17 August 2008


Well, our short holiday in Normandy is almost over and most of you will have recognised that my last blog was a bit tongue-in-cheek. In fact it was downright rude but luckily neither Brian or Lynn have managed to read it…..so far. Hopefully they’ll read the latest postings after we’ve departed and even more hopefully, they’ll read this one before the other one !

Look at the picture. A magnificent, racing green Morgan sitting outside a chocolate box cover, whitewashed cottage. Both are stunning but both are surpassed by Brian and Lynn’s (let’s call them B&L) hospitality which has really made our holiday so enjoyable. Nothing is too much trouble for them and I’m getting used to regularly delivered glasses of wine and plates of snacks. It has spoiled me and no doubt will make J’s life a misery when we get home – after all, now I’ve seen how Lynn looks after Brian, 24 hours a day, I’m going to insist on similar treatment – why not ?

Similarly, Brian is allowed, without nagging or interruption, to potter around doing the things men like doing. Like just standing in the shed looking at all his tools. Passing the time of day with BB the goat with whom he claims he can have a better conversation. Looking at the grass growing whilst supping a beer. So, upon my return things are going to change but that’s for later. Back to B&L and Normandy.

Julie and I think we have an idyllic lifestyle and B&L’s is the same but different – maybe better. Normandy is definitely quieter. Even the touristy villages are significantly calmer than in the South where foreign cars are now reaching epidemic proportions. The landscape is obviously different. The highest point I’ve found on the map of this region is 130 metres with mile upon mile of coastline being below sea level and although flat it is far from boring. Turn a corner and you come across delightful villages which despite being immaculately looked after, appear to be deserted. Round another corner are fields of ripening corn bordered by beautiful stretches of river with not a gin palace in sight. Every village seems to have a magnificent church with stunning stained glass windows. There is no litter and you would think the roads had been resurfaced the previous week. It is idyllic.

B&L have been in their cottage over twenty years and we reckoned they must have been the ex-pat pioneers of their day. Nowadays as they cross the water on the ferry sailing between Portsmouth and Cherbourg, they say it’s like a club with all the usual Brits heading towards their Normandy cottages. Life here is obviously spaced out more than in the South where I can bump into other Brits going to the bins to empty their rubbish. Here, B&L live in perfect isolation from British culture. No TV. No British neighbours. No papers. I don’t think Brian even looks at the papers on the internet. The closest they come to hearing about the ‘old place’ is their occasional foray into Radio 2 or when they phone their daughter or Lynn’s brother.

As I sit and write this in their perfectly furnished lounge with antique Chinese furniture gracing each corner of the room, they are sitting on the lawn at the back of the house just sipping wine and passing the time of day. BB the goat is unusually quiet and the sun is splitting a cloudless sky. Tonight we are off to a chateau for dinner and I’m sure it will be superb. Then well return to the cottage, get a few drinks and gather in the lounge where we’ll play charades or we’ll jointly try and complete the Daily Mail quick crossword and after a few hours we’ll admit defeat. Then we’ll sit and talk and reminisce about the first day we met and discovered we had so much in common. Good friends are hard to come by. Keeping them is even harder. The infrequency of our meetings does its best to come between us but this week has been wonderful in allowing J&I to see B&L in their natural habitat. Welcoming friends to their wonderful home in Normandy.

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