Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The cunning plan commences...




Whilst anxiously awaiting my response to the urgent letter Madame Grognonne had sent me seeking advise regarding her “spot of trouble” ( by dint of repeated applications of large and regular doses of an intoxicating mixture of absinthe, eau de vie and cider laced with laudanum, and the occasional blow to the head) the Gendarme was successfully concealed in a semi comatose condition in the cellar at Chateau Loufoque for several days. Meanwhile Loic and the widow took turns to stand guard, sharing the domestic tasks in order that Madame Grognonne was able to go about her business and maintain the façade of normality, shopping and visiting the lavoire so as not to arouse suspicion in the village.

When, after almost a week, no reply was forthcoming and supplies of laudanum were running dangerously low, it was decided that help must be found elsewhere, and therefore Jacques was sent out to seek Antoine, who had been left in charge of the biscuiterie in Chief Patissier’s absence. Thankfully Antoine , on hearing the peril in which the entire Loufoque household lay, rushed to their aid bringing with him extra supplies of opiates and fresh engine oil , the latter for Loic’s knee caps which were in danger of seizing up after long hours spent in the cold and damp cellar.

Meanwhile the Telegram I had sent urging Madame Grognonne to do nothing remained un- delivered in the canvas post satchel of Jean Luc Perdu, the delivery boy, who was lost somewhere on the backroads of the Cotes D’armor having taken a wrong turning at Clegerac and headed off in a southerly direction by mistake.

After an ample meal and lengthy discussion around the kitchen table Antoine and the brave troupe came up with a perfect plan to rid themselves of their troublesome guests whilst not arousing the wrath of local law enforcers, none of them having any desire to end their days at the hands of the guillotine!

The plan was this. Dressing herself in the Gendarmes clothes, liberally stuffed with pillows,( the Gendarme being slightly more full frontally endowed than she)Loic’s widow, as dusk was falling ,was to make her way to la place de la poste in the village which lies in the shadow of the church and is notoriously badly lit. There, under the gaze of any late pilgrims still lining up to fondle the miraculous appendage otherwise known as loics limb at the priests make shift shrine , she would , to her utmost surprise, happen upon none other than Madame Grognonne who would be innocently loitering on her way to collect a baguette or two to accompany the servants evening repas. There they would engage in jovial conversation in full public view and part amicably in front of witnesses thus quashing any rumours that the Gendarme had disappeared or that he and she were on bad terms.

As if to answer a call of nature the widow, disguised a the Gendarme would hasten behind the church wall and secrete herself under a blanket in the backseat of Antoine’s automobile which would be conveniently parked there whilst he sought out the curés company for a timely aperitif. Madame Grognonne meanwhile, having purchased her bread, would engage the lurking limb fondlers at the shrine in pleasant conversation regarding the weather until Antoine, returning to his car, would pass the square and , noticing her there ,offer her a lift back to Chez Loufoque .

Once out of site of the village Antoine would drive to a pre-appointed rendevouz point where they would pick up the drugged and drunken Gendarme, now dressed in the widows clothes and supported by Loic who thanks to the contents of the children s dressing up box would be dressed as a sailor on shore leave. Here the group would part company Antoine to return by automobile to the village stopping briefly to have a warming drink at the bar tabac where he would let slip his planned visit the following day to his maiden aunt in Rennes, in order to establish his alibi. The rest of the group would wait in the shadow of the trees for Jacques arrival in a cart, borrowed for the purpose from Yannick under the pretence of needing it to collect fish guts from the sardine fishermen at Paimpol as fertilizer for the vegetable garden. Hidden under the sacks placed in the cart for the transportation of the fish fertilizer, they would travel under cover of darkness towards the coast stopping briefly on the road to Guingamp to collect Antoine, now dressed as a Sardine gutter. There was actually no need for the party to include Antoine dressed as a Sardine gutter but since he still had his old spoon sellers costume and got such obvious enjoyment form dressing in women’s clothing it seemed churlish for the others to draw attention to the fact.

Thus far the plan worked well however the party, which now consisted of Jacques disguised as an old deaf farm labourer driving the cart, Loic dressed as a sailor, the Gendarme dressed as the widow, the widow dressed as a woman of ill repute, Antoine dressed as a sardine gutter and Madame Grognonne dressed as herself, had many hurdles to leap before they were home and dry again in the safety of Chateau Loufoque.

Alas! I fear this story is far too arduous for a woman of exhausted spirit and shattered nerves such as myself to recount in one sitting thus I shall rest here for a restorative cognac and a light luncheon of poached salmon and artichoke hearts dipped in butter and resume my telling later.

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The photograph shows the long line of women siting on the bank by the shrine with some remarkable patience fro their turn at polishing poor loics purloined appendage. Some evenings I understand there are as many as thirty of them gathered there, and they use the opportunity to exchange local news and knititng patterns.

13 comments:

ChrisH said...

Fiendishly cunning.. would like to eavesdrop on Mme Grognonne's 'pleasant conversation' with the lurking limb fondlers (btw great photo of them. In the meantime is there any of that absinthe, eau de vie, cider and laudanum mixture going spare? Would like to keep some handy for when Mil next comes to visit (have yet to decide which of us to adminster it to). Bonne chance.

Suffolkmum said...

Finish your lunch, Madame,, and tell us more! A truly cunning plan.

bodran... said...

It sounds Verily like A fancy dress party we once had! but enough of that enjoy your lunch xx

LittleBrownDog said...

Yes, I think I may need some of that cognac and lightly poached salmon to keep me going pending the next installment. Can't wait.

Frances said...

Tomorrow.

Same time.

Same place.

xo

Fennie said...

Ho - for those of us whom heaven has not blessed with quick wits and what speed the wits may have had at all having been much diminished by the encroaching tide of late middle age - I was wondering if you could publish some sort of guide, showing who was whom and dressed in what and where and of course when. Mind you, I have difficulty following Midsomer Murders. Will the next episode take us to the Ankou and the creaking cart? Have to wait, I guess. Meanwhile I shall have to sort out some luncheon here for the collected 'fabricateurs d'etiquettes.'

muddyboots said...

finish your lunch & don't forget to take a little nap afterwards, before restarting the tale...

sally's chateau said...

Phew, can't believe for one moment that Madame Grognonne can repose herself sufficiently to act normal...

Pondside said...

Oh what a tangled web we weave...... Please eat a very big lunch UPL so that you can sit down at your desk sufficiently nourished to satisfy our curiosity!

Maddy said...

Fabulous [both the translation skills and the tale] You sidebar is a treat.
Best wishes

Tattie Weasle said...

A resorative cognac just the thing! I'm not even going to try and make any sense of this I think all could become clearer if I joined you for lunch...

Grouse said...

Hmmmm, now trying to remember how Loic got himself a widow............I think another tot of the laudanum, eau de vie and absinthe and it might be a little clearer...........

@themill said...

Poor Madame - a restorative cognac, I think.