Saturday, 28 July 2007

The Itinerrant spoon seller and other intrigues

Details have been finally completed for Chief Patissiers daring attempt to replace Loic’s missing appendages without the whole operation being turned into a fiasco of pseudo religious mania by his increasingly large group of followers. Under cover of darkness they intend to smuggle Loic out of the potting shed and take him to a secret location where he can have his limbs reconstructed by a skilled blacksmith who is to be paid handsomely for his silence.

Chief Patissier already had the blue prints drawn up for Loic’s first replacement leg and Antoine and he have improved upon the original design and added drawings for a new hand as well. One clever little truc will be a small metal seal embossed on the first digit of the artificial hand so that Loic may stamp his mark on any products sold under his name and thus vouch that they are genuine and meet with his approval. This we hope may stop the recent rash of theft s of handcarts from around the neighbouring villages which appear to be stolen to order to meet the growing market for wooden souvenirs. The mayor who is still rather aggrieved that the church seems to be doing so well out of the destruction of its tower, the churches takings yesterday alone were rumoured to be in excess of 95 Francs , 12 centimes and a pig. He has agreed that only mementos stamped with Loic’s seal will be allowed to be sold in the village, providing that no approval is given to the curé. In return he has promised to provide the labour and any new stone needed to replace the fallen tower. Of course for reasons of safety only we know what the seal will look like and where it is kept. Obviously we do not want to risks Loic’s new hand been stolen and auctioned like his last!

The idea is this before dawn has broken; Jacques will transport Loic hidden inside a laundry basket, in the governess cart, to the outskirts of a distant village. There he will climb out of the basket, dressed as an ancient washerwoman and make his way to the village lavoire along with the basket of dirty linen and Madame Grognonne who will be acting as his bodyguard in case he is spotted by gangs of marauding souvenir hunters intend on stealing his leg. Both will be wearing large shawls and bonnets to hide their faces. There, hopefully having first completed the laundry, they will be met by Antoine, dressed as an itinerant spoon seller, who will offer them a lift in his cart to the crossroads from whence he will take them to a small abandoned Inn behind which Chief Patissier and Jacques will be waiting with the governess cart and automobile. I say him but understand that Antoine has decided to dress as a female spoon seller for reasons that I can not quite grasp.

Once Loic is secreted in the trunk at the back of the vehicle, Madame Grognonne will accompany Jacques in the governess cart back to Chateau Loufoque with the basket of wet washing in time to prepare lunch, leaving the cart in a disused barn at the inn. Chief Patissier and Antoine, who will by then, hopefully, have abandoned his disguise; will drive to a garage where, by prearranged rendezvous, the blacksmith will be waiting. Chief Patissier will claim he has a problem with his pistons and he and the car will be taken inside the workshop. Once hidden inside, they will do the necessary work to reinstate Loic with the normal number of appendages. All being well they should be back before sunset in time for Loic to put the pigs to bed.

There are, risks involved, it goes without saying, but I must say the whole thing is not without an element of excitement as well!! I will of course have to go without my morning tea unless I have it exceptionally early or persuade Eldest to make me one, Madame Grognonne being otherwise occupied. My only fear is that left alone in the house with the children I might be in danger from a surprise attack by rampaging sardine gutters if they get wind of Madame Grognonne’s absence and seize the opportunity to ransack the potting shed for articles of Loic clothing!


The photograph is of the old woman who sells wooden spoons at Quimper market. I have included it to give you an idea of what Antoine will look like in his disguise. Although of course he is considerably less wrinkled, having rather a nursery complexion, and is better built. According to Madame Grognonne Antoine was very upset when Chief Patissier forbade him to wear earrings and a necklace as part of his disguise. I can sympathise with both sides, no woman feels properly dressed with out a few bijoux but on the other hand I think by insisting on wearing emerald drop earrings and a diamante necklace he may have roused some suspicions, after all I do not imagine spoon sellers make a great deal of money!

Riding Loic's Bandwagon

Wednesday evening we had the unexpected pleasure of a surprise visit from Antoine. Luckily Madame Grognonne was able to stretch the Saucisse au choux she had planned by throwing another head of cabbage into the pot and hurling in some Strasbourg sausages and a spare ham bone so he was able to stay to dinner!

We have hardly seen Antoine at all over recent weeks since he has taken to spending his evenings with the handsome young village curé, what they find to discuss eludes me as Antoine never struck me as one interested in ecclesiastical concerns. However he has now abandoned the curé in disgust, they having had a falling out over the latter’s purchase of Loic’s pilfered appendage.

We are all concerned for Loic and his present position as a walking miracle and had long discussions late into the night as to what we might do regarding the matter. The entire region is in uproar over his supposedly heavenly powers and yet Loic continues as ever, placid as a bovine in a field of clover and apparently oblivious to those who seek to exploit him for their own gain. It would seem to me that Loic is the sole person not profiting from his recent resurrection from the dead. Even the Pompiers are selling their story to the local journal and have posed for photographs with a handcart in front of the now rather grand shrine. I say “a” rather than “THE” handcart as the original has already been dismantled and converted into wooden souveniers for the tourist trade which is growing daily.

Some clever but rather unkind person has hit upon the idea of throwing fireworks in Loic’s general direction thus startling him into freezing rigid in terror. They then rush forward with a camera and take his photograph which they sell to the eager women who seem to have elevated him to some sort of cult status. We also heard that one local farm boy was escorting parties of tourist around the estate and hiding with them behind trees to leap out at Loic then charging them 4 francs a go to fondly his artificial leg whilst he is catatonic. Madame Grognonne has taken to patrolling the grounds wearing her Kendo outfit, Colonel von Krompts German helmet and carrying her gun. So far this week she has shot 4 pheasants, a junior clerk and chased off a troop of school girls from a lycee in Rennes who were accompanied by a nun. She almost got a school master from Plougonevel but he threw himself into the pond and she lost him in the weeds. It is all very tiring and time consuming.

