Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dance with Death

I must have passed out for a mere second, before I regained my senses, the invidious aroma of the spectres pungent scent , as it crossed the expanse of the dark Kitchen lumbering towards my husband , reviving me almost instantaneously. As it approached Chief Patissier, it threw back its hood to reveal its face, and he lept forward to embrace the figure, as one embracing death itself.

It was at this point that, despite being a woman of stoical nature and backbone, I lost all sense of reality; I remember sliding floor wards, the cold sensation of the flagstones on my skin and the sound of wooden clad feet hurriedly entering the kitchen, metal scraping on stone. The noise of a commotion and raised voices and the vague sensation of being lifted up by strong arms and then after that all was quiet and dark until I woke here in my bed with the figure of Madame Grognonne sitting at my side polishing her rifle quietly in the sunlight.
It was as if all was normal, and always had been thus, as if the strange events in the kitchen had never happened.


The image above is of Ankou, who, in Breton Folklore, is the spectral personification of Death, his appearance usually is taken as a portend of death itself coming to take a member of a family. The Ankou is said to be the spirit of the last person to die in the area. It can be male, but more often is female, and is a tall, haggard figure in a wide hat with long white hair, or a skeleton with a revolving head who sees everybody everywhere. The Ankou is said to sometimes drive a deathly cart with a creaking axle and piled high with corpses. Bretons beleive if one is out late at night and hears a creaky axled cart coming along the lane behind you it's generally not a good idea to try and hitch a lift.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Un Peu meets her Nemesis

Seen from the darkness of the hushed kitchen the figure before us stood frozen, a looming shape outlined by the lightening sky, its face shrouded, having thrust the door wide open its arm remained raised in the air, its trembling finger pointed as if in accusation. Even the pigs outside were hushed into deadly silence by its awesome presence.
I clutched the cognac glass and stared resolute at what must surely prove to be my nemesis. Shrouded in dirty skirts and shawl the vision stood a good six feet tall or more, an unearthly height for a Breton. From its body emanated an unholy smell of decaying flesh and excrement as if it had risen from the very bowels of hell itself.

The only sound was that of Chief Patissier in the other room searching in the pantry for the means of lighting a fire and something to cook upon it.

The spectre spoke, shading its eyes as it did so as if the better to see into the gloomy room.
”Who dares to enter here uninvited? “ it demanded its harsh tones gruff and disturbing. “Answer me” it yelled “or I shall set the very hounds of Hell itself upon you!”

I could not speak.

Outside were the sounds of other footsteps moving closer, and the apparition turned its head swiftly so that its face was partly revealed in profile. It was as if the Devil, upon hearing a description of Eve, had attempted to manufacture himself his own feminine companion to rival God's creation, but had instead created a grotesque travesty of womankind. The voice, the height, all was wrong, and yet,I held it strangely familiar in some repellent way.

Chief Patissier called out to me ,some prattle about having found matches and paraffin, and at the sound of his voice the figure tore its attention back to the kitchen as if jolted by electricity. I gasped loudly as my husband, oblivious to the danger therein, re-entered the room armed with his treasure and immediately seeing the intruder cried out in shock. The figure rushed forward, arms outstretched.

The last thing I saw as I collapsed into unconsciousness was the sight of those large strong arms stretching out to encircle my poor husband.

The illustration is a photograph of the young Bernadette Soubirous who, in 1858 saw the ghostly apparition of a small woman who appeared to her eighteen times. The lady, as she called her, was wearing a white veil, a blue girdle and had a golden rose on each foot as well as "holding" a string of Rosary beads and caused roses to bloom in February. One can only ask oneself why is it that this young uneducated peasant girl is blessed with such a vision when I am rewarded by a grotesque apparition stinking of rot and built like a Blacksmith? Sometimes I really feel there is very little justice in the world!

