So, once the parents had got over they brought with them the goodies for my French friends (I like somebody else doing the shopping, it’s a bit like using Tesco’s on-line). Of course I then have to get them out to people.
Deliveries can only be made at the weekend because of course everybody else on the planet (except my neighbours) works, and I can’t afford to leave things too late because of the vagaries in the weather.
It was sod’s law that the Sunday before the holidays when I had organised the long run out to Cambrai would be the day that we had more snow than the previous week.
I knew that life was going to be difficult straight away because the car wouldn’t negotiate the backroad over the hill; I had to drive down the valley and out via the main road.
Getting to Arras was not too painful, the snowploughs were out doing their thing and apart from heavy gusts blowing snow across the road it was possible to make easy headway.
Up til now it had not been snowing but as I reached the far side of Arras it started to fall in very light flurries.
Not far out the Arras Cambrai Road there was obviously a change in Transport Office because suddenly the surface of the road became markedly worse which was not helped by the now quite heavy snow.
I reached Stéphane’s at Sains les Marquion without incident though the village was only just passable and had obviously received far more snow than the mere pretty dusting that I had seen back home.
With a garden ankle deep in fresh snow we had just an hour before lunch in which to get soaking wet in a snow ball fight.
The lake was frozen over with about 5cm of ice and when broken the smell of the rotting leaves was almost as bad as a distillery – the important difference being that I will drink what comes out of a distillery.
We had a very good lunch of baked trout which Laurance had been slaving over whilst we boys had been out in the freezing snow having fun. She says that she was happier in a roasting hot kitchen, but I think she lied !
By the time I was leaving, just two hours after my arrival I had to clear away a good 10cm of snow off the car and judging by some of the skidding tyre marks in the snow I was lucky not to have had another vehicle parked into the side of it.
Ever adventurous I set off for Manu’s on the far side of Cambrai. Although the weather was dreadful, it was very hard to see where I was going, I thought, I have got this far and besides Cambrai is a town the roads will be okay. I won’t make that mistake next year.
Negotiating Cambrai was hard going, not just the very slippery ice covered roads, but also the traffic lights and roundabouts. Thankfully there was little traffic about so I was left to potter almost on my own.
By the time I reached the road to Solemes I was getting worried that the road was going to disappear under the snow. I remember seeing the German cemetery on my right but only because I knew it was there and I was using it as a marker as to how far I had to go.
A little further on and it was a case of hoping that this white line on top of the other white is in fact a road – if not I am taking a short cut across the fields.
But I made it — intrepid old me.
Manu’s new house is fantastic. A finish concept and construction of wood brought in from the Arctic. It is so well insulated they have just the one wood burning stove in the front room to heat the entire house.
The downstairs living area is open plan and like the rest of the house is all wooden panels. The kitchen is Swedish (you throw everything over your shoulder) and despite its size Rebecca has realised like all cooks – there isn’t enough workspace.
The windows of the lounge face the sun so even on a winters day any sunshine at all adds to the heating. They have a view looking over the fields so spent an hour watching rabbits, hares, dogs and people hopping, running and wading through the snowy fields.
It stopped snowing and I decided that despite my short stay it was best to be off. It took me three hours to get home which wasn’t too bad considering that it would normally take nearly two to do the 150km.
So much of the route is built up you only lost time when normally you would have been out in fifth on the country stretches.
They got mince pies, and puddings, I got coffee, local made sweets and beer. A fair exchange.
Posted : 29 December 2010