I went looking for a château this afternoon and found one very easily. In the newly Socialist led Republique Francaise it is not difficult to find châteaux with noble French families still ensconced within. France may well be “gauchiste” but there remain at least 3000 noble families with origins dating back to before 1789 when heads were on pikes rather than pikes on hooks. So I parked my tumbril and surreptiously approached through the woods in the hope of vicariously enjoying some indolent aristocratic pleasures in the manner of Watteau, or in a more British vein, What Ho. Disappointingly all was calm, quiet and ordered. The only movement came from a white van, which I have concealed from your view behind the tree on the left of the picture, whose busy occupants, toing and froing from the château, may well have been brazen burglars engaged in daylight robbery, alternatively the noble owners of the chateau moving some priceless paintings to auction to pay for the roof renovation or a relation of Robespierre popping in to mention that his great, great, great bastard of a grandad had forgotten to top the whole family and he and his fellow “sans culottes” were here to finish the job. Then I heard the noise behind me, more felt than heard as it was movement more than sound, that had me nervously looking over my shoulder, fully prepared to tug at my long departed forelock in deference to M. le Comte, whilst my brain was flicking through the files of useful phrases that excuse trespass. In such cases I remember that Woody Allen often used the old Navajo trick of kneeling, begging and pleading. An elderly man in military fatigues, with round silver rimmed spectacles and white hair “en brosse”, was approaching me with a stick in one hand and a bucket with a perforated lid in the other. My rabbit in the headlights pose dissolved into bonhommie as the realisation dawned that this was a meeting of two poachers. Poached fish and poached pictures are similar in that first one has to catch one’s fish/picture, then get it home safely and finally prepare it so that it will taste/look as good as only forbidden fruit can. The shoal of tiny, live fish in his bucket had been retrieved from milord’s lake and were destined to be impaled on fishing hooks to act as live bait to attract the cunning and carnivorous pike that he proposed to fish for later. that day, a death so awful that it would have been heartily approved by Robespierre’s Revolutionary Security Council as a suitable end to anyone who pissed them off that on that particular day. Talk of pike led to talk of cooking which conversation led us from the shelter of the woods, past the memorial to the members of the village who had died in the wars of the last century, which moment included a paean of praise for Monsieur Chercheel and a nod towards De Gaulle if one could forget his politics, and onwards to his home for a taste of home made Pineau. His wife sported the same haircut and interestingly was the member of the partnership that did the drinking. He was teetotal but lovingly created Pineau and Épine, from the forbidden Noa and Othello grapes, whilst she sipped and gave judgement on the results. In this case Eve sipped whilst Adam delved which would have brought a smile even to the glum face of Gloria Steinem. I left with a bottle of his 2010 Épine under my arm and a camera full of pictures. This is Claude with a couple of his “cannes de péche” that will put the pike in the pot to create some wonderful quenelles de brochet. A good afternoon, all in all.
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