Friday, 21 September 2007

A dark Dawn Breaking

Chief Patissier made excessively disagreeable company on the return journey home, having had to abandon a camping expedition with his friend Lawrence because of our sudden departure. He was petulant at missing their proposed trip, but was forced to face the seriousness of the situation when we returned to find an empty house. Strange he should be so swayed by Lawrence to camp I really never saw Chief Patissier as a camper, however, I digress.
As dawns light broke, casting its weak rays on the bleak scene of the cold kitchen Chief Patissier ushered the pigs into the yard, they had become quite irksome in their determination to eat his shoes, and closed the door firmly. It was chilly and I shivered although I knew not whether it was from the damp Breton climate or the deep unrest at finding our home thus. He kindly handed me a restorative glass of his best Cognac and I had not the heart to tell him it was really a concoction of eau de vie, cheap brandy, cooking sherry and cold tea the recipe for which Madame Grognonne and I had had long ago mastered in an attempt to curb escalating vintners bills.

Out in the yard the pigs were quite agitated, but I discerned, over their commotion, the sound of footsteps approaching across the cobbles. As the porcine excitement rose to a frenzy I realized that these were the heavy steps of sabot clad peasants and not as I had thought those of our children arriving with the luggage. We had left them to walk back from the station with our cases, Fresh air is, after all, very good for children. The walk from the station would have taken an hour at the very least. We had sensibly made the journey by dog cart in order to make the greatest haste possible.
If not the Children then who could it be approaching our door at this ungodly hour? Was it the sardonic sardine gutters in search of Loic? The might of the law come to waylay me for my part in the demonic Druids demise or perhaps worst still the spirit of a ghostly gendarme returning to seek revenge? As the noise of the pigs reached a crescendo the kitchen door was thrust open and there before us silhouetted against the light was a figure. It was an image I shall never forget.

The photograph is Madame Illettré, in the very dogcart which we borrowed to travel home from the station, Due to the early hour , and her being, amongst other things, a trifle deaf, we had been unable to raise her thus Chief Patissier had resourcefully left her a note pinned to the dogs kennel advising her that we had taken it. Of course Madame Illettré can not read but hopefully she will get the gist of the message and as Chief Patissier so unkindly pointed out since there is every chance I am currently being sought by the Police for spreading libelous rumours regarding the Chief Druid I may as well add theft of a vehicle to my criminal record. I am sure you will appreciate I found his levity a trifle inappropriate under the rather circumstances. I was not amused.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The return of Madame Loufoque

I can not truthfully describe to you the depth of trepidation with which I undertook the long journey north to Brittany. Having received Madame Grognonne’s last communication, and having had no response from my telegram to her, I had no idea what I might find at Chateau Loufoque on our return . It would seem my worst fears were justified when we arrived in the dark hours of the early morning, tired and travel weary from our long journey, to find the doors wide open and no sign of life.
We had come as fast as we could but it would seem we had arrived, alas, too late.

The kitchen range was cold, no lights were lit, and all was dark and empty. There were signs of an apparent disturbance in the pantry plus an all pervading and unmistakable aroma of stale fish in the air. I had neither strength nor stomach to inspect the cellar nor the melon beds but feared the worst. The only sound was the slight snoring and snuffling of Loic’s pigs curled up under the kitchen table, not I admit the most appropriate place for them to sleep but, under the circumstances, I had not the heart to disturb them.

The etching above is of the Prison in Vannes, an insanitary place with little in the way of comfort. When I imagine Madame Grognonne incarcerated there in, possibly shut away for ever for her crime my blood runs cold. As a housekeeper her faults were undoubtedly many and various but good domestic servants are so hard to find these days and where on earth would I retrieve another capable of pulling a governess cart unaided and wielding a Kendo stick with such accuracy, it has taken me years to get her to understand the finer points of English tea making! Had I been a lesser woman I should have wept.

Sunday, 16 September 2007



FAO Madame Grognonne,

Alarmed to hear recent turn of events. STOP. Do nothing until I return! STOP.Returning by train tonight. STOP. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES allow Jacques to finish off cellar dweller and inter in melon beds.STOP.

Madame Un Peu Loufoque.
The photograph is of Jean Luc Perdu, the truculent and tardy telegram boy for the commune who sadly, due to a diminished sense of direction delivered this Telegram to its rightful recipient some days after it was dispatched by the sender. The missive eventually arrived at its destination via Paimpol where, by chance, Jean Luc was luckily waylaid by an friendly female fish gutter who recognised the recipients name and , after a short delay, sent him back in the right direction armed with a baguette and a pot of Bloater paste for the Journey.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

A spot of trouble...

