Wednesday, 29 August 2007

As clear as mud...

Madame Grognonne,

Charming though it was to receive yet another carte postale from you, I do wish that you had headed my advise regarding using my notepaper and writing in a large script. It was rather difficult to follow all of your news but I think I got the gist.
I am saddened to hear that the Chief Druid has drowned whilst under the influence of Cider attempting to steal Aconites from sacred sources, but I suppose it is all one might expect from a man who goes about the place wearing other peoples Muffin covers. Let this be a lesson to you all not to over indulge in the harvesting of deadly poisons whilst having partaken of alcoholic beverages. I do wonder why on earth he was collecting such a toxic plant and can only assume it was something to do with his religion. I must say I had no idea Druids rendered their garments like that. One learns something new everyday!

Do I take it from the references to mud on your face and rolling in murky pond water that you are attempting to replicate the therapeutic experience of the spa waters here? If so I strongly advise against it. It will by no means cure your”ruddy cheeks” nor, as far as I am aware, will the application of chicken droppings. What ever were you thinking of woman? There is more to a Thermal Spa than frolicking naked in the pond and covering your face in mud and if you try it at home you are more likely to gain a dose of dysentery than improve your complexion. If you do get a fever as a result of your pond dipping , you might see if there is any of the Chief Druids aconite left and take it a few drops in water two or three times a day.

I agree with you it is not wise to bury the remains of the Chief Druid in our hot beds no matter what Jacques and the mayor think his dying wishes may have been, we have enough trouble chez Nous with religious fanatics hounding Loic without adding a band of Aconite crazed grieving Druids dancing semi naked in the pond.

Who is the he who has cut a large hole in something and what has he cut a large hole in and why? It is all very confusing! Fancy the Gendarme being arrested by the mayor for stealing women’s under garments! The deprivation of the lower orders never ceases to astound me.
We are having a very tolerable time here in the mountains, Chief Patissier has made a new friend called Lawrence and who is an English baronet of some kind. They do seem to have a lot of interests in common despite a lack of shared language. Lawrence has a motorcycle and he and Chief Patissier have taken to driving off together into the mountains, Goodness only knows what they get up to all day but they come back every evening absolutely exhausted and filthy dirty!
Yours Un Peu Loufoque.

I have enclosed the carte postale showing the Spa as I thought it might interest you . Please heed my warning regarding taking the waters and do not try it at home. Have just re read your carte postal with some difficulty in order to try and decipher more information and am rather worried about the cellar key , what is an “Eparé and why does jacques have one? Please advise by return of post.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

A postcard regarding something in the water from Madame Grognonne.

Dear Madame,

We have had a slight problem ici on account of me doing as you requested and searching the Chief Driuds garments for incriminating laundry marks.
I just happened to be lying on top of old chicken house on the pond taking advantage of the sudden and unexpected sunshine and indulging myself in a bit of a bain de soliel when who should I hear but him creeping through the gooseberry patch whispering away to someone else. Not wishing to be found in my state of undress and minus all but my undergarments ( I had to keep them on in order to keep the cellar key safe from Jacques like I promised I would) I sculled the chicken house across the water into the cover of the willow tree by the old grotto at the fontaine de la source all the better to hide myself.
However when I got there I discovered that he and his companion had been heading in the same direction and were busily occupying themselves with the filling of copious containers from our spring, which Chief Druid or not I reckoned was a ruddy cheek on his part.
Acting on instinct like any good and reliable chatelaine would in order to protect the families assets I shot up to accost him in his felonious deed only to slip on some chicken droppings catching my all togethers on a protruding nail and falling head long on top of the Chief Druid , ripping my under garments asunder in the process. so that we was both forced to the ground in a tangled heap.
Realizing that I was not dressed for visitors and wishing to protect my reputation I grabbed the nearest thing to cover my bits and pieces up which turned out to be the Chief Druids white thingy wot he wears. In the tussle that followed I accidently knocked of his hat and I must say for a man who has forsaken contact with the fairer sex he certainly knew which bits to grab as we plunged into the murky waters of the pond. Madame believe me when I say for a man of the cloth he could certainly give a sailor a run for his money regarding groping women where he shouldn’t.