Antoine and the Chief Patissier are of the opinion that ,if handled properly, the affair may be turned to Loic’s advantage and Chief Patissier came up with the clever idea of making Galletes, each bearing a miniature hand print and packaged in a small wooden box bearing a likeness of Loic, and selling them under the name of Loic’s delight at 45 centimes a piece. Jacques has agreed to make the boxes and I have produced a small pen and ink sketch of Loic which I made for an earlier portrait of him as a war hero. All profits will go into a fund for Loic , with a small part put aside for Jaques in payment for the boxes. This hopefully will ensure he has a secure old age as well as providing him with sufficient money to replace limbs as necessary.
Meanwhile we must do something about his lack of a hand and his backward facing foot.


The rather impressive and stern looking gentleman in the photograph is none other than Le Chef de Pompiers Herve le fol de Tremagat, although I see in the journal they have managed to get his name wrong which I am sure must have proved extremely vexatious for him as he is an extremely pompous fellow as I am sure you can tell by his moustache!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Loic Fever !

News of the seemingly miraculous recovery of our accident prone gardener would have appeared to have travelled far and fast and the village is heaving with sightseers and thrill seekers from as far afield as Roscoff and St Malo. The village square, in the shadow of the church, is filled, on a daily basis, with an ever growing number of people paying to stroke Loic’s highly waxed and well oiled artificial hand, lost by the Pompiers on final journey home. Of course the swineherd who accidently discovered it when falling drunk into the fosse by the wayside is now claiming it was a divine providence that led him to it and earning himself a nice living retelling his tale for 10 centimes a time. The shrine itself has altered beyond all recognition, no longer an upturned apple box, it now boasts a rather fine granite structure decked with an ornate alter cloth embroidered with, what one supposes to be, images of Loic intertwined with gardening tools and various salad crops. Poor St Fiancre is hardly getting a look in!

The local artisans have been impressively swift to produce a variety of Loic linked ephemera for the tourists and pilgrims to purchase at exorbitant prices and there would appear to be no end to their ingenuity. The potter has sculpted row upon row of small terracotta figures of Loic spread-eagled and legless under a diminutive statue of St Fiancre, and a range of commemorative cider bowls with a primitive painting of Loic waving his artificial limb and bearing the Motto “ Make mine a large one” in Breton. The carpenter is selling wooden Plaques carved with Loics image and apparently made from the very handcart upon which the Pompiers had transported Loic’s crumpled body Chez Nous after the latest of his terrible accidents. One can only surmise that the handcart was in reality much bigger than I remember as some of the plaques are quite large and there are rather a lot of them.

The village Bar is selling a special drink called “Loic’s reviver” which is, or so I am given to believe, a volatile mixture of Absinthe, cider and crème de menthe served in a stumpy glazed clay pot which looks remarkably like those in which Yannick sells his yoghurt . The recipe is naturally a secret but is said to include Absinthe for the fireworks, cider to honour the Pompiers who were drinking it when they discovered Loic and crème de menthe to symbolize the green salad that Loic was wearing when he recovered his spirits. It comes with a lettuce leaf wrapped around a pickled cucumber and harpooned on a wooden skewer which is quite an original touch. Jacques assures me that it actually quite pleasant but he thinks it may well be quite lethal in large quantities.

Our village being unaccustomed and ill equipped to deal with such a sudden influx of travellers the many visitors noticeabley outnumbered the scanty accommodation offered by the one small Inn. Enterprising farmer’s wives have set up auberges in their longeres and barns and are happily making a lucrative living providing overnight lodgings for all and sundry. I understand the going rate is 2 francs per person a night with sheets extra.

All in all, the entire commune seems to be thriving as a result of Loics little mishap, which since we are having such a wet summer will be a blessing in itself, the potatoes rotting in sodden earth and the hay ruined and too damp to harvest.

The only person who finds no joy in this new prosperity would appear to be Nicolai Fartoocozy who, as the chairman of the committee for the commune health and sanitation with special responsibility for fosse septiques, finds himself rather overworked arranging for the emergency empting of communal fosses which are not surprisingly overflowing with all the extra use they are getting.


As you can see from the accompanying photograph even old Jerome and his wife are doing very well selling hand carved and painted effigies of Loic and the Pompiers as ”pignoles” . How effective they will be remains to be seen as of course Loic is rather lacking in the limb department and by tradition the pignoles limbs revolve at speed in the wind to frighten away birds. If you look closely you will see that Jerome seems to have got over this handicap by depicting Loic with a very large spade like attachment in place of his missing hand and has given him to legs, a fact that seems not to have deterred his customers at all.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Loic and the unholy relics.

In the short space of time since Loic’s resurrection from the dead there seems to have developed some sort of cult surrounding him and it is now virtually impossible to go anywhere about the grounds of Chateau Loufoque without espying one or two females hiding behind trees or walls hoping to get a glimpse of him. It is most distressing m especially as some of them managed to inadvertently trample the asparagus bed in their eagerness to get closer to their idol.

Only yesterday evening Madame Grognonne was forced throw a bucket of water over a group of young sardine gutters from Paimpol who had come all the way from the coast just for a chance to stroke Loic’s leg which they apparently believed would cure their “fish filliters finger”, a common affliction amongst their profession, it is, so I am given to understand, a similar complaint to tennis elbow but decidedly more odoursome and less socially acceptable.

Unfortunately all this interest has meant that Loic is still disporting himself about the place with a skip in his step. Jacques is worried that should he remove the leg in order to straighten it out with a few well aimed hits with the lump hammer someone might steal it for a souvenir the moment his back is turned. This is not as unlikely as it sounds as an enterprising old swineherds form the next village, who fortuitously for him, discovered Loic’s missing hand after falling in the fosse on the way home from a rather drunken evening at the bar tabac, put it up for auction to the highest bidder and the curé purchased it for the princely sum of 12 Francs, a bottle of holy water and a dozen church candles.

