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It’s gone quiet!

Well, today the last of the guests left – I think it is the first time that all the gites have been unoccupied together since March. The last lot of guests were all French – the Armistice bank holiday fell handily on a Tuesday this year, so quite a few people also take the Monday off (faire le pont – make a bridge) to extend the weekend and go away for a short break). Although there are a lot more bank hoidays (jour feriés) in France, they aren’t always beneficial – whenever they fall on a Saturday or Sunday, there is no day in lieu given. Some of them always fall on the same day too – for example May 1st and May 8th, victory day, which is also the same day as Christmas and New Year. So some years when they all fall on a Saturday or Sunday, you feel a bit robbed.

Anyway, apart from a few weekend/short break bookings, that is it until Christmas and New Year. I quite miss not having people around – apart from the inevitable knock on the door as soon as you get in the shower or put on a facepack, it is very nice having extra neighbours to chat to. But it will be nice to have Saturdays off again, no cleaning or waiting in all afternoon/evening for people to arrive. Today’s departures left me a couple of bottles of wine from their region, which was very kind, and of course the usual beautifully written and phrased comments in the guest book. The French language is wonderful and some sentiments just can’t be translated to give the same effect. One of my favourites:

“Charmant accueil à la délicatesse anglaise, rien ne manquait, nous sommes ravis. Mille mercis!”

“Charming welcome with Engish grace, nothing was missing, we are delighted. Thankyou a thousand times.”

It just doesn’t have the same ring to it – and the words ‘grace’ and ‘English’ are rarely found together!

Don’t get me wrong, I love all reviews (touch wood they have all been good) but the French do have a wonderful way with words.

Birthday parties

My 7 year old daughter, Kristen, is off to yet another birthday party this afternoon. Children’s birthdays in France are not such big events as they are in the UK – well, at least here in the sticks, anyway. Instead of competing to ask the most number of other children possible, only a handful of friends are invited, usually about 8 maximum. Much easier to cope with (and cheaper!) for the parents. In many cases, it is just an opportunity for the kids to see each other and play together, party games are rarely organised. Food is usually just sweets, or sometimes crêpes. The first time I hosted my daughter’s party I made a real effort with sandwiches, sausage rolls and cakes (I wasn’t stupid enough to inflict jelly on them) but hardly anything except the sweets and crisps were touched. It was almost as though I was offering them poison – I’m still not sure whether the kids were really not hungry, or they’d been forbidden by their parents from trying food chez les Anglais (English food still has an ill deserved reputation in France for being terrible). At least the party games I organised went down well – pass the parcel, musical chairs and statues – the children loved them, so at least I did something right!
Last year the trend seemed to for be having the parties in Mcdo’s – which is a pain for me as it is always on a Saturday (changeover day) and Mcdos is in Fougères, about 25kms away. By the time I’d dropped Kristen off and come home, it was nearly time to go and pick her up again. And of course, I can guarantee that any guests arriving will do so when I’m on the drop off or pick up journey.
This year, however, most of the parties have been at the house again, which is easier, although it isn’t always to find the houses when they are out in the countryside (like ours!). And during the last couple of parties, the parents have organised little activities for the children to do too – decorating pencil cases, making halloween outfits, etc. Still no food though, except sweets, thank goodness my daughter doesn’t have any E allergies.

5th party – lots of wasted food!
6th Birthday party – no nice food, lesson learnt!