Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

Today’s MLM is brought to you by Elton John with I’m Still Standing. 

I might not be off to Cannes today for a little summer sunshine – the beach at the plan d’eau will have to do. I’m pretty sure there won’t be any flamboyantly camp Strictly judges in off-the-shoulder leotards or dressed up as gendarmes. That’s a bit of a shame. The best you get at the plan d’eau is the occasional firefighters’ team practising manoeuvers.

There is much to love this Monday morning – not least the weekend of fireworks. Last night’s fireworks were set to classical music and were quite delightful. Better even so the little celebration of rural French life. There were about fifty or so wooden games all set up, and in true English style, we were there massively early and even got to park right next to the gate.

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Polly beat me 6-2 and I seriously question my gaming abilities. Ironically, I was very good at a strategy one where you have to isolate your opponent’s pieces by removing bridges – that says a lot about me.

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I lost at everything else, including ‘blow a ball into your opponent’s hole’ and ‘throw some little barrels over your opponent’s side using chopsticks’. Oh well. I don’t think I’m less of a person for it.

Before we went up to the Bel Air stadium in La Rochefoucauld, we had a wander through the town. No matter how many times I walk through it, it’s always entrancing. There was a group of guys sitting on a bench at the foot of the chateau just chatting and enjoying the summer evening; I can’t help but wonder if their conversations were as lurid as they would have been should there have been a group of ladies in the same seats instead.

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I’m a lucky girl to live in such a beautiful place.

IMG_0584Next week, it is the medieval festival in La Rochefoucauld – and though it’s a poor relation to the one at Dignac, it’s still good fun. Nothing like wandering around a castle to remind you why people want revolutions.

Much Love, too, to an old school friend who is planning on stopping a few days as he tours around France on his motorbike. We had a ‘short’ skype conversation last night that ended up 30 minutes long when it was only supposed to be five minutes. I have absolutely no idea what we used to talk about as teenagers, but I know I ran up a massive bill (sorry Mum!) and we must have spent an hour on the phone every night. It’s great to have those people in your life where you can just rattle on and they rattle back and nothing much gets said but time passes easily. Years can go by without seeing each other, but when you do, you just fall into the same random chat as you ever did.

Funny how things come round again – one of the ‘highlights’ of our sixth form years was a trip to Le Mans. I say highlights since it was a great trip for me, but singularly managed to elicit everyone else’s grumpy face.

I would like to say it was because I’d been on exchange before – to Angoulême by coincidence, now it is my nearest big town. I was well used to French habits. French children, by and large, go from being children to being young men and women. They don’t become teenagers, at least not to the same extent. Though at seventeen, we’d all passed through teenage angst, the difference between the English and French was a little too hard to stomach for anyone who hadn’t gone native before. I wonder if our French hosts bitched about us as much as we bitched about them.

I was lucky. I stayed with a fabulous woman and her two children, Olivier and Raphaëlle. She took us for pancakes in Vieux Mans, to see Chenonceau and Blois and Chambord. Raphaëlle taught me useful French, like all the slang, and having been subjected to earlier exchanges, I was used to the whole living and eating situation. Not so as a younger girl when I came to Angoulême.

The house in which I stayed always freaked me out. There was a typical sous-sol – for those of you familiar with modern French houses, there is often a garage on the ground floor, and a couple of utility rooms. Everything else happens on the first floor – and there will be bedrooms on the same floor as the kitchen. As a teenager that bemused me. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that bedrooms went off the kitchen.

Also, they had immaculate parquet floors, and in my innocence, I thought they were too poor for carpets. The only place I went that didn’t have carpet was school.

The final thing that freaked me out was the whole three-course or four-course eating experience. We had two dishes at home. The main dish, and, if we were lucky, a pudding. Here, we had salad, then vegetables and meat, then dessert. Plus, we had to keep our cutlery from the salad for the second dish. I was appalled. It was as if somebody had given me a licked spoon to eat my trifle with. I couldn’t understand why anyone would eat a plate of tomatoes with oil on them. For me, a salad was composed of three things. Lettuce. Cucumber. Tomato. And we didn’t pour oil on it. I was such a little snob with weird British cultural values.

Funny to think those things became cultural norms in England. Parquet floors and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. Also funny to think I now live right up the road from that first exchange visit in my home town’s twin town.

Anyway, Polly and I are off out the garden for a bit of light gardening, tying in the vines and bringing the garden back under control a little. Then it will be the plan d’eau for a little R&R.

summer

 

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6 thoughts on “Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

  1. Hi,
    Interesting post. My children have great memories of their exchange and work experience visits to the Limoges area.
    By coincidence my HoD when I first started teaching now lives in Dignac and is involved in the medieval festival there. From the photographs he sends it appears to be a fantastic event. When I retire I’ll travel down from Le Petit Pressigny to check it out!

    1. It’d be well worth it, Gaynor. It’s fantastic! Make sure you stop in La Rochefoucauld too! When I posted on facebook about going to the fireworks in Angoulême, it unleashed an onslaught of memories from my friends back in Bury, since many of us came on exchange to France in the 80s – I think mostly they were positive memories!

  2. What an interesting post! It reminds me of spending a year in England as a student. I thoroughly enjoyed the dépaysement. I remember being offered kipper for breakfast. Liking everything I thought, I said yes but my stomach almost rose when I saw what was on my plate. Still, I ate it. My knowledge of English was not bad, but since I had only heard it spoken in North America, the Birmingham accent was completely incomprehensible to me. It took a couple of months before I could understand my landlady.
    Now, tell me how you can find your surroundings similar to the Bruce Peninsula where I live! I will grant you that we both live in beautiful places, but they are beautiful in completely different ways!

    1. I think a kipper would frighten most, especially along with the Birmingham accent!

      I think it was your photograph of the Niagara escarpment with the water and the beach… it reminded me very much of the lacs de Haute Charente with the blue skies and the pines and the colour of the sand. The wide tree-lined beach streets are très typique. Can’t tell what’s growing in the yellow field in the countryside photograph, but it looks like rapeseed (colza) which is a big crop here in Charente. Finally… the hay rolls – I’m surrounded by them! Of course, here, I am karstic limestone, but whilst our temperature is a little warmer, lots of the trees and the shape of the landscape looks very similar

      1. That is interesting. I was mostly looking at your street scene and the view of the main street in the village here. I suppose your right and there are similarities. The the crop is indeed rapeseed. Besides, it is also all limestone around here (dolomite). The trees though are mostly eastern cedar (thuja) with maple and ash. I hope your temperature is not warmer than here just now as we are in a heat wave.

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