The curé has now given it a polish up and has had it chained to the makeshift altar so that wives of all shapes and sizes may now pay highly for the privilege of lining up in order to kiss it in the hope of ensuring fertility. I understand that this was causing quite a disruption this morning as several men came from their work to find the midday repas unprepared and the hearth cold as their wives were out in the square pinning their hopes upon my gardeners discarded appendage.

At one stage the gendarmes had to be called away form their luncheon as a fight had broken out between some of the women who were accusing each other of spending too long fondling the fingers and therefore depriving others of the experience. All I can say is that obviously news of the devastating effects of his groin injury is not as yet common knowledge.


This photograph was taken just before a slight fracas at the shrine today. Behind the shrine you can spot a group of men returning from work and seeking out their wives in the crowd. As you can see the curé has moved fast in constructing a more formal structure for the veneration of St Fiancre and Loic’s hand. If you look carefully at the girl at the front of the picture you will of course be able to instantly recognise the distinctive dress of the unmarried fish filleters of Paimpol although obviously the sardine embroidery on the lace cap is not clearly visible from the photograph. The gentleman standing next to her is commenting unkindly on the fishy aroma which is an unfortunate hazard of their trade. However since he is the swineherd who sold the curé Loic’s hand I hardly think he is in a position to cast aspersions on the personal hygiene of others.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Divine intervention

Loic’s astounding powers of recovery never cease to amaze me. During the short span of his eventful life he has so far managed to lose most of an arm and a leg, suffered shell shock, suppurating sores and an infected arrow shot in his derriere. He has been blown up by the Germans, shot at with an arrow and set alight by youngest, and on two separate occasions, been almost flattened by his patron saint and a homemade aeroplane, and all with barely a whimper uttered.

If it were not for a rather unpleasant groin injury received at Passiondale, and his missing appendages he would be a fine figure of a man. Since his most recent escapade he appears to have gathered quite a little following amongst the women in the village, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by amongst the clergy.

The young village cure has swiftly come up with a somewhat cunning plan to supplement his income; using several large pieces of the fallen and charred masonry from the church tower, an old sheet and an upturned apple box, he has hastily constructed a rude shrine to St Fiancre , complete with votive candles, flowers and the slightly damaged statue of the saint himself, next to which he has placed a small wooden bowl with a slot for collecting offerings of money supposedly for the restoration of the church tower. Already the bowl is quite heavy with donations and he has also sensibly provided large covered baskets for those who may wish to contribute offerings other than coins of the realm. I understand yesterday alone the saint received a large piece of salted cod, two chickens, a cabbage and a quart of milk , which should fill the presbytery larder nicely, not to mention 15 Francs in small coinage and a brass button.

There have been mutterings in the village about miracles and it is hoped that the Bishop will be asked to come and consecrate the shrine and even say mass. All sorts of tales are running about concerning the saint’s powers and there has even been talk that the statue has been blessed with the gift of healing after Loics resurrection from the dead. As for Loic himself , It is only a matter of days since his death and yet already this morning I espied him out in the potager hoeing the asparagus bed looking for all the world as if nothing had happened. Of course if one looks closely one can see his foot is on back to front and there is a rather strange kink in the artificial leg which is causing him to walk with a slight spring in his step but nothing that the Jacques can not cure with the help of a lump hammer and a bit of brute force.


I thought you might be interested to see the makeshift shrine erected by our young curé. The rather rustic gentleman sitting behind the box with a small bell is Herve la Bile whom I understand the curé has employed at a rate of 3 jugs of rough cider a day to guard the statue of St Fiancre. The bell is for those moments when he may need to take a break for a call of nature the curé having insisted that he is not allowed to relieve himself in front of the saint. I understand from Madame Grognonne that Herve being a lifelong sufferer of Haemorrhoids is rather hoping for some divine intervention himself.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Madame Grognonne and the dinner of the living dead...

I feel quite exhausted, frayed and frankly fragile as I write my diary. It has been an unexpectedly eventful, not to say vexingly traumatic, week what with the village firework display resulting in the burning down of the belfry and the arrival of the body of poor Loic on a handcart accompanied by a band of peripatetic Pompiers. Then just as we were coming to terms with our grief, the most unimaginable thing happened sending all our emotions into disarray again.

Madame Grognonne and I were both so shocked we were forced to have several very large restorative absinthes and a lie down in a darkened room and believe me when I tell you that choosing to lie down in a darkened room in the company of Madame Grognonne and a unspecified quantity of absinthe is an activity to be considered only in the most extreme circumstances. It has been all so upsetting that I am only now able to even begin to talk about it.

It all happened just before dinner shortly after the departure of the Pompiers with the handcart. Madame Grognonne was busy in the kitchen preparing some grilled steaks and a light salad as best she could under the somewhat distressing circumstance. Loic’s body having been laid on the kitchen table by the Pompiers she was, as I am sure you will understand, operating in very restricted space and was having to improvise a little, using Loic’s chest as a makeshift work surface. She had just finished balancing the pan of hot potatoes between his knees whilst she prepared a dressing for the lettuce which she had propped in a bowl under his chin and was crushing the pepper corns for the seasoning when a sudden movement behind her startled her and she turning her back on the kitchen table for a second, the pepper grinder sliding from her hand showering everything with fine pepper grounds. Her nerves were a little on edge, what with overindulging in alcohol at the Bastille celebrations and having to work in a makeshift morgue so she was I imagine more than a trifle jumpy.

