Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rustication ...

With perfect 20/20 hindsight, we should perhaps have named New Dog "Shiva, the Destroyer", rather than "Jara, goddess of old age and occasional corpse-eater". "Cease your tedious wittering, you old fool", I hear you say, "can you not see that butter would not melt in her mouth?"

True enough, for a given value of "true": in this case, one which involves our making bloody sure that she has no access to butter. So far she has eaten a crochet hook, severely mangled the covers of two Kindles, devoured the front cover and page 117 of a copy of Good Omens (which I was actually reading although not, evidently, at the time), unrolled and turned into lace doilies 2km of paper towels and, just last night, knocked over and broke one of those nice old stoneware preserving pots, of the sort that you might use to store a winter's-worth of confit de canard and which, these days, cost a small fortune.

I rather think that in future we shall have to tie her up when we have to go out and leave the pair of them to their own devices, because Mischief loves company. And we still have some stuff out on the verandah that is important to us.

Anyways, the 13th duly rolled around and we ambled up to the sportsground adequately prepared - that is, we'd neither eaten nor drunk for about 48 hours. A wise precaution, all things considered. Sadly, no fireworks - the wind was too high, and we'd had the Canadairs circling lazily overhead for a few days beforehand, not to mention a couple of thousand hectares going up in flames.

Whatever, we did due justice to the food, and as soon as we started on one bottle another one, dripping with condensation, was delivered as backup: but we left before the serious dancing started.

And then a few days later we loaded up the car with woefully inadequate supplies of wine and food, stuffed the dogs in the boot and headed off up the A75 in search of Burgundy, and Ian and Marie's country seat.

Made good time - although it was perhaps a bit naughty of me to be doing 120 along the departmentales when we were finally obliged to quit the autoroute - so it was but mid-afternoon when we rolled up in front of the gate, only to find it blocked by some bloody Parisian tourist.

You guessed it: despite the most pious intentions Ian and Marie had not actually left as planned that morning, not a bad thing as we had time to exchange hellos and Ian left the combination for the wine cellar.

Which is, incidentally, looking rather emptier than when last I saw it, some six years ago I guess. Fair enough, there comes a point where you have to start drinking the stuff and there's no point replacing it because you'd just be leaving it for your kids to inherit. Which would be a waste, admit it.

We'd had time to unload and fill the fridge and unleash the dogs (who promptly went berserk for ten minutes) and then clean up the mess in the boot (next time must take some brown paper bags, Jara does not travel as well as Indra and to all evidence tends to get carsick, but at least we'd had the foresight to put blankets down) before Rick and Mary turned up, having been temporarily geographically disadvantaged.

We'd planned - vaguely - of doing all sorts of cultural things, including going off to see Mssrs Martin and Maltoff at Coulange-la-Vineuse to stock up on some wine (for the very last bottles in my possession evaporated a few years back), but as luck would have it the weather was exceptionally fine and sunny.

And as Burgundy is well-watered, that means it was also humid - to the point where, between 9am and 18:30, we all sat or lay flopped in the shade or in the cool of the house, doing as little as possible. Even the prospect of a trip to the reservoir for a cooling swim was considered and rejected on the grounds that it's all very well going off for a refreshing plunge and getting duckweed in your ears, but you still have a half-hour in the sweltering car to get back to the house afterwards and A/C is all very well but ...

So by general agreement, we did very little apart from a few necessary trips in the cool of the morning to Clamecy for provisions. About the only thing we did get around to doing was heading off to St Sauveur to see the nature park (Angela and Mary, who wanted to see Bambis) and the slowly-advancing chateau of Guédelon (the rest of us, with the exception of Rick who very nobly decided to stay at home and guard the gin).

Oh, and Margo and I managed to make it off to a pottery exposition at Lain, and it's being a number of years since last we did something like that we could not resist, and bought some shiny! sparkly!

(Not exactly. I got two plates which, being flat, are ideal for unmoulding as it might be a cheesecake onto and were therefore a necessary acquisition, and something that looks rather like a terrine dish or a tall sardine tin, and a couple of nice bowls just because, and six small saké cups which will be repurposed for whisky. Margo got a clock.)

Three couples, and we took it in turns to do dinner and the following day's lunch. Which made a pleasant change from the usual state of affairs. Rick is an excellent cook who can churn out great pizza and wonderful falafels apparently at the drop of a hat, Angela and Martin produced a sublime prawn curry, and I managed to find some popsicle lobsters so that was homard Thermidor one evening.

(Note, incidentally, that that's a lot quicker and easier than you may think, especially if you're easily intimidated by words like Escoffier.)

In fact the only worm in the apple, if I may say so, was the fact that the little épicerie at Sougères closed down a while back: something I only discovered after a fifteen minute walk under the blazing sun (with dogs) with the firm intention of picking up some bread. I was sadly disappointed.

And the dogs enjoyed it. For one thing they got to roam around the garden: something we do not have and expressly didn't want when we came down south looking at houses.

For another, the wildlife is much more in evidence in Burgundy - I mean there's sanglier and deer and foxes and rabbits around Moux, but they tend to keep themselves to themselves: further north they seem to be less shy. Maybe the hunters aren't quite so keen up there.

I took the pair of them out one morning, doing my rabid dog + Englishman impersonation, and decided - having come some 4km along the little winding (and shadeless) country road - to turn off onto a tractor trail which I knew would get me onto yet another windy road to head back to Pesselière, rather than give up and head back the way we'd come. (Yes, I sometimes make incredibly stupid decisions.)

Whatever, I was kind of surprised to see a head pop up from a clump of brambles to the left, and then have two roe deer bound across the road about 5m ahead of us and disappear into the cornfield, just their heads and scuts visible from time to time as they bounced along.

Took me some time to calm Indra down, and then then the next morning it was a rabbit that she thought might want to be her friend.

On the other hand, it took quite a while to persuade her to go past a few Charolais that were peacefully grazing in a paddock just outside the village: I guess that size does matter, despite what they say.

Eventually good things come to an end, and as niece and friends were coming down from Paris for a weekend house party, we packed up again and headed south, back home, on the Friday.

And despite the best efforts of a couple of Parisians who seemed to think that rear-view mirrors are reserved for makeup, and that indicators are some sort of fashion accessory, we actually arrived: in plenty of time, as it happened, for the Friday rendezvous oop t'bar.

Which is where I'll leave you. We have a busy week ahead: Sarah needs to go to the garage because her turbocharger is playing up, must organise Margo's new BFF (a little Alfa MiTo), and we have yet to puppy-proof the verandah against the imminent arrival of little Emma.

Wish us luck.

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