13 August 2008

The Fawlty Towers of Picauville

My last two blogs have told of our visit to Normandy in northern France where we stayed with Lynn and Brian our ‘friends’ who we usually meet in the south. They are kindly ‘putting us up’ in their cottage in a small, rural village called Picauville which is about 40 minutes south of Cherbourg and about 1 hour from Caen.

Whilst their hospitality is welcome, or was when they made the offer, our visit so far has been reminiscent of the TV show, Fawlty Towers with Basil and Sybil, a goat called BB and a whole host of chickens, ducks and other feathered wildlife. The holiday was presented as a quiet relaxing break but the reality was somewhat different and within a few hours I was checking the tractor timetables in order to get back to the airport for a return flight home. The first hour was ok, just as it is in the TV show, but as time progressed the true picture started to emerge. Basil and Sybil went into overdrive.

As we sat down to dinner on the first evening with BB the goat looking over the hedge at us, I was just about to take a spoonful of the fruit sauce to accompany my Normandy Pork but luckily was stopped by Basil, sorry Brian, who informed me that the jar was, in fact, the jam-water fly trap and probably wouldn’t add much to the flavour of Lynn’s (sorry Sybil’s) pork dish. On reflection I’m not so sure. Also, when asked about our specific dietary requirements I had stated quite clearly that apples give me a severe guttural allergic reaction but ring upon ring of apple was placed on my plate and then covered with a pile of Cadbury’s Smash. In an effort to be polite, I scoffed the lot and then had to be given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as I rolled about the lawn with BB the goat, looking over the hedge and imitating my dying noises. Narrowly surviving that experience, J and I retired upstairs where I flopped on the bed to find out that a single sheet covered a base of pure concrete. Now I had a broken back and a bust head to go with my badly swollen throat nevertheless I managed to get off to sleep, dozing off in a sea of pain.

After what seemed like only a few minutes but in fact due to my coma was several hours, I was woken by the ringing of bells in the next room, or that’s what it sounded like. Indeed, it was bells, loads of them, in stereo or even quadrophonic and the sound they made was quite horrific and it was only 7 o’clock in the morning by my watch. They came from the church about half a mile away and I still have not had a reasonable explanation as to why a group of deaf, incompetent bell-ringers would start practising at 7 o’clock in the morning. After approximately 30 minutes the clanging stopped only to be replaced by a cacophony of cocks crowing outside the bedroom window. Why do they need to do this every morning ? Is it a macho thing or what ? Anyway, after 30 minutes, the cocks went back to their beds or more likely, to say to their waiting hens, ‘how would you like your eggs this morning ? Boiled, scrambled or fertilised ?’ – ha ha !

After the commotion of the bells and the cocks I turned my good ear upwards again and enjoyed peace and quiet for about a nano-second and was then shaken out of bed with what sounded like an incoming Tsunami. A water based disaster was obviously heading in our direction and I waited for the tidal wave to burst through the bedroom door but just as quickly as the thunderous roar started, it disappeared again. Later on I was to find out that this was the cottage’s toilet flushing system which was obviously based on some old jet engines which made sure the ‘waste matter’ was properly flushed from the cottage and out to sea with such force that it reached the English coast within 5 minutes.

Breakfast was the previous night’s bread which was sufficiently chewy to give me severe jaw ache however, as I had sat on a chair the previous evening which had collapsed, I did not wish to add to the distinctly frosty atmosphere which pervaded the room. Thankfully I recognised the fruit compote from the previous evening and left it well alone. I did notice however, that it was now nearly full and had a certain movement within it.

Afterwards we left on our first sightseeing trip to see some hedges and a big tree and were just being told that the lifestyle in Normandy is so tranquil and quiet when we happened across a couple of motorists shouting and bawling at each other in the middle of the street ready to start a bout of fisticuffs. Totally engrossed in their own little war they were completely unaware of the fact that probably for the first time since the Germans were retreating in a bit of a panic, there was a rapidly growing traffic jam with more and more horns sounding as each minute passed. That night I did my best to single-handedly empty a 3 litre box of rose wine, attempting to induce a state of complete paralysis in order to escape the traumas of Fawlty Towers and the attentions of Basil and Sybil.

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