The movement she discovered was nothing more than an escaped piglet rooting about in the vegetable baskets and in an effort to banish her sense of unease, she yelled unnecessarily loudly to Jacques to come and remove it and to search out some food for the poor creature whose welfare had obviously been neglected due to the households understandable distress at Loic’s unfortunate accident.

Whether it was the liberal and unexpected application of freshly ground pepper or the sound of Madame Grognonne’s shouting at close quarters or a combination of the two we shall I suspect never be sure. Whatever the cause is immaterial, for what happened next was to change all our lives.

At the very second that Madame Grognonne returned her attention to her culinary task, there came an unearthly groan from the kitchen table and Loic’s inert body convulsed in a spasm catapulting the hot potatoes in their saucepan across the room, narrowly missing her left ear, and sending lettuce flying heaven wards. Madame Grognonne screamed and in her terror searched for something with which to hit out at the body of our much mourned and dearly departed gardener apparently rising from her kitchen table ashen faced and wide eyed. The first thing that came to hand, fortunately, as it turned out, was the large cast iron skillet in which she had been heating oil for the steaks. I can assure you it takes a great deal to shock Madame Grognonne after all she has seen in her eventful life but shocked and frightened she undoubtedly was! Her screaming brought the remainder of the household running from all directions in alarm.

I was the last to arrive, searching as I had been for a suitable bookmark for my reading matter, it is so infuriating when one loses one’s place in a novel don’t you agree? and when I entered the kitchen I found it full of screaming and hysterical servants and children and an escaped piglet in the middle of which, on the kitchen table dripping with hot olive oil and his head wreathed in a mixed salad sat a Loic the undead looking rather pallid and frail but most definitely alive.

At this point I did something that I have never done before. I fainted.

The doctor whom Chief Patissier sent for to attend to Loic, Madame Grognonne and myself, assured us that poor Loic had not been dead at all but merely stunned into a deep catatonic state by the events of the night before and that he was extremely lucky indeed not to have found himself coming too in his coffin with the lid nailed down. Also lucky I feel that Madame Grognonne had grabbed her skillet not her chopping knife otherwise he may well have had a rather terminal relapse I fear.

Of course the Pompiers being strangers to the village were not familiar with Loic’s habitual reaction to loud noises ,and the drunken vet who identified him was too inebriated to explain to them that he was, despite all appearances to the contrary, probably alive. We being told that he was dead and being shown his rigid body his mangled artificial leg sticking out from under the canvas cover they had pulled over him ,did not even stop to question their authority, for after all no one really expects ones gardener to be flattened by a fallen saint and survive.

The entire village is agog with the news and some have hailed it as a miracle and talk of setting up a shrine to St Fiacre on the very spot where Loic was found. Meanwhile Loic has taken to wearing,, on the Doctors advice, a large card around his neck stating he is alive and demanding in the event of his apparent death he should not be buried without his mortality first being confirmed as dead by at least 1 Doctor or at the very least a sober vet.

As you may imagine, it was a trifle hard to find a suitable illustration for my entry today, however I have chosen this painting done in 1867 by Manet which is an interpretation of the funeral of his friend, the writer Charles Baudelaire. In my present state of emotional distress I am sure you can hardly expect me to find anything more appropriate as I am certain you will understand images of the resurrection including lettuce draped gardeners are few and a far between even in modern art.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Alas poor Loic!

As sometimes happens, after a hectic week of social obligations, we were grateful today to occupy our time quietly chez nous, the boys fishing from the remains of the hen house on the pond, and Eldest lying on cushions under the shade of the apple tree growing her hair, whilst Chief Patissier and I sat in chairs under a parasol reading in companionable silence together, he the Marquis de Sade’s travellers guide to sodomy which I purchased for him at the Vide Grenier, ( I still have not quite located Sodomy on the globe so presume it must be a very small country indeed), and I reading Emile Zola’s Nana for the third or fourth time.

It was with some surprise then, that our tranquility was disturbed by the unexpected arrival of the itinerant Pompiers from the neighboring village, just after luncheon. They stood before us, hat less and smoke stained, their uniforms in disarray, bearing the limp and dust covered body of poor Loic on a hand cart.

What with it being Sunday and with all of the excitement of the Bastille Day celebrations the day before and the fire in the village church, his absence had gone totally unremarked by any of us, except of course for the pigs who had been making a terrible racket, a fact that we had foolishly attributed to their being frightened by the noise of the fireworks of the night before. No wonder there had been a marked absence of fresh vegetables with the repas!

We discovered that, after the fire in the church tower had been extinguished, a task that had taken them most of the night and well into the morning, the exhausted Pompiers had just seated themselves on some of the rubble in the square to refresh themselves with a jug or two of well deserved cider, when one of them impaled his nether regions on something unexpectedly sharp. Closer inspection revealed a strangely twisted and contorted metal implement protruding from under the fallen masonry. Curious as to what it might be they swiftly uncovered the fallen statue of St Fiarce, the patron saint of gardeners and haemorrhoid suffers, which had toppled during the explosion and under it the body of Loic, still wearing the dibber attachment on his now useless artificial leg.

Our local Doctor had been unexpectedly summoned away to provide emergency treatment to a prize boar, in a far flung hamlet, who had unaccountable eaten some fireworks carelessly left lying about. The Pompiers were forced therefore to call upon the assistance of the veterinary surgeon, who, having over indulged himself during the Bastille Day celebrations , had not been able to go to the porcine emergency himself and whom they found sleeping it off in a near by hayloft. Although barely sober he was able to identify Loic before collapsing backwards into the water trough.

Luckily for the injured Pompier our village seamstress was able to stitch up his injured buttocks using a generous splash of Absinthe as an anesthetic.

Despite not knowing the village well, the Pompiers had managed to requisition a handcart from the local gravedigger and brought Loic home to us.

