Sprung, musselled and smoked

The knock at the door caught me still in my pyjamas, even though I’d been up for hours working. I needn’t feel guilty when I get caught I guess, but always do. Pretended not to be here, dressed, pretended to have come back.

The owner here was dropping into Chagny to the markets and thought we’d arranged that I’d come with him. I thought that was a great idea. Apparently, again. The day had dawned sunny and clear and it felt wonderful. Then I realised he was leaving me in town, and I hadn’t brought the map he’d loaned me to get back again. No problem, I had been talking of using taxis so if the backpack got too heavy, I could always do that instead of walking. I immediately found a “Presse” and bought a map so I was ready for anything.
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There were French people everywhere. It was great.

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Wandering, eavesdropping, even shopping.

I looked at a skirt and asked in French “What size” (two words, right?) and the guy answered me in English. Guess my French needs some work. However, I persevered...how am I ever going to improve if these people keep insisting on speaking English?

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The atmosphere was great and there was a real mixture of ages in the crowds. Baguettes under arms and poking out of bags everywhere. Mushrooms I’d never seen before, sausages snuggled up in baskets, little piles of vegetables from small gardens, and the ubiquitous CDs, multicoloured clothing from Nepal, handbags, blingy jewellery. A group of sequinned youngsters, while nervously awaiting their turn, watched a pubescent girls’ dance group in lycra wring out the same steps you’d see in Australia or Canada or almost anywhere. Small children in the audience looked fascinated, older women not sure whether they approved.It was being held on the steps of the “Hotel de Ville” which, it is useful to know, is the town hall in case you are tempted to look for accommodation there, as I was warned by my friends in Bonnes.


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Onlookers in upstairs windows leaned on their elbows.

I bought half a florentine (baguettes were all gone) and two “pain au chocolat”, a sausage (I don’t know what’s in it but I know it’s smoked”, a “botte” of radishes, spinach, a small cake of goat’s cheese, a melange of olives, a bottle of rose and one of a red wine (wine is so cheap here) and two slices of ham.

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A restaurant boasted “Moules Frites”...mussels and fries, and forgetting I’d decided after eating them in Toulouse with my niece last year that I wouldn’t need to try those again (after discovering tiny crabs cooked in with them), I got all nostalgic about my niece and ordered some, and a glass of rose, and a caraffe of water. The waitress brought a spoon. OK...and a hand towelette...this isn’t looking good...and a big pot of mussels. I suspected I was supposed to use the spoon so tried with fingers and spoon, fingers and fork, spoon and fingers and finally spoon and fork. Was absolutely full half way through and remembered that was the second reason why I’d decided I didn’t need to try them again.

Then two elderly women tottered into the restaurant. Big pots of mussels were brought to them, one each. No...don’t tell me it’s not as strenuous as it seemed and that frail elderly people can manage mussels...It was fascinating. The first picked them up one by one, in her fingers, and just sucked the mussels out, smacking her lips and again using her fingers to pick the odd one out of its shell. The other woman sucked the first mussel out, then deftly used its shell like pincers to pick the next ones up, scoop the mussel out, and scrape out any remaining sauce. I didn’t wait until the end, but suspect they both finished their pot.

The bag was by now too heavy to carry for an hour to get home, but I couldn’t find my phone (must have forgotten it) and the pay phone wouldn’t accept money or my card, so I was a bit stuck calling a taxi.

The door to a boulangerie (bakery) was still open...I went in and a woman came out from the back wiping her mouth...it was dinner hour. I showed her the map and explained I needed to know where I was exactly to walk home because I’d not brought my phone and couldn’t call a taxi, and suddenly she’d whipped her own phone onto the counter for me. Funny, I’d assumed it was too much to ask to use the phone so hadn’t even thought of it...

Taxi called, directions to where I’d wait explained and confirmed, description so she’d know me, and warm thanks for my shopwoman who had become very interested in how I would meet up with the taxi who wasn’t sure she could get to where I wanted to meet because of the market. She said this new taxi driver is very grand. I thought she meant big. But she meant fancy. Nice though. And didn’t speak a word of English to me.

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Afternoon walk, flea market (same fleas you’d see anywhere, except perhaps for the crucifix amongst the tools). Later groups of people, some with dogs, some with walking poles, some with children or various combinations of the above strolled past the house enjoying the late afternoon sun.

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Lovely day.

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Incidentally, I discovered my mobile in the bottom of my backpack when I got home.