Coiffures and purple hats…

It was time for a change…and anyway, I had made a slight mistake with a ‘change’ of hair colour and it had turned a subtle shade of green….brown green……

So with much hoo-ing and haa-ing I took a chance on a different hairdresser in the village and decided to go short and hopefully get it back to the usual blonde.  As with many villages in France, there seem to be an abundance of three services and our local village is no different.  As small as it is, there are 4 hairdressers, 3 optometrists and 3 patisseries.  It’s almost as though you need to ‘see’ your new haircut REALLY well and the either celebrate or commiserate it with a pastry.  Either way, it’s become a joke between us to count the number of all three in the tiniest of villages.  I hadn’t had time to go to a hairdresser and eventually thought it might make me feel less frazzled after a busy Summer so I went to one..which was a total disaster as the whole salon was as quiet as a graveyard and about as serious..and the lady in charge attacked my hair with a ferocity that bought tears to my eyes.  So when I say ‘I took a chance on a different one’ I went there in slight fear and trepidation but armed with a photograph of what I was hoping it would look like..sort of.

When I stepped through the door and walked inside, it was to be met with violet walls and a vibey relaxed atmosphere.  The hairdresser came towards me with open arms saying ‘Don’t worry!  I can speak English’ which I discovered was the only sentence she knew.  And after being pampered with coffee, being told off for having green hair and for much discussion in fast french about the photo, she began by ‘returning it to it’s original colour’ and then ‘flourishing it with highlights’.  Cool!  I was delighted and we had a good chat.  I wanted to practice my French which I did, she wanted to practice her English, which she didn’t and we got on really well.  When I expressed my delight in finally finding a great hairdresser she informed me that ‘finding a good Coiffure is more important than finding a good husband!’ The Dear One wasn’t so impressed when I told him that but I came out of there feeling a million bucks and decided to go clothes shopping as well.

It’s weird how you have moments in life where something clicks and you feel a little more comfortable or at home.  It’s not very often that I get to go out totally on my own as the Dear One and I usually run various errands together and sometimes Samuel  comes along as well.  But there I was driving this giant sized Rexton Jeep along the country roads and attempting to park it (but carefully avoiding parallel parking!) I’ve got to the stage when I can chat a bit to the lady behind the counter or at least pass the time of day with the man who comes to fetch the laundry.  I have no idea of his name, all I know is that he and his wife own Normandy Pressing and they now answer to Monsieur and Madame Pressing which they find hilarious.  But they are a very sweet hard working couple in their sixties and fortunately they have a great sense of humour.

Anyway, as I was driving down the road, a ‘something’ was coming towards me on the pavement.  I couldn’t for the life of me work out what it was until I got a little closer and it seemed to me like a big soft toy ball on wheels!  The traffic slowed and so did I to just about a stop when it came adjacent to the car.  It was the dearest round elderly lady in a big woolly jersey and gracing her head like a dollop of jam was a floppy velvet purple hat.  Round eyes and button nose had been pushed into her moon face like currents in a bun and she was singing (or talking to herself) with a mouth devoid of all teeth.  Her bicycle, a battered piece of equipment held together with string teetered along the path at a speed so slow that it barely remained upright and tied to the back mudguard was a bright green plastic crate filled with cabbage leaves.  Funny, but it was at that moment that I felt a little more at home here.  She made me smile, she made me laugh out loud and she was everything that the French countryside is….strong, natural, peaceful, abundant, hard working and full of character.  I wished I could have taken a photograph of her, she’ll be with me in my memories for a very long time.

The beloved and I went to the market on Friday for the usual fresh veggies and to have a coffee in the shadow of the old church with the hustle and bustle echoing down the cobbled street.  We are known now and various store owners yell bonjour and offer a taste of something new.  We were looking for monk fish for a dinner party that evening so we approached one of the fishmongers who reminds me of the fish monger in Asterix with the unfortunate name of Unhygenix.  No he didn’t have any but his cousin might and he pointed two stalls down to a younger version of himself.  And that’s how it is… the market and villages are filled with cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters.  All have grown up there, follow a similar line of work and get together for long summer evenings of gesturing conversations over cheese, wine and baguettes.  As we sat having coffee the young girl at the coffee shop came out with glasses of rose wine and past them down the rows of produce laden tables covered in colourful umbrellas (this is 11 in the morning) and the stall owners toasted each other with teasing and loud laughter.  It’s moment like these that you feel you’re finding a place in a brand new country, that you’re slowly being enveloped in a hug of local activity and are part of the ebb and flow of French village life. It’s a warming feeling as Autumn touches the landscape with gold, orange and copper.