What with the fact that his body lay rigid with one arm stretched upwards and the other sticking out at the side, and the handcart having a wonky wheel, it could not have been an easy task. It being a very hot day they had very sensibly used Loics upright arm to stack their helmets on during the journey. The poor men were very apologetic that, by doing so, they appeared to have mislaid one of Loics hands during the journey but we were able to reassure them that he had lost it some years before along with his leg.

We were all deeply saddened by the state of the poor crumpled heap of a man that lay before us like a broken doll. Madame Grognonne and Jacques were beside themselves with remorse when they realized that, far from propping Loic in a safe place for the firework display, by wedging him in an alcove directly below the statue of St Fiacre he had been totally buried by falling debris when the tower exploded. If only they had propped him in by the statue of St Winifred, patron saint of the lame, all might have been well, after all to the best of our knowledge Loic had never been afflicted with hemorrhoids so one could hardly expect St Fiacre to protect him. Naturally one can not blame them for they did what they felt was best at the time but in hindsight it might have been safer to leave him at home in the potting shed with his pigs.

Bearing in mind the heat and the over excited state of the pigs it was agreed it would be better to lay Loic out on the kitchen table at least for the time being. Madame Grognonne is quiet adamant she can work around him but I think, under the circumstances it might be unrealistic to expect any thing other than a light salad for supper.
Needless to say, we are all very shocked.

The illustration is from an ancient manuscript and shows St Fiacre with a spade in one hand and a book held in the other. I can see the spade reflects his gardening connections and can only assume the book is an oblique warning that if one spends to long reading books one may well, inevitably, end up with hemorrhoids.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Liberty, equality, fraternity and fireworks

Yesterday, being Bastille Day , we attended, in the village, last night, the bal and repas celebrations, to mark, with suitable splendour and pomp, the of the birth of our glorious French Nation.

Being Brittany of course there are inevitably those who felt that it would have been far better for all had the whole State of France been drowned at birth and in his celebration speech, his first public appearance since the unfortunate experience with the Raki on the night of Nicolai Fartoocozy’s election as chairman of the twining committee, the Mayor was at great pains to point out that it is typical of the French to make such a fuss over the setting free of 4 counterfeit money marketeers, a couple of lunatics and a sexual deviant.

It was a stirring piece of oratory which kept his entire audience spell bound in awed silence, not least because he is still experiencing some difficulty with the left side of his face , which has not fully regained any sensations, and therefore he has a tendency to slur and dribble somewhat . Since the Raki overdose, one can not help but notice that he has developed an interesting facial tick, which causes his left eye to close and the corner of his mouth to quiver upwards in a sneer. However, he seems to have discovered that, by tugging hard at his left ear violently, he can curb the unfortunate involuntary movements of his visage and prompt his rhetoric into action. His French being rather idiosyncratic at the best of times this gives his oratory a rather surreal aspect. It was quite awe inspiring to watch, although wiser to do so at a safe distance as the spitting can be a trifle off putting.

The meal was a traditional menu and nothing to match Madame Grognonne’s exotic Arabian feast prepared for the Nicolas Fartoocozys inauguration, and the many French flags did look rather bizarre against a backdrop of Arabic mosaics and flamboyant arches left over from the same event. However, the dance itself was splendid, despite my fears that I might be prevailed upon to perform a gavotte with Jacques, which, after our soiree chez nous, is an experience I would rather avoid repeating.

The culmination of the evening at midnight was the tremendous feu de artifice display in the centre of the village with the whole square illuminated by red, white and blue fireworks accompanied by the sounds of Jean Claude on his bombard playing La Marseillaise with the help of Luc st Gilles banging his drum. Of course one could not quiet hear the musical accompaniment over the explosions and several of the older and more nationalistic Bretons refused to sing along anyway, but it was a wonderful idea to play the national anthem in tune with the light show, even if the reality fell somewhat short of expectations.

Remembering the recent demise of our hen house as a result of youngest fireworks display, we all stood at a safe distance, outside the salle de fete where we had a clear view of the church lit up in a spectacular explosion of colour and light and a tremendously loud bang which seem to shake the very soil itself with its exuberance. Poor Loic inevitably I am sure was shocked rigid by the cacophony but Madame Grognonne and Jacques had thoughtfully wedged him in a safe corner out of harms way by the church wall, before the fireworks began so that he would not come to any harm.

As the pyrotechnic display came to a close and the smoke cleared, we were surprised to discover that the loud bang all had taken to be the dramatic finale had in fact been the church tower exploding under the onslaught of a badly aimed rocket volley which kept the pompiers busy for the remainder of the night attempting to douse the flames which had spread from the tower to Monsieur le Bois’ wood store behind it .

I have my doubts, knowing the political affiliations of the Mayor and the town clerk, and the general dislike of our young curé who comes from outside Paris, as to just how accidental the destruction of the church tower was, but since the rise of Breton Nationalism here it is never wise for a woman of my high social standing to voice such opinions openly, I am after all despite being married to Chief Patissier for so long, a foreigner myself, not having been born in the commune. I do however suspect it may be some time before the state finds the funding to replace the damage ecclesiastical edifice.


The illustration today is a painting of Marianne our symbol of France and the personification of our liberty. It is interesting to note that no one is quite sure who she was nor why she was chosen but must suppose that our forefathers had good reason for choosing a scantily clad, bare breasted, busty young woman with a red sock on her head to symbolize their new nation. Rumour had it she was suggested as a symbol by one of those liberated from the Bastille in 1789 but as to whether it was a criminal a pervert or the lunatic who suggested it has continued to be a point of some deliberation ever since.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Youngest's birthday goes off with a bang!

It is youngest fete day today and we have been celebrating in line with his wishes, the entire day being, by family tradition, “at his command”, not perhaps upon reflection, a wise prerogative to accord a boy on his seventh birthday especially one who is sometimes rather too adventurous for his years!

