Tales from Nouvelle-Aquitaine #74
“ Les querelles d’ânes et d’autres histoires…”
(Donkey wrangling and other stories…)
With a break in Summer guests Kry and I had decided it was high time to have a small dinner party for our French neighbours Jocia, Philippe, Fred & Eric. English neighbours Terry & Lynda, Pete & Laura were added to the list as they always missed previous get togethers due to work commitments. Naturally Margaret and Stan were invited just because we love them so very dearly and enjoy their company. This would make a perfect dozen and a safe limit to numbers for seating in our West Wing Gite.
We had hoped to hold another ‘English tea party’ in the same manner as the year before but it just isn’t to be this year.
Kry had prepared amuse bouche of Middle Eastern fayre to tempt the taste buds such as mini kofta kebabs, a selection of boureks filled with feta and mint, chicken and lamb. Jocia brought a rilette of chevreuil (fait à maison naturellement!) which was a perfect combination.
The main course of roasted lamb shanks had been specially ordered from Sam at Butchers Calluaud and fell deliciously off the bone full of Persian spices. Kry had made a crispy Persian rice with a hint of saffron and a bulgar wheat accompaniment. Did I mention the Persian salads? Well, they were there too.
As I made my way around the table pouring wine it got me to thinking perhaps this is as it may have been years ago when the West Wing kitchen served as the main kitchen to Le Logis where food would have been prepared and served through the adjoining door to our dining room which is now sealed off.
After the cheese course we offered something sweet by way of dessert for those who had room! Kry had made a layered almond cake with orange cream and chocolate ganache. An alternative was on offer of crème brûlée with apricots. Kry is such a great cook, something I can only aspire to.
After homemade liquors (Vin du pêche, au Noyer, 44) it was time to christen our new floodlit pétanque pitch. I must say I was thrilled to see everyone getting involved in a game or two, a nice fun addition to the garden.
A few days later we picked up Matthew & Donna for lunch to repay their kindness over the past few weeks. Last time we were out Matthew had mentioned he had never been to Aux Choeurs de Bacchus in nearby (but elusive to me at least) Courtanne. I always manage to lose my way there but seem to manage a quick route back. We had a wonderful time over a leisurely four hour lunch as we did when we took our chums Peter and Laura for their first visit. Again on the way I got lost in the myriad of backroads and found an even quicker route home than the previous week.
For those with a better sense of direction than me, We can all highly recommend it…
Between these two wonderfully long lazy lunches we found ourselves sat in the kitchen when a message arrived from one of our near neighbours who had asked if we wanted to see some donkeys.
I thought this was odd as the donkeys were usually seen to the rear of the football pitch. It dawned on me there must be a problem.
“They’re both in my garden” came the reply.
We made our way around to our neighbours house. There was no sign of the neighbour (or the donkeys come to think of it). They had managed to enter another piece of land our neighbour owned and were happily munching on apple windfalls as we opened the five bar gate.
As we weren’t sure whether the owner of the donkeys knew they had escaped or not we walked around to see Annette our Mayor to see if she could contact the owners as there was no answer when we knocked on the door.
A phone call later and it transpired the owner was away in Paris, but his wife was at home but not answering the door. Maybe she was asleep as it was getting dark. We decided as the donkeys were safely enclosed for the evening we would try again in the morning.
We bumped into our neighbour Jocia on the way back home and started telling of our latest adventure, she started laughing. Then her phone rang. It was her husband Philippe who was on his way back home after sorting out a problem in the village with some donkeys. The bush telegraph certainly works quickly in this village! I couldn’t miss this and felt duty bound to help despite a pang of my fear of horses. My rationale told me that donkeys kick and bite as well, but aren’t as big so I might be able to help. Besides I’m a country boy now and should ‘man up’!
We walked through the back fields to see where the donkeys had breached the fence. All fences were in tact. There was only one option. Guide them through an old iron gate that Philippe had managed to open.
Picture the scene. Under a starry night sky Philippe was trying to coax two stubborn donkeys through a gate shaking a bucket of feed as our neighbours and I distracted them with the torches on our phones. I started laughing. Suddenly they seemed to have disappeared. In the moonlight I felt the breath of a donkey on my arm and I made a run for it tripping down a pothole. (Nothing unusual for me). My laughing had attracted them (or annoyed them) so I tried very hard not to laugh at the whole situation.
After half an hour and despite Philippe talking to them softly they made a break for the five bar gate that led to the road. Luckily we had closed it behind us. Philippe spoke some very strong words to the male donkey in Poitevan. It made a swift about turn and headed for the open gate at the other end of the lane followed by the female. Philippe closed the gate turned and smiled.
“C’est tout” he said. Just like that it was done.
I congratulated Philippe on him solving another mystery in Limalonges as he discovered they had breached the narrowest of gaps in the fence which he would repair the next day.
“C’est la campagne” he said wrapping an arm around my shoulder.
We laughed. How right he is. Generations of knowledge passed down through the years. I have much to learn…
A couple of days later Jocia sent me a message saying she had had an early morning visitor in their kitchen. Thinking it was a donkey and fearing the worst I was relieved to see the photos she had sent me. It was a large frog which she told us she had returned to our pond in the hope he or she may find a new boy or girlfriend. I replied saying that there is never a dull moment here in Limalonges and she laughed.
Our old friends from Brighton Paul & Emma had made their way across France by a series of trains similar to something akin to a Len Deighton spy novel; desperately trying to avoid changing at Paris only to be redirected at the last minute via a change of platform. Like many, they had been desperate for a break given Paul is a key worker. With no other guests due we had agreed to have them stay. It’s very hard not being able to hug someone you have known for thirty years when they are standing right in front of you. But we didn’t and wore our masks all the way home from Poitiers train station.
We had a good week showing them the local sights of Ruffec, Verteuil and Nanteuil and some good old fashioned rest and relaxation in the pool and gardens here at Le Logis. We even managed a socially distanced apero and game of pétanque following a beer or two at Chez Bebert with Laura and Pete.
Paul seemed a natural at pétanque too!
To help them with their onward journey at the end of their week we dropped them at Angouleme station to make their connections further south to Emma’s parents. With another week having flown by it was time for bed.
In the near perfect silence of the night we swore we heard a donkey braying in the distance….
Until next time….
à votre très bonne santé! x 🇫🇷🍷🍷❤🇪🇺
Paul & Kry x
Le Logis De Limalonges
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