As the November sun started to sink below the horizon our infallible Tomtom ( a good example of an oxymoron) was guiding us down unmade tracks that the French laughingly call the D772 or some such euphemistic title. Whilst Jenny and I were absorbing the beauty of endless Poitou countryside the shock absorbers were absorbing shocks which, after all, is their job. The shocks they were absorbing were as endless as the countryside which we were admiring and about which they were complaining, but their complaints fell on deaf ears. The world looked wonderful and I had no time for grumbling shockers or shocking grumblers. I’m sure we’ll pay for ignoring them soon, but not on that day. We arrived at our destination, the home of Mary Cadogan and her husband Mick, in the beautiful village of Montignac Charente just as day gave way to night. The transition from the fragile, mobile cocoon of a car to the thick stone walled, oak log fire warmed intimacy of their house was a welcome one, particularly as this house is always filled with delicious things to eat and drink as well as delicious friends. It was to be an evening of reminiscing over the year which is on the verge of passing, but by the end of that evening we had hammered out a plan for next year that has left me believing, as Pip did, “that I/we have great expectations”. More of that over the next few weeks. Each time that I leave Mick and Mary’s house I feel that I need a bigger car to accommodate the fabulous produce that she packs into a surprise goody bag This time the peppers, chillies and aubergines were the stars although the preserves look special amongst which is a jar of Chilli Jam for which I am planning a good use, as yet undecided.