Morning started with “petite déjeuner au lit” which would have been a pleasant leisurely occasion had it been held in his bed in the nursery and not mine, which he deemed a much more suitably venue to hold court!!

There is nothing quite like being woken at 5 am by the thunder of small feet across the boudoir floor and the application of icy hands to ones extremities to remind one, with startling clarity, of the uncertain joys of motherhood.

His arrival was swiftly followed by that of his siblings with Madame Grognonne in tow, bearing a silver tray on which the birthday boy’s brioche and hot chocolate were born high above his sibling’s cavorting heads! Sadly her arms being occupied with youngest breakfast I had to wait for my refreshing beverage, which is not quite how I had envisaged the start to my day.

Chief Patissier had already left for the Biscuiterie so I alone bore the brunt of the anniversary exuberance, a matter I might have taken better had Eldest not, upon greeting me, peered anxiously at my face and enquired if I had slept badly and middle commented at some length on how tired I looked. Youngest did not help matters by suggesting it was merely the inevitable result on my visage of my approaching old age. Had it not been his birthday I would have had severe words with him but I swallowed my acid response, causing Madame Grognonne to enquire as to whether I was feeling bilious. I shall however save it for future use.

It is never wise, in my experience, to hand over control of ones households menu to a minor and today proved my point, thanks to Madame Grognonne’s indulgence and Youngest preferences our midday repas consisted of frogs legs fried in crispy batter, escargot in garlic butter and cold langue de boeuf served with haricot verte and purred potatoes. This was accompanied by a marked absence of wine and the noteable addition of grenadine syrop to the table in its place. I note Chief Patissier was wisely absent for the meal, returning only to enjoy dessert which being fresh framboise and ice cream was a fairly safe choice even in youngest hands.

As always he was well indulged with gifts, we having presented him with a much needed new velo since he had accidentally destroyed his previous one in an attempt to make an earlier flying machine. He is under strict instructions not to take it apart unless strictly necessary. One does like to encourage inventiveness but in his case one can easily go too far. Only last week Jacques went to start the motorcar only to find that youngest had totally remove the engine and the fuel tank in order to utilize them in the construction of his own steam engine. We were not amused.

Middle gave him a new sling shot made from what looked suspiciously like Madame Grognonne missing corsets and a clutch of eggs for ammunition. After accidentally breaking one of the eggs in his pocket we discovered them to be rotten and thus he now will be requiring a new pair of trousers, there being some aromas even Madame Grognonne’s heavy handed laundry will not dispel. From eldest he received a hand written and illustrated book of her own creation entitled” tales from a fairie glade” which was about as suitable as the gift of nails and a hammer he presented her with on her last birthday and as equally well received.

The remainder of the day was spent in his demonstrating to us his captive audience a variety of alarming scientific experiments ranging from the production of electricity to power his latest invention a machine to curl hair, for which Eldest very sensibly refused to be the model for the demonstration and a rather spectacular pyrotechnic display which set the dogs off barking and inadvertently set fire to the chicken house currently anchored on the pond as part of his now completed boat. Rather foolishly, Jacques volunteered to try out the hair curling machine which I pointed out was a great pity as his hair has only just started to recover form being inadvertently dyed green. Loic however gallantry stepped in at the last minute to take his place which, bearing the conductive powers of metal, almost proved fatal. As it was we are now been with out electrical power in one end of the chateau as a result and Loic a rather charred left foot.
Youngest declared the day was a great success and one he will remember for ever, Middle is already planning his birthday events although it is some months away, so impressed was he with his brother’s day. Sadly the dogs, apparently convinced we are under attack, are still barking at the smoldering remains of the chicken coop and I imagine they intend to do so all night. One can truthfully say it was a memorable event, particularly for Loic, from whom I suspect w shall not see much gardening for some time, well at least until his burns heal.


The rather interesting painting above is of fireworks display over a river, I must say it is rather more subdued than Youngest’s display and there would appear to be a remarkable lack of burning chicken coops, although some of the barges do in my opinion look a trifle suspect I might add and thus may for all I know very well be floating aviaries of some description.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Madame Grognonne and the Pig's Squeak

Since the unfortunate incident involving Madame Grognonne’s dirty linen and the run away pig, life has been a trifle frenzied here.

Madame Grognonne has been stretching her somewhat limited culinary skills, the pig having not sadly survived being unceremoniosuly sat upon by the entire domestic staff of Chateau Loufoque.
Loic was quite distressed at the pigs demise, as he felt the fault was entirely his alone, having not only allowed it to escape from the potting shed in the first place, but also hastening its end by accidentally harpooning it with the spike attachment on his artificial leg which, ironically, he had affixed in order to better collect the unripe fruit, fallen in the orchard after all the unseasonable wind and rain, in order to feed them to the piglets.

He has therefore taken to wearing a black crepe armband and would have insisted upon a full funeral had Madame Grognonne not swiftly butchered the creature and converted it into a larder full of rillettes, salted pork, jarrette and pate for the family consumption. She did however give him the pig’s squeak in a small jar and he and the children interred it in a pleasant spot beneath the apple trees with solemn funereal rites and a wake afterwards for which Madame Grognonne kindly provided a cold buffet including several dishes of pork in various disguises, which thankfully Loic was weeping to hard to identify as his dear departed porcine companion. I am not entirely sure where the squeak in a pig is located nor what it might look like, however it provided Loic with something solid on which to focus his grief.

We nearly had a rather unpleasant scene when Loic, seeking solace in the company of others, strayed into the cobbled courtyard, where Madame Grognonne had fatefully being doing her washing prior to the children dousing her and her undergarments in cold water, and where the soon to be deceased pig was being prepared for its immersion in the vast copper usually reserved for the laundry. Thankfully youngest spotted him in time and, using the quick thinking for which he is renowned, shot him in the posterior with a well aimed arrow thus providing sufficient distraction for Madame Grognonne and Eldest to hang a sheet on the line to obscure his view of the swiftly expiring pig hanging by its trotters on a hook.