Anyway Jacques who was sleeping off some cider from last night (the kind widow lady who has been taking care of Loic has introduced him to the art of cider making and we has been a testing of it quiet a lot of late, being that it is ever so good. The horse likes it too which is saving us no end of money on absinthe ) heard the kafuffle and came running to see what was a miss. Seeing me near naked in the pond flapping about with what appeared to be a strange man and not having much fun with it, he dived in after us and gave the Chief Druid quite a seeing to before pulling him out of the water and holding his head in the fontaine so that he was not able to see me as I climbed out of the weeds and covered up me dignity with the his discarded garment.

Jacques was that cross he was quiet ready to get me gun and have away with the bloke Chief Druid or not but I persuaded him not to, mainly cos he was planning to bury the body under the hot beds and I remembered our conversation regarding that before so persuaded him to take the man to the mayor, I would have suggested the Gendarme but after I shot his wife in the derriere we have not been too friendly with them. Well, it turns out that The Druid and his acolyte what run away as soon as I appeared naked on top of the hen house and has not been seen since, ( I always thought that was a plant but apparently its some sort of follower so I is told) were stealing water with the idea of bottling it and saying it was from Loics holy well and that he had blessed it. Added to which you was as ever perfectly right in your opinion that it was the Chief Druid who had whipped our table linen for there, plain as the mud on my face ,was our laundry mark embroidered on the linen as what you said it would be.
The mayor has gotten the Gendarme to arrest the Druid on grounds of theft of water and laundry and planning to deceive the general public with false claims. He was going to charge him with attempting to defile a woman of good repute but we all agreed we might have trouble getting that to stick.

Anyway I have cleaned and mended the linen but since the Chief Druid cut a large hole in the middle of the cloth I doesn’t think it will be any good for anything but napkins so I have done that with it and made the rest into some new undergarments for myself which I hope you will not take amiss.

On a sadder note in the mayhem and struggle I misplaced the key to the cellar in the water and we can not find it anywhere but Jacques says not to worry cos he has a spare one anyway.

Hoping your holiday is going well.

Madame Grognonne

Ps the postcard is of the mayor, that the post mistress gave me from her collection. I hope you like it. She did want me to send one of her like the ones she was selling at the vide grenier but I was not sure it would arrive as they are a bit popular and tend to get nicked in the post. I don’t think anyone would want to knick a carte postal of our mayor though so I hope this arrives OK.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

A postcard from Ceret to Madame Grognonne

Dear Madame Grognonne,

How thoughtful of you to send me a cartes Postale of the Chief Druid. However it was rather difficult to decipher as your writing is a trifle small and the tendency to cover the card in script then turn it at an angle and continue writing in the other direction across the original text makes reading if quite impossible in places. May I also point out that ink blots did not make the task any easier? Should you feel the urge to communicate again perhaps you would consider utilising some of my writing paper from my desk and writing in bold script with a sharp pencil and confining the text to one direction only please?

I sit here under the fig tree in the shade and hear nothing but the cicadas and the excited trill of the fast running river beyond the trees, hurrying its eager way to its lascivious rendezvous with the sea. The air is hot and heady with the scent of wild thyme and rosemary. The world is at peace.

Here, on the border with Spain, we have taken private rooms at a chalet at the very foot of the Canigou Mountain where, according to Catalan legend, God placed his hand on the earth and declared that in this place all men would be at peace, which, I imagine, accounts for the distinct lack of Sardine gutters in the vicinity. A fact that is refreshing in itself.

I take it Chez Loufoque is also Sardine gutter free but would appear from what little I can make out from your missive seems to be under attack from Druids. Please take extra precautions with the household’s linen. The last time the chief Druid called in unannounced I recall we discovered, after his departure, several good damask tablecloths missing and a number of other items , including a muffin warmer that I can not help but notice closely resembles the hat he is wearing on the front of the cartes postal. Would it be too much to ask that, should the opportunity arise, you might be able to check the laundry mark on his hat and robe and if they contain the Loufoque crest retrieve them with as much tact as possible? The Muffin warmer was a wedding gift from the Belgium Nuns in Bordeaux and I am quite sure Reverend Mother did not intend it to be used as a hat by a heathen!