On Monday I fly back to South Africa for a two and a half week visit and to catch up with family and friends.  It’ll be my first trip home in two years and I wish the butterflies in my stomach would fly in formation instead of giving me this fluttering mayhem feeling inside.  The Dear One is staying here with the mutts and will have Samuel for company.  The season is closed at the Chateau and we are looking forward to cosy evenings by the fire,, a chance to finish the cottage and do some indoor bits and pieces of maintenance around the Estate and for me to have a chance of facing my easel and pencils again.  We’re looking forward to the quiet.

For all of you along the path with me, whether you’re heading in to Summer or Winter, take care and ‘see’ you soon

A la prochaine
M
x

Chateau Organised Chaos..semi

Well!  Yup, it’s been a while but it’s also been a while since I had time to sit…so now I’m sitting…and it feels great.  A lot has happened here in our corner of Normandy and the Chateau has been buzzing with a form of chaos..sometimes organised..sometimes not.  So what have we done…before I start..let me just check the cottage kitchen…the Dear One has decided to pick apples to make apple wine.  All great when said, not so great while being done…I can hear the distinct sound of muttered swearing, the containers are being banged harder and the chopping is getting fast and furious.  On second thoughts…I think I’ll stay here and hum while I type….huuummmmmmmhhhuuuuuuummmm.  Yup, that’s working…so let me carry on.

We have had a range of visitors to the Chateau and on the whole, met some wonderful people and had some fantastic cooking evenings.  Just one lot spoiled the season, left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth here, but that is par for the course I suppose and it’s best to move on and take what’s learned with you.  Being a bit of a softy makes me want to make everyone happy, but, as I’ve learnt, some people just cannot be made happy no matter what you do so I’m learning to feel sorry for them and put their rudeness into a bubble and blow it away..pointless them spoiling such a beautiful spot here at the Chateau.  But that was only one family for one week…not bad.  The joy comes from so many other directions.  We’ve just our first wedding here and it was so beautiful.  Small, elegant and a lovely group of people including one small jack russell named Jenny who thankfully wasn’t intimidated by Ted.

I have discovered the joy (and ease) of on-line shopping with google chrome.  The reason being is that with a touch of a key I can translate the entire page..which means I can understand what I’m buying….tres important when you need to buy flowers to make all the wedding arrangements including table, entrance way, chair bouquets, bridal bouquet and buttonholes!  I ordered the flowers to be delivered two days before the wedding and stupidly took on the main wedding dinner for 25 people which consisted of 5 courses as well as a buffet dinner for 25 for the night before.  Getting your ducks in a row on paper is one thing, getting them to stay in a row in reality is totally another.  The Beloved took charge of the breakfasts and table layout for the wedding dinner which looked amazing when he had finished.  I did all the flower arrangements the day before the wedding which left me the bouquets and chair arrangements to do in between making a crab entree, slow cooked duck with prunes and dessert. I had it ALL sorted.  Early on the morning of the wedding I topped up the arrangements with some water as the day was proving to be quite hot.  I turned my back, wandered into the kitchen in search of tea only to hear an almighty crash behind me as one of the large hall arrangements toppled over and came to a sad demise on the floor.  More flowers had to be bought and I had to start again from scratch.  But at the end of the day, tired was a word I don’t think I could have spelled if I tried but we had a very happy bride and groom and an amazing evening.

During the weeks we’ve done some weird and wonderful things.  The Dear One tried his hand at topiary to get the ornamental yews in the formal gardens around the fountains back into some sort of shape.  Armed with a small hedge cutter he set to work while Samuel the gardener and I watched on with a mixture of nerves in case the tree turned into some weird shape and excitement to see the poor shaggy neglected tree get back it’s perfect conical shape.  The latter won and they all look beautiful now.