Obviously as Madame Grognonne was fully occupied in hastily preparing the Boudin noir and could not be distracted for fear of a culinary disaster, some one had to be found to remove the arrow now protruding painfully from Loic’s extremities, a job for which none of us were fully qualified or experienced nor prepared to attempt single handed. Middle however volunteered to try, providing Jacques sat upon Loics shoulders to hold him down and youngest helped him pull.

All went very well until Loic suddenly regained consciousness, quiet unexpectedly, at an extremely delicate and inopportune moment and attempted to struggle to his feet. As luck would have it, at that precise second Madame Grognonne dropped the axe, with which she was doing something unmentionable to the pig carcass, and the resulting cry of pain accompanied by the metallic clatter of the implement on the cobbles, was enough to send Loic in to a state of rigid shock again, thus providing ample opportunity for the boys to continue their business of arrow extraction undisturbed.

I think it unlikely that Loic will be able to sit comfortably for sometime, but that besides, it all went remarkably well considering.


This painting of the cut pig by Isaack van Ostrade I think gives a clear illustration of exactly why it was better for Loic to undergo the indignaty of minor surgery without anesthetic rather than risk further post traumatic stress by entering the yard and seeing his former bed fellow thus. Sometimes in life it is necessary to be cruel in order to be kind.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

No smoke without fire!

We had quite a scare Chez Loufoque this morning, youngest staring out of my studio window at the unexpected sunshine, noticed something a trifle alarming and alerted me, distracting me from my contemplation of my abandoned canvases to see what was amiss. There indeed was what appeared to be, gently billowing smoke wafting on the stiff breeze from the direction of the stable block.

Shouting for help in an appropriately lady like manner, me not youngest , I sent him scurrying in search of his Elder sister, and, arming them with buckets of water, I dispatched them out into the yard to investigate, whilst I rushed about the house collecting my valuables , just in case any fire spread to the main building. The stable is naturally full of hay and other combustible material, and, being all too well aware of Madame Grognonne’s conflagratory potential, I had images of her thoughtlessly mislaying her pipe amongst the straw and the whole place catching fire in some terrible inferno!!

Watching the children’s progress from the window I noted that the smoke seemed to be emanating from behind the stable block, and sent them hurtling off at speed to investigate the enclosed courtyard behind it. Youngest had thoughtfully already liberated Marron, the horse, the dogs and chickens who were all by now over agitated by the unexpected excitement and making a great hullabaloo! The yard was a flurry of fur chasing feathers in and out of the hooves of the prancing pony.

Alerted by the cacophony Jacques came running from the garage where he had been polishing his solenoids and slipped on the cobbles, which already damp and muddy from the terrible weather we have been having, were made more dangerous by addition of the spilt water from the children’s buckets, and excrement from the frightened livestock. His fall was thankfully broken by a small fat piglet which had escaped from Loic’s potting shed.

I could not see what was happening from my safe vantage point, but heard above the noise the strident and familiar tones of Madame Grognonne expostulating in anger, swiftly followed by the sight of Eldest and youngest retreating in great haste from the direction of the enclosed courtyard with an extremely wet Madame Grognonne in hot pursuit hurling abandoned buckets and gros mots at them with aggressive gusto! If it were not for the fact that Loic appeared around the corner in search of the missing piglet and she barrelled in to him, knocking them both onto the mud, I am quite sure she would have caught them.

As it was Jacques, Loic and Madame Grognonne were immediately set upon by the chickens seeking safety in the form of a high perch in order to escape from the dogs. Sadly it was not quite high enough and the dogs cavorted all over the recumbent servants in their efforts to catch the poultry. The pig meanwhile had obviously found something interesting and was happily rooting around amongst Madame Grognonne’s petticoats.

Meanwhile the smoke seemed to have miraculously disappeared which was a great relief, although as it turned out there had been no fire at all.

I later discovered Madame Grognonne had decided to take advantage of the sudden burst of sunshine and hang her damp flannel undergarments out to dry. Remembering her recent near death experience as a result of her careless pegging, and not wishing to court disaster a second time, she had decided to hang them in the warmth and shelter provided by the enclosed yard. Quite understandably the children had mistaken the steam rising from her corsetry as smoke and, thinking there was very likely to be no smoke without fire, had hurled the contents of their buckets into yard in the general direction of the washing line. This in itself would not have been a problem if it had not been for Madame Grognonne’s sudden appearance from behind the water butt where she had been rinsing out her remaining unmentionables in readiness for hanging them out to dry as well. As it was both buckets hit her full in the chest.

The whole incident was nothing more than a simple misunderstanding which I think under the circumstances she over reacted to in quite an unnecessary manner. After all no real harm had been done and at least the children and animals had had some exercise, which I am sure made a pleasant change after so many days of being cooped up indoors.

Thsi rather charming rustic idyll of a farmyard conjours up so beautifully the rural tranquility so reminisicent of rural Brittany and yet, some how, quintessentially lacking chez Nous in recent months.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Madame Grognonne and a poultry matter

Madame Grognonne is being exceptionally vexatious this morning and has complained, without respite, about the chickens which are, at present, sharing her sleeping quarters. I really can not see what grounds for grievance she might have, after all she is busy about the house all day and I believe that poultry are not, by nature, nocturnal.

One would have thought that she might be grateful for the added warmth they provide at night in the unseasonably damp weather. However far from that, she objects to them roosting on her bed posts and laying eggs in her chamber pot. She claims that since Loic clipped their wings and they can not fly, which, I might add, was only done at her request as she was complaining that they swooped on her from the rafters as she got in and out of bed, they have now taken to dropping down on her in the night from her bed head and walking across her bed before hopping on to the bed ends to roost there. She is convinced they have a personal vendetta against her, which is ridiculous as they really do not know her that well.

