traveling companions. It was only by our loudly attracting the attention of the appropriate railroad personnel that we were able to free her from her bruising imprisonment, help her from the train compartment, and continue on our journey.
With such travel experiences, one might want to remain at home.
A demain,

LittleBrownDog said...

What a trial it sounds! I would have been tempted to leave the poor man on the platform and pick him up on the return journey - so unbecoming to be seen with a man sporting coffee stains on his vetements! You must be a veritable saint!

Fennie said...

I guess this must be the French equivalent of the Eastern Counties Railway (though clearly this time in the West) about which travellers used to say - or so I am told as a species of consolation - "Even a journey by the Eastern Counties Railway comes to an end sometime."

Glad to have you back. Madame Grognonne has clearly managed in your absence and no distress rockets have been glimpsed in the sky over Brittany - or on the internet come to that.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh no please don't start me scratching - the Scottish midge is abroad tonight and looking for blood . . .

Pondside said...

Such an ordeal leaves one wondering about the merits of any kind of travel. So glad that you're safely home and have found all in good order. Those fancy scented shampoos and soaps won't do a thing for your itchy scalp - kerosene, chere Un Peu, is the only thing that will work. Rub it thoroughly into the scalp.