Hannah comes a visiting
22nd August 2015
Having got home very late on the Wednesday night I was required to drag myself (very reluctantly) from my bed early on Thursday to try and sort something out for the arrival of Hannah, Paul and Isobel this afternoon.
I suppose that if nothing else I was forced to concentrate on getting rooms ready, trying to half clean the place and looking in the fridge to find that there was of course almost no food. Can’t be out on the road all the time and keep food in the house.
So, shopping. I could remember that there was an embargo on comestibles : green, red and yellow, or was it blue and pink ? Only Paul would drink coffee, the ladies were on either plain water, fizzy stuff or rum. I knew Hannah would eat pains au chocolat for breakfast so I bought lots. Nobody would eat fish except me. Pizza would pass but I was thinking of doing that at a bistro the following night.
Also — with a big A — I knew that I couldn’t be bothered to cook. Like it or lump it, they were getting some sort of salad. I had some cold cuts of meat left over from the Canadians and that could soon be topped up with wads of things. Cucumber tastes of water, everybody eats coleslaw, how difficult can this be ? Oh and crisps lots of crisps, with luck they do lettuce flavoured ones.
What can we have for a desert ? In a flash of stupidity I disregarded lots of things because they had cream on them and Hannah doesn’t like cream. No, instead I went cheap and local. Hannah eats brioche and a tropezienne is basically brioche coated in sugar. Done. Half way home I thought, yes but it’s filled with cream ! Ah, but Debbie won’t eat cream either but manages the French custard cream. Like mother like daughter ? If not, all the more for me.
Paul, despite, I have it on poor authority, driving like a wimp made good time coming up from the Charente without any nauseas such as demonstrating farmers on the way.
He had mentioned that he was interested in doing some of the battlefield sites but that means quite a bit of driving and I wasn’t sure that either I wanted to do the driving or after a long haul they would be overjoyed about sitting in the car for more hundreds of kilometres.
I was hoping that the weather was going to remain good for the Friday and if it did I had plans for a drive round the coast. What I did suggest was that we watched the film “A testament of youth” which has scenes set at the hospital base at Étaples. The following day we could drive out to the cemetery and then potter down the coast.
Paul wasn’t driving, so Paul got to drink lots of beer and even wine with the meal. Never seen him drink so much alcohol, and I didn’t even have to force him, much.
Friday was sunny, we breakfasted and set out on the road. Half way to Étaples Paul started getting messages from his parents who were driving to Spain. They were coming down the coastal autoroute so meeting up would not be too difficult, it was more a matter of timing as to who would be where and when. Not a problem — meet you at the cemetery. You can never go far wrong meeting at the cemetery.
We arrived with plenty of time to wander around the nearly twelve thousand gravestones many of which are German. In her book (and the film) Vera Brittain spends a lot of time on the wards with German prisoners — patching up men whom her brother was trying to kill.
Paul’s folks arrived and we spent ten or fifteen minutes as they caught up on all the goings on that had happened down in Charente. We had already seen that the traffic going back to Étaples was quite heavy and they mentioned that there was something going on in town. We would take the scenic way back out to the main road. And scenic it was because we went over hill and through dale by way of wee tiny roads. Eventually we found our way and set out for Montreuil.
We wandered around the ramparts for a while before making our way through the the side streets to the main square and the swordless statue of Sir Douglas Haig. Why anybody would want to keep stealing his sword is plain weird — it’s a statue folks, he isn’t real. We stopped for a drink in one of the bars before moving on towards Noyelles and the Chinese Cemetery.
We eat our sandwiches in the car park as I pushed the point that we did not have long because we needed to be somewhere for 1500 hours. The lemon tarts would have to wait as we dashed down the road to the railway station. I parked up and left them wondering what was going on as two steam trains pulled in alongside them.
A few minutes later I had our tickets and once the loco had been turned around we were on our steam and coal grit journey to St Valery. Every time I get on a steam train it reminds me of standing on the bridge at Cosford as the steam trains went underneath. Happy days.
The Bay of the Somme Train Company has two main destinations St Valery and le Crotoy. The former is the more interesting town and you also get to see more of the bay as you come into town, crossing the Somme as you do so.
Despite the age of the rolling stock (which is all in beautiful condition) the train rattles along at speeds that would overtake Amtrak’s Toronto to New York express.
We had enough time to wander along the shore of the Somme admiring the mansions before climbing up to the old town where we consumed said lemon tarts whilst looking out over the bay. There were lots of sheep down on the salt marshes, the local speciality being pre salted lamb.
We spent a vigorous twenty minutes in a café fighting off the wasps that only wanted to be in the glass that you were trying to drink out of. Either that or buzzing around just in front of your face.
Back on the train and having recovered the car we went to my local beach at Quend. We paddled along the shore a wee bit as the tide was going out, avoiding the shells and sinking into the sand. It was a fine sunny evening but the water was still too far inland to be able to see the mussel posts.
Then, rather than cook I thought that we could eat out at the local pizza place. It’s ages since I have eaten there but they still do a good meal at a reasonable price. Like all places they make up for it in what they charge you for drinks. We sat and watched the world go past as holidaymakers returned to town in various hues of pink, red and brown. For every slim tanned deity that makes you feel inadequate there are at least two waddlers in ill fitting costumes that give you the courage to face another day knowing that you haven’t reached your nadir just yet.
Back home Isobel called it a day and the rest of us managed to stay up long enough to watch a couple of episodes of “Bones”, finish the cake and retire suitably content with the world.
Posted : 31 August 2015