We travelled by automobile to Quimper where Jacques loaded us and our luggage on board the sleeper train to Bordeaux, all went well, apart from a minor inconvenience concerning youngest , a freight train and a lump of coal, which I mentioned in passing in my carte postale, and spent a few pleasant days enjoying the busy thrill of the bustling city, the opulence and elegance of a wealth built on fine red wine, the theatre, the opera house, long elegant boulevards, and promenades en Famille in all the fashionable places. The warm days echoing with tantalising half remembered memories, images glimpsed fleetingly in passing, recalling others long lost in childhood. Revitalized by a revisiting of a more civilized world and our wardrobes refurbished for the southern climate we travelled onwards through Carcassonne and Perpignan upwards to the cool mountain air, fresh and welcoming after the intense heat of the plains.

We have come here to the mountains for the cure, three weeks of taking the hot sulphurous waters at the thermal spa, of evenings spent sipping chilled champagne in languid contemplation of nature’s beauty, of mud baths and massage to rinse and pummel and ease away the drab, damp Breton Summer and fortify me for the cold wet winter that inevitably lies ahead. Meanwhile Chief Patissier will indulge himself with good wine, fine food and the company of others of similar persuasion, whilst the children will run wild like street urchins tickling trout in the streams and chasing each other like wild goats on the mountains passes.

I do hope all is well Chez Nous but trust you ,Madame Grognonne, to maintain the family home in some semblance of order in our absence. If there are any problems please do not hesitate to alert me to them.

Yours Madame Un Peu Loufoque

The painting is by Spanish artist Juan Gris, who was born in Mar. 13, 1887 previously known as Jose Victoriano Gonzalez, he changed his name having become the friend of a man called Picasso in Paris, , although Jacques never mentioned Picasso in person, I wonder if he knew him. Perhaps you might ask him? The painting shows the town of Ceret, through which we travelled en route to our chalet. The painting captures the heat and the strength of the landscape depicted in the cubist style that is so modern and popular here. If you can get to grips with the strange angles and the odd juxtaposition of trees and houses I think you might find it quite appealing in a rather avant-garde sort of way.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

A postcard to Madame Loufoque from Madame Grognonne

Dear Madame,

I am writing to inform you that the cases of wine master ordered have been delivered and that that I have made sure Jacques has stored 'em with care in the cave chez Loufoque as directed. I have taken the key myself and hidden it in my bodice in order to keep it safe and out of harms way. I had thought to secrete it in my combinations but thought it the first place he would look. Apart from the other evening when I accidently shot the new gendarmes wife in the derriere, mistaking her for an intruder, as she was bending over in the melon beds all has been quiet. having mistaken her for an intruder having seen her bending over in the melon beds. She claimed she was admiring the cantaloupes but I suspect she was hoping for a free fondle of Loic’s appendages when no one was about. What she thought she was doing coming and sticking her nose in uninvited I have no idea but she was most discombobulated she was! A small fight broke out in the village between the chief Druid and the curé regarding sharing the offerings at Loic’s shrine, as the chief Druid says fertility is a pagan thing and the church has no right to go pinching his customers. The druids have set up a rival stall close by the village lavoire and are selling postcards of the chief druid for 2 centimes each so I has got one here to send you so as that you knows what he looks like. I am not sure why he is dressed in a large napkin but think it must be cos Druids is notoriously messy eaters. Meanwhile the pigs have been very lonesome since Loic has been away and Jacques has taken them into the stable with Marron the horse to keep them company. This makes it rather hard for me to sleep what with Jacques, the pigs and the horse all snoring and farting in their sleep. It does however keep the place warm on these unseasonably chilly nights.

respectable regards from Madame Grognonne
Ps please send grosse bissoux to the children.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

A Postcard from Bordeaux

Cher Madame Grognonne,

As you can see from this carte postal we have safely completed the first stage of our voyage and, despite your fears, have lost neither luggage nor children, although we did have a slight moment of panic on our arrival at Bordeaux station when youngest accidently found himself unexpectedly bound for Italy on a transcontinental freight train, having stepped briefly on board to examine the driving mechanism of the engine.