The only means of placating her would appear to be to re-house them in their old hen coop but to do this I shall have to ask Youngest to dismantle the boat he is building which seems to be a trifle unfair since he, Loic and Jacques have made such splendid progress with it, added to which, it has still not ceased raining to any noticeable extent and, although the danger has, for the moment, passed, we may yet need to call upon its services!

We did after all move them from the hen house because of the imminent flooding and in order to save her the trouble of wading through the water to collect the eggs. A fact that she, I note, conveniently has forgotten. Bearing in mind her own near death experience in the pond yesterday morning, if she had an ounce of compassion in her soul she would not begrudge their being rescued from possible drowning . After all Loic has taken the pigs into his potting shed with him, which was kind as otherwise she would have them for company as well, and I do not hear him complain, and Jacques often as not sleeps with the horse! I am quite sure that all the animals put together make less noise in their sleep than chief Patissier after a heavy dinner and yet no one hears me making an unladylike fuss about the matter!

As for the chickens themselves, they too seem to be becoming quite settled in their new sleeping quarters despite their disagreable bed fellow but I do fear that their living with Madame Grognonne for any length of time may begin to put them off their laying.


The painting is by Gijsbert Gillisz. De Hondcoeter a Dutchman born in 1604 who ,according to all I have read ,devoted much of his life to the painting of poultry, as did hi sfather before him. Strangely enough I was utterly unable to find a painting of hens roosting on a french housekeepers bed post, a matter that implies to me that it may well be somewhat of a unique occurrence, which only reinforces how doubley fortunate Madame Grognonne is that they have chosen to be so familiar with her.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

A Rather Damp Day

Today for the first time in quite a while we have been blessed with almost a complete hour of sunshine, in between inclement outbursts of precipitation, and it was naturally during this brief respite from interminable rain that Madame Grognonne took it upon herself to hang out the washing to dry.

Unfortunately, unbeknown to any of us, the high winds whisked one of the linen sheets from the line and wrapped it around Loic’s head as he was passing the pond, causing him to topple forwards into the water, tangling himself up in the sheet as he fell.

All would probably have been well had it not been for the unprecedented growth of aquatic plants which has occurred, due to the warm but wet weather, and he found himself sinking amongst the foliage of water lilies and being dragged under by the weight of the bed linen.

When the rain recommenced Madame Grognonne, enlisting the children’s help , rushed into the garden to retrieve the laundry and discovered the sheet missing, it took sometime to locate it but eventually Youngest, who had given up the hunt and was instead searching for frogs, noticed it peaking out between the Lilly pads in the pond and raised the alarm.

No one was more surprised than Madame Grognonne upon attempting to haul in her washing to find a half drowned gardener entwined in it, and showing great courage and quickness of thought she dived in to retrieve him. Of course ,wooden Sabots and heavy skirts are not the ideal garments to swim in and , if had not been for Jacques, alerted to the great splash and shriek she made as she hit the water, she may well have been in serious difficulty herself.

Thankfully Jacques had the sense to fetch a stout rope from the stable and, leaning a ladder across the corner of the pond, clamboured out over it to throw an end to the water logged Madame Grognonne and the semi conscious Loic, so that he might pull them to safety .
Alas, sadly, he slipped, as the ladder was wet from the now very heavy rain, and he too fell into the water, becoming as he did so entrapped by Madame Grognonne’s skirts, the fork attachment on Loic’s leg and the sheet.

I am certain that, had Youngest not run to fetch me, we may well have been without any domestic staff at all by the end of the morning and lunch would certainly have been ruined. As it was, I was able to launch him into the pond, using a discarded cider barrel as a boat, where he was able to pass the rope to Jacques who valiantly lashed himself to the other servants, after which Middle, whom I had sent poste haste to collect the horse, tied the rope to his harness and whacked poor Marron firmly on his rump so that he shot forward at a gallop, pulling them all out of the water with rather an unpleasant slurping noise and dragged them across the grass at great speed.
Had it not been for the unexpected arrival home of Chief Patissier in the automobile, causing Marron to falter in his step, we may never have been able to catch up with him and they would have been dragged along the full length of the lane, totally ruining my poor linen sheet. As luck would have it Chief Patissier was able to lung at the horses harness and stop him.

By this time the children and I were all soaked to the skin, the rain having turned into a heavy downpour, and we all retreated to the kitchen for hot chocolate and biscuits. It was some time before we noticed that Youngest was not with us and remembered he had last been seen bobbing in the pond on a barrel. I immediately sent Madame Grognonne to search for him, Loic being unable to walk as his leg had ceased up with pondweed and mud, Jacques being occupied with rubbing down the horse and I being far to cold to go myself, I reasoned she was wet already and a further dose of rain would not harm her. Youngest was of course safe and sound quite happily catching frogs from the safety of his barrel and could not be persuaded to ocme indoors, much to Madme Grognonnes annoyance.

In the space of only a very short time my best bed linen has been reduced to dishcloths, my prize collection of aquatic plants destroyed, my ploughed up ,the horse frightened and the entire household soaked to the skin and all because Madame Grognonne was careless in the pegging out of the laundry. I really do despair of the woman sometimes!
The painting is a charming image of a woman and child engaged in the laundry. Sadly I have mislaid the details of the artist but believe him to be an American. You will note an entire line full of clean white bed linen which, despite the strong winds blowing them, is so well pegged as to remain in their proper place. I am at a loss to understand how anyone can peg sheets wrongly; it is after all from, all appearances, surely a simple enough task to perform for anyone with half a brain. Not however, apparently for Madame Grognonne!