With still a few more days of our French family holiday left, I was reminded of our last visit to La Forge, 3 years ago. As always, this was a wonderfully relaxing break with several key highlights, most of these reflecting the differences between us and our Gallic cousins, and perhaps explain why my friend, Vincenzo, and I appear to be rarely sober throughout our holidays.
One example happened on our first or second day last time when we decided to go ‘peasant French’ for lunch. In the nearby village, Chanteloup (the song of the wolf I think), they offered a very reasonably priced lunch aimed at the local field workers. This consisted of a full on lunch: salad / meats / cheeses for starters, a stew or similar for mains and then something for dessert.
“not sure how this fits with going back to the fields and cracking on with the old hay baler in the afternoon, but might account for the high number of solo-limbed artisans smiling cheerily around the place.”
I say ‘something’ as one of the key elements of the lunch was a carafe of wine for each person eating: not sure how this fits with going back to the fields and cracking on with the old hay baler in the afternoon, but might account for the high number of solo-limbed artisans smiling cheerily around the place. The wine seemed a compulsory element, even on the children’s menu, and we were two families of four with only me and Vincenzo who actually drink wine and both of us keen not to waste anything or appear rude to our agricultural chums. As a result, I do not recall what was for dessert and the 5km walk back to the house appeared to take an additional hour and according to our wives, Vincenzo and I were chatting s$%t all the way home. I like to think of it as wolf song!
The most memorable part of that holiday, however, was our visit to one of the local farms. Our friend, Lady Furness, whose house we stay in and who, with Vincenzo and their kids, make up 4 of our 8, Red (the wife) and our two children, Fidget and Shy, complete our 8. Lady Furness has been coming here since her late teens and, like any true teenage girl en France, has had a few Serge Gainsbourg moments with the occasional young farmer. The plus side of this for us was an invite to have a look around the local dairy farm.
So one sunny morning we found ourselves on a VIP tour of le ferme de Bobino with our tour guide Bobby Bobino. Obviously this was a bit of a sell to the children, and trying to persuade them that it was like an agricultural Disneyland didn’t really gain traction. However, once we arrived, it was actually very enjoyable: the automatic feeders, automatic cleaners, the automatic milker, the automatic … well you get the picture. It would appear nobody actually goes near any of the animals, everything was done from a Nasa-like control room, including the cow massager (I was intrigued as to which poor soul did this pre-automation).
After an interesting hour, all translated by Lady Furness, I guess the audio tours are still in production, we went in to see the young calves. These were very cute and the children loved them. Farmer Bobby even brought one over to feed with us from a bottle. He even demonstrated to the children the sucking action the calves adopt as if at the teet – he did this with his finger and the calf happily sucked away. Though this left me with a niggling concern as to how young male farmers discover the calves sucking action, it was fun to see and a suitable conclusion to the tour.
“like Jacob Rees-Mogg trying to chat up Gemma Collins“
Sadly the gift shop has not yet been constructed, so instead we were invited into the family’s farm kitchen, joined by some of the other Bobino family. Here we sat with those polite smiles and nods of 2 groups whose spoken language skills would not allow any cross-fertilisation: like Jacob Rees-Mogg trying to chat up Gemma Collins. Lady Furness did well to keep up some element of dialogue but even she was starting to struggle. Fortunately, Bobby returned with several wine glasses and some wonderfully chilled local Muscadet. Now we all understand the common language of vin.
Bobby, like a genial host, poured the glasses and opened more wine to ensure everyone had some, including les enfants. However, one of the drawbacks of living on a farm, apart from the constant smell of merde, is the legion of flies that find farms a feeding frenzy. Anyway, one of these flies had managed to nose-dive into Red’s glass of chilled white. Now Red is of a very squeamish disposition, and finding a Musca domestica in her drink, would tip her over the edge. Fortunately our gallant, Gallic host spotted the problem and acted swiftly, scooping the fly out in one swift move.
Now all would have appeared well and international relations restored you would have thought. However, it began to dawn on all of us that in his moment of chivalrous assistance, Bobby had in fact used that same, versatile and distinctly unwashed digit that had also enjoyed oral relations with the young calf. Despite her overwhelming panic, Red was however, able to internalise her horror and take her glass, pretending to enjoy it. Then, when Bobby’s back was turned she swapped her full glass for my now empty one.
Our ever heroic Bobby seeing that Red had finished her wine so quickly and with such apparent relish, topped her up again. And so this game of musical glasses continued for the next hour as Red swapped with me or Vincenzo, and Bobby kept topping her up. All of this was before midday and, by the end, Vincenzo and I were calling to the wolves again, but at least this time it was for a damsel in distress.