Luckily he had the foresight to judiciously employ his sling shot and with the aid of a well aimed ,and unusually large, lump of coal ,was soon reunited safely with us unharmed when the train was forced to return to the station in order for the driver to receive urgent medical attention for an unexplained and rather nasty head wound.

Chief Patissier has ordered a quantity of wine for the cellar and asks that you keep an eye out for its arrival and ensure that Jacques does not mistake it for horse liniment in our absence. I trust all is well Chez Nous and that you have had no further trouble with fickle fishwives and others of their ilk.

I leave the household in your capable hands.

Yours un peu loufoque

Friday, 10 August 2007

Adeui mon amis!

Quite frankly it has been rather a vexing week, what with the incident of the sardine gutters invasion and all that came after it, together with the arrival of some rather unsavoury characters dans le village, and a rather unexpected turn in events, regarding which I shall no doubt enlighten you further at some later date. Chief Patissier has decided ,therefore, that he shall close the biscuiterie, it being the week of the assumption, and we shall, as will all of France ,indulge in a small vacances.

Jacques has packed the autombobile, Madame Grognonne has prepared a splendid hamper and the children are all scrubbed and dressed. We shall leave at dusk once the cooler air affords us more comfort to travel. I have no idea where we are headed but trust as ever in my dear Chief Patissier to provide a firm hand on the helm and to steer us to calmer waters, far from the constant clamouring that seems to have invaded our once tranquille home. We felt it wise under the circumstances to leave Loic in the tender care of a rather charming person , whom, he met at the lavoire on the fateful day of his clandestine leg fitting, I am sure in their kind hands he will be safe from unseemly followers and yet more unfortunate events.

The honour of the family name and the chateau are to be left in Madame Grognonnes capable hands and what with the dogs and her rifle I am sure she will be more than capable of dealing with any interlopers in our absence.

Adeui my dearest hearts and I wish you well and hope that we may meet again!
Today's painting is by the Artist Mark Gertler 1891-1939 Supper (Natalie Bevan), I rather like the languid feel of it, so calming amongst all the frenetic activity of late!!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Un Peu Loufoque with girded loins and Sardine gutters

I lay in my bed just as the faint light of dawn pressed its way unasked through the shutters, listening intently to the unmistakable sound of the drawing back of a heavy bolt down in the yard below my window. My immediate thought was that it must be Jacques and Madame Grognonne having difficulty lifting the laundry basket in which Loic was concealed and inadvertently dragging his metal leg along the ground in the process, but in my heart I knew it was something far more sinister.

Creeping to the window and gently pushing open the shutters, as far as I dare without attracting attention, I caught that tell tale aroma, the unbegiuling melange of stale fish and unwashed bodies, carried on the light breeze like the exotic scent of some foreign flower but far more loathsome and nauseous, the unmistakeable aroma of a girlish gang of sardine gutters, grappling with our gates!

Taking a restorative glass of Cognac from my bedside decanter, kept there for just such an emergency, I attired myself quickly in a pair of chief Patissier’s trousers and a knitted pullover and, adding Madame Grognonne’s Kendo Breast plate and the colonels helmet for protection, made my way stealthily towards the tower room where I might afford myself a better view. Chief Patissier and the rest of the household having already left on their mission to safely obtain a new limb for Loic; it remained to me to protect the children and chateau Loufoque from the marauding Mademoiselles de la mer! The fish filiters had taken their first false steps and if they were lucky would live to regret their foolishness for the remainder of their days! I was confident for, in the words of the family motto carved above the front door: "Ce n'est qu'un couillon qui embête un Loufoque ".....Only a fool fools with a Loufoque!

