Saturday, 6 October 2012

Meet the (French) neighbours

Part of our thinking when the Old  Bat and I chose the western Loire as the area in which we wanted to buy a holiday home was that there were relatively few English people living there - or so we thought. Our reasoning was that we preferred to escape from English attitudes and experience the French way of life on our visits. We were rather surprised to find that there were two English families in the village, one with children and the other a more elderly couple. In fact, they impinge on us very little as we have never met the family with children and couldn't even say where they live. It was Jacques' fault that we met the other couple.

We have from time to time been invited into neighbour our Jacques' house for the French version of afternoon tea. This all started during one of the times I was there alone. Jacques had popped in for a scotch, after which I went to his house for a glass of wine. While I was there, it was suggested that when Mrs S and I were next there together, we should both go over for a drink. Mrs S and I discussed what sort of small gift we could take with us as Jacques and Brigitte, his wife, had both been very friendly and helpful, as well as generous with their garden produce. We decided that Mrs S should bake a cake, her chocolate yoghurt cake being particularly good. The cake was duly baked well in advance, and frozen for safekeeping.

As both Jacques and Brigitte work, the invitations are always for a Saturday and are generally given on an evening during the preceding week. We calculated that there would be plenty of time to thaw the cake once the invitation had been given. As luck would have it, Jacques fooled us on this occasion by coming over at about four o'clock on Saturday and suggesting that we call round at five.

Panic stations! There was no time to thaw the cake! I dashed to the local supermarket to buy flowers instead.

Being English, we rang the bell at just on five o'clock. Jacques younger daughter answered the door, and looked at us blankly. Fortunately, Jacques had remembered to tell Brigitte (he doesn't always) and she soon appeared to invite us in, although it was obvious that we had arrived far too early. We had forgotten what Jean-Paul had told us: if an Englishman books a table for eight o'clock, he will arrive somewhere between five to eight and ten past, whereas if a Frenchman books a table for eight, he might arrive by nine.

We were offered chairs at the dining table, and cups and saucers, plates, wine glasses and beer glasses appeared as if by magic. Along with chocolate cup cakes baked by Jacques and Brigitte's elder daughter. Mrs S and I looked at each other and breathed a joint sigh of relief that there had been no time to thaw the cake.


I have no picture of the neighbours but this is the village square, or Place de l'Eglise as it is called.

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