I am still keeping myself in macaron mode and practicing regularly to make sure I still get them right.  I do.  My fourteen attempts to finally find the right mix, the right weather, the right temperature and the right method have paid off and they turn out well every time…except…..I do still have a few ‘moments’ while making them and the moments mainly happen while trying to get the mixture into the piping bag.  Now I kid you not, the mixture for macarons is INCREDIBLY sticky.  I think you could successfully build a boat with it and it would hold together with no leaks!  Ted sits under my feet while I cook (i don’t think it’s altogether affection, I think there is method in his madness as things just might drop from heaven for him to eat..and they do) and he inadvertently got some bright pink macaron mix on his head and back. To get it out an hour later when I saw it was a major mission which required scissors..we’ll say no more about Ted’s new hairdo…  But back to the piping bag.  The mix was done and instead of making normal macarons, I was planning on making them into an almost ‘mille feuille’ and using them as a dessert.  So there would be a macaron base but the macaron would be big – at least 8 cm in diameter, then a mixture of cream and french buttercream would be placed in the center, around that on the outside diameter would be raspberries and then the next layer or top macaron.  Cool, I had it all worked out.  I put the piping bag into a tall glass to hold it up and open and dropped the first dollop of macaron mix into it.  Great, next dollop, the bag closed in on itself.  With spatula in one hand and bowl in the other, I tried to nudge the bag open with the spatula but forgot to straighten the bowl hovering above it..a dollop landed on top of the folded bag.  Ok, …no need to panic…put down bowl, scrape sticky mess off outside of bag and try and open the bag to put the mess inside it.  Worked reasonably well but now there is a glue like substance inside the piping bag, outside the piping bag, inside the glass and outside the glass as well as on the spatula and in the bowl.  Never mind, take control by washing your hands.  That done, shake the bag, get the mixture to the bottom, reopen the bag and lift the bowl.  Dollop the rest of the macaron mix into the bag.  All goes well.  I turn to make sure I have papered the trays and can pipe the macarons.  I turn for literally 10 seconds if that and what happens?  My upright piping bag folds over the glass and deposits the bright pink sticky boat building cooked sugar mix over the counter, down the cupboard doors and onto Ted and the floor.  I was proud of myself…I said nothing….I just stared at it…..in a semi trance-like disbelief…..and the two mille feuille macaron desserts that I managed to save out of the remaining mix turned out perfectly…I will try again…some time…in the future…..when I feel brave…

I can smell interesting things coming from the kitchen now….and the muttering has stopped..things must be going well.  Talking of apples, they are falling all over the place now…there are a lot of apple trees and pear trees dotted around the grounds and one of the orchards is just outside our cottage.  It is a beautiful thing to wake up with the early morning ‘end of Summer’ mists draped from tree to tree and peacefully foraging underneath are the deer.  I still pinch myself that I live here…we are beginning to be recognised in the village by the butcher, the market folk and Mazoline, the hard working lady in the Patisserie welcomes the Dear One when he goes in to get the morning croissants and gives him a pastry or two as a gift for his ongoing patronage and support.  We get given new cheeses and cold meats to taste as we walk around the market so that we can add them to the Chateau meals and once or twice a small parcel has been placed on our table while we have coffee in the market containing a few tasty morsels of a home grown product for us to try.  It’s all very touching in a way and makes me feel humble to be part of such a wonderfully natural and kind community who take such pleasure in family and food and are willing to share it all with us.

We will be attacking the cottage garden and the Chateau fountain next…we’ve bought some roll on lawn (online) which will go into our garden as we don’t have time to let the grass grow from seed without me going mad with having two mutts bring sand and mud into the cottage and we’ve bought some water lilies (also online) to put into the fountain once it’s up and running.  I’ll let you know how it all goes soon…

It’s lovely having you there on the other side of the blog…talk to me if you can, I love hearing from you..and please, if you write a comment, come back and see…I try and answer or at least acknowledge your words as soon as I can.

A Bien tot
M
x