French Or Nothing


Last night I received an e-mail from David telling me there was to be a rock concert at Le Code Bar on Saturday night.  He knew it would go on the blog which he hoped would not bring too many people in ‘because it’s only a small place’.

Dutchman's house, Ste InnocenceJust before a dull, dank, dawn, I set off to walk to Ste. Innocence and back.  The reason I began so early was that I had decided to give Saufiene, the personable young man representing Huis Clos, one more day to make contact and explain himself.  If he did, I would tell him I was not happy; that he had telephoned me at home in England; that he had wanted the work done in January; that I had got on a plane to get here, despite the elements, simply for our meeting yesterday; that I had to have confidence that I would have replacement doors by the time I returned; and that if that was not forthcoming the deal was off. If he didn’t I would engage someone else.  I can’t close the most ill-fitting door so I sit in a draught.

Beautifully positioned overlooking the valley below St. Innocence, perches the house of a Dutchman I had met last summer.  I was intrigued to see whether he had finished the wall he was building at that time.  He had.

Road to Ste Innocence 1.13On the road up, some spindly trees had failed to release some of their withered plumage.  The surprisingly bright carpet of fallen leaves beneath them gave the gloomy day a colourful streak.  On closer inspection it turned out to be a layer of shards, no doubt put in place to provide purchase for lorries ascending a slope up a track that was too muddy for me to investigate further.Shard path 1.13

As I re-entered Sigoules I was chuffed to be able to direct a French-speaking driver to the boulangerie.  Now, I have been ashamed to mention that I had further trouble trying to withdraw cash from the dispenser in the village (see post of 25th July last year).  I was confident that I had the correct code, but when I inserted the card I was given two choices.  One was to withdraw the card, the other I didn’t understand.  I was too scared to do anything other than withdraw the card.  That bank is only open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.  I decided to go in today and explain my problem.  The single staff member didn’t speak English, so it was French or nothing. I managed.  At what turned out to be an unnecessarily great length.  She came out to the machine and demonstrated that the option I had not understood was to draw cash.  ‘Simples’, as a meerkat would say.  Then the sun came out.

When you have all stopped laughing, I must state in my defence, that this is a new and unfamiliar screen display

Soon after this, a very crestfallen Saufiene arrived with a colleague.  His car had broken down, it was raining, and something else I didn’t quite get and wasn’t greatly interested in.  I told him he could have telephoned to save me waiting in all day.  He acknowledged this and was most apologetic.  He feels he has let himself down because he prides himself on being punctual, and indeed he has been in the past. It will be apparent I didn’t quite have to say all I had rehearsed, but writing it down had made me feel better.  The work will be professionally measured next week and carried out a bit later, but I still get my discount.  In fact, in order to have everything ship-shape for Becky I am having additional improvements at no further cost than last summer’s quote.

Lunch at Le Code Bar began with a delicious pork and noodle soup.  A huge bowl was placed on my table for me to have as many helpings as I liked.  I’ve learned that, with what is to follow, one is ample.  The next course was octopus in batter with a tangy tomato sauce.  At first I had thought this second ‘starter’ was the main item.  It never is.  Today’s main course was tender pork medallions with sublime mashed potato.  Finally, my choice of dessert was apple flan, the fruit of which was shaved into impossibly thin slices.  The secret of the chef is out.  As he is known throughout the area it’s a pretty open secret really.  Max once owned the restaurant.  He was here for twenty five years before the current owners’ predecessors, Joel and Nicole.  As Frederick says ‘the same food cooked by another man is not the same as cooked by him’.


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