Dear Madame,
I am very (retissent, rottiscent , rattissscent),umm not willing to upset your holiday especially when sir sounds as if he is having a good time rolling in he mud with his new friend Lawrence but we have had a slight problem with the gendarmes here on account of you telling me the chief Druid was dead. I do not know who told you he was dead but they are very wrong because he was here only half an hour ago and very cross with me he was too for telling the sardine gutters he had snuffed it and was in trouble for nicking underwear and such like.
I told him it was you who said it and now the Gendarme has come , him who has a wife whom I shot in the bottom, and he would like a quiet word with you too, only I explained that you were not here and then it got nasty cos the gendarme said “AHA!! “ in a very loud voice “So she has spread rumours and now has run away in to hiding !” and I said no you was on your holiday cos you needed a rest what with Loic and the sardine gutters and you were somewhere and I was pretty sure it wasn’t a place called Hiding cos that dint sound very French to me and he said likely story and I said are you calling me a liar and he said yes and Jacques hit him on the nose for calling me one and then the gendarmes nose bled like a nobodies business and there was lots of shouting and the noise upset Loics pigs who were in the kitchen with us at the time being on account of them still missing Loic like mad and they bit the gendarme on his derriere so the gendarme kicked the pig and Jacques said that was not a nice thing to do to a harmless pig and kicked the gendarme and said ”see how you like it cochon!” and the gendarme fell over backwards and hit his head on the fender and is out cold but breathing..Just. I think.

Jaques says we should finish him off and no one would know and then we could bury him in the melon beds but I said know you and I were saving that place for a just in case we needed it thingy.

Please advise as quick as possible what is best to do.. I await your swiftest response. Meanwhile we have locked the gendarme in the cellar.

Yours Madame Grognonne,
ps I have enclosed a photograph of the gendarmes wife so you can see what she looks like, as you can see she is still having trouble sitting properly as her behind is a bit sore after I accidentally shot her. I Reckon she is an efnic monarity too but Jaques reckons she might be portuguese.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Dear Madame.....regarding efnics...

Dear Madame Loufoque,

I was very sorry to hear that the Chief Druid had drowneded, even though he were a creepy bloke and a bit of a groper as I mentioned in my cartre postale I wouldn’t have wanted him dead. And fancy him being a plant thief and all!! Cor, you know more about it than I do and I is here!! I suppose they are saying it was by accident his being drowneded, probably slipped picking plants by a river or something like that and his dress pulled him under. Although you do hear a lot about police brutality and efnic moniroites so perhaps it was the police what did away with him because he was an efnic.

Not sure quite what an efnic moniroite is, but I reckon wearing a dress and an embroidered muffin cover on his head probably made him one of them, that and the flowers. And what about the Gendarme then I always thought he was a bit odd but never thought he was one for stealing knickers!! Do you reckon that he and the Druids were in carhoots together what with the gendarme stealing womens clothes and the druid wearing dresses?

I told the sardine gutters , who are still lurking about the village green after dark hoping for a quick grope of Loics lower limbs about the chief Druid and they said they were not surprised because he often came to riffle the fish entrails on account of being able to read them or something but they reckoned it was so he could have a closer inspection of their cleavages, probably after fashion tips.

I have asked Jacques why he has an Eparé as requested by you but he says what is one and why should he have one and if anyone says he has one and he shouldn’t then he is a liar. Since it was you who asked I hit him with the frying pan for him being so insubordinatttive, insoorbinateeet, unsabordinatttit, rude to you. He was not very happy about it but we had a new batch of cider from Loic which was very good indeed and we soon made up.
I hope you and Sir are enjoying rolling in the mud with your new friend.

Yourse respectfully

Madame Grogonnne.
ps I am sending you a picture postcard of a Gendarme in uniform whioch the postman thought you might like to see on account of my telling her about the Gendarmes and the Druids, I reckon this one has been knicking ladies undergarments as well.