From my new vantage point I could see their shapes outlined in the dim light, the great wooden gates were pushed open and a group of 4 fish filleting females were stealthfully making their way across towards the rear of the stables in the general direction of the potting shed that Loic calls home. I say stealthfully but it is virtually impossible for well built women to tiptoe undetected in wooden sabots and the fish filiters, not being renowned for their intellectual quick thinking, had not thought to remove them.

This was there second mistake, the sound of their metal studded clogs on the cobbles alerted the dogs sleeping inside the stables with Marron the horse and they barked vociferously and leapt at the door forcing it open in their haste to get at the intruders. We had had heavy dew in the night, granite cobbles being slippery when wet and metal studded clogs not being designed as footwear for athletic pursuits, it is unsurprising then that one slipped on her efforts to outrun the hounds and was set upon by them having knocked her self unconscious on the granite. Alas, I suspect the liberal application of old cooking oil I had applied earlier on the stones had not done much to help their sure footedness either.

That left three heading off past my potager, their third error of judgement, I find fish filiters so predictable.

Passing past the pottage and into the undergrowth of the overgrown vegetation, it has been a trifle difficult for Loic to successfully tend to the artichokes of late what with his foot being on backwards and his cult status, they disappeared from sight but not until I heard the satisfying sound of a muffled grunt, the like of which might easily have been caused by an unsuspecting fish filliter catching her foot in a well hidden snare and being catapulted skywards to hang upside down in the apple tree, having first been knocked insensible by a cricket ball launched by a giant catapult hidden amongst the potatoes which she had inadvertently triggered by her careless footwork.

That left two, treading down my asparagus and trampling the tomatoes in their unseemly rush to ransack Loics rucksack.

Since returning from Passiondale poor Loic has never quite settled to civilian life, having I suspect left so much of himself upon the battle field, except for the piece of him he carried in a jar pickled in formaldehyde but we try not to think about that too often. He has eschewed all attempts at domesticity and lived like the boy soldier he once was, his scant possessions piled in his grubby military knapsack camping in he corner of the potting shed with the pigs.

During the interminable rainfall of this wet summer Youngest, Loic and Jacques had constructed a sophisticated drainage system designed to divert flood water to the basin at the end of the orchard. The sun being finally with us and fear of flooding past, they had put this to good use as a slurry pit for the fumier from our many and various animals, its bulk being recently increased greatly by a timely contribution from Yannick of this year’s cow dung. Youngest has high hopes of building a machine to produce fuel from methayne gas. In order to preserve the heat the top of the slurry pit is concealed with reeds and straw. Sadly our sardine saboteurs were unaware of my budding physicists plans and I could not help but smile as heard the unmistakable sound of someone falling headlong into the pit having trodden upon the straw.

That left but one wicked wench left crashing her way towards the door of Loics lair, cleverly avoiding the slop bucket left suspended above the door to deter intruders. Alas though for her not clever enough, as I clearly discerned the sound of the door being pulled open was swiftly followed by the noise of disgruntled pigs disturbed untimely from their sleep by the invasion of the potting shed. Pigs are very territorial creatures as our last vile voleur found as she was pushed backwards in the Basin by a dozen cross cochons searching for their breakfast.

Happy in the knowledge that all was now well I returned to my room to dress myself in more suitable attire and having done so flung open my shutters to the jolly vision of the now sunlit courtyard below , with 4 filthy fish filliters retreating out of the gates in an ungainly fashion pursued by barking dogs and grunting pigs.

It is always a fine feeling when one starts the day with a good deed done before breakfast!

I have included a picture of the fisher girls of finsitere to give you an idea of their general build and dress, although in this photograph they are busily employed transporting fresh tuna from the fishing vessel, I am sure you get the general impression of them and can well imagine their rather odorous aroma, fish being a notoriously difficult smell to banish I can only hope the additional of animal manure can only serve to mask its pungency. One can quite see that they might go to any lengths to get hold of some of Loic’s belongings to act as charms for fertility after all it would take a strong stomach to get close enough to get to know them let alone anything else!