Added on Tuesday 18 Nov 2003
Shortly after the arrival of our new kitten, Fifi, and a rather disastrous episode with a recent client on one of my courses, I came down with a strange 'flu type virus. For the last few weeks I have felt absolutely drained of energy and have spent far too much time sleeping, feeling freezing cold, even though the weather has been reasonably mild, along with a constant feeling of nausea. I remember that I had the same thing at this time last year and all our friends have been saying that "there is a lot of it about" which did not make me feel any better though.
However my spirits have been kept up with the antics of Fifi, although she will never replace Gemma she has proved a very lively addition to the household, learning how to untie my shoe laces, hide in dark corners and generally playing and exploring the house. All great fun apart for her desire to pounce on my feet at 5 am!
Not having been feeling like going out much has, in fact, not been too much of a hardship as the local caf? has been closed for three weeks while Cecile and Lillian have been on there annual holiday. That, at least, has saved me some money. The village seems to go very quiet as the leaves turn such beautiful colours and the early morning mist hangs around. People seem to miss the social centre that the caf? gives to the village, even though there is the other caf?, there is just not the same feeling in the village. I am glad to say that I am feeling much better now and the caf? has re-opened this week and I am looking forward to my first foray for a small wine or two!
Our friend Alain came round the other week bearing a gift of a rather large duck, freshly slaughtered and told us to put in the fridge for a day or so before cooking it. Now canard is very much a local speciality but I must say that I usually avoid it (difficult) when we eat out in the local restaurants. I was, however, looking forward to cooking it at the weekend and seeing what it was going to be like with my attempt - my first time - to roast a duck. Because we have bottled gas here I suddenly realised that our last one was very nearly empty, the oven uses a lot of gas and the bottle always expires on a Saturday or Sunday evening when we are halfway through cooking. The nearest place to get gas is the local supermarket, which is closed by then. Even though we keep a spare bottle I always forget to get a refill before the last minute. If we run out then I have to go on around trip of 40 kms. to Sarlat. A classic example of my impeccable managerial skills! However, Alain who was here while I was starting to cook, was despatched to get another bottle before the supermarket closed and armed with this knowledge I assembled the rotisserie bits and bobs for the oven and started the duck off. Several hours later and having made a red wine and orange sauce for it we all sat down to eat. I was pleased, Fiona said it was very good but coming from a Frenchman, Alain said it was absolutely tremendous. Now that was a compliment even though he had had several wines! Plus there was plenty left over with which to make another different dish/sauce combination the following day. I used the remains to make duck soup, my very first time and, even though I say so myself, that was also delicious. The curious thing is that the gas is still functioning a week later. I'll bet that it runs out this weekend but at least we have a spare this time!
As I mentioned earlier, Salignac village does tend to go rather dead at this time of year with people shutting themselves up in their houses, lighting the wood stoves and closing the shutters. In some ways this is quite charming but on the other hand it does make it seem as though the village has gone to sleep. There is not a lot of activity going on that one is aware of apart from the routine of shopping and if you were a visitor passing through you would not give a second glance. However life presumably goes on behind this fa?ade with people visiting each other and recovering from the hectic summer. We also, at this time of the year, are much quieter as far as business goes but it does give us some time to reflect and perhaps re-organise for next year - we had a very slow start to the year followed by a very hectic spell during July, August and September, despite the aggressive temperatures that were prevalent in France (and Europe) this year. We now understand that 1600 people died in France because of this heat. All very sad how a government can be caught out on something like this but when everyone in France (including government, hospital staff and most civil servants) goes on holiday at that time of year I don't suppose that we can expect anything else.
The answer at the moment is to cut out one of France's public holidays in order to fund the excellent health service. I don't quite understand this but I am grateful that there will be one less holiday - of which there seems to be vast amounts - always when we run out of something!
Off to make a hot water bottle now - yes the gas is still going - and dream of the long, hot summer that we had. How times change!
Rural France? I love it!
?Barry Paton Nov 2003