After living here just over four months we have finally conversed with our neighbours. I am ashamed to say that although many times we have said that we should have introduced ourselves we felt too embarrassed by our limited French to do so; luckily the neighbours took it into their own hands and invited us into their home for a drink on Wednesday the 30th of December.
Rich had been in the cellar (cave in France) chopping logs, so was in his scruffy work clothes (tracksuit bottoms are de rigour when living in France, due to the various chores you have to do, such as cutting logs, cleaning out the fire, getting coal, or more recently for Rich and I checking out your cesspit – but that is another story) an old Tee shirt with holes in it, and a fleece covered in paint. God knows what they thought! I was slightly better attired as I was still in my clothes I had worn to go shopping.
The invite had come about because Rich had come out from the cellar to our gate and I had given him a kiss. It appears that the neighbours have recently moved in together and are in the first flush of love and all that it entails, and she had seen me kiss Rich and thought that it was wonderful (possibly because she was thinking look at the state of him and she still loves him!!) which caused her to come out and call us over.
In we went to their home, where there were other friends and relatives who had all had lunch. They were all very welcoming, out came the chocolate eclairs, wine, coffee and a home made drink called Calvos, which is basically a sort of apple brandy, think hooch or moonshine and you will be not far off the mark for strength. The French are very hospitable people and, as in Ireland, will offer you anything but it can be seen as an insult if you do not accept. So off we went me sipping my coffee filled to the brim with Calvos, and Rich joined in full gusto and had a glass of it on the side of his coffee, which was constantly refilled. In fairness he was trying to decline after the gentleman beside him, who Rich was having a great time with even though he could speak little English and Rich little French, kept giggling and indicating that the drink would blow Rich’s mind, but alas his glass was refilled.
The conversation flowed, as best it could, with their very limited English and our very limited French. A lovely lady asked me if we had stairs in our house, when I said yes she explained that Rich would not be going up them that night as basically the said ‘Calvos’ would render this feat impossible. At this point I poured some of the Calvos into my coffee to try and reduce the impact it was obviously now having on Rich, who was getting redder and redder by the minute. The gentleman with who he was conversing was giggling more and more (this may have also been because Rich kept pouring some of his Calvos into said gentleman’s glass) and Rich then insisted that he could have no more Calvos but thank you.
So out came the whisky and large measures were poured, I declined at this point so out came the red wine. Both Rich and said gentleman were starting to think that everything was hilarious, Rich kept calling him cheeky, which everyone else then joined in with, and his confidence in his French was starting to grow and grow, although his ability was the same! Small cheese cubes in foil were brought out and everyone thought it was so funny watching Rich trying to peel the foil off them – I had to do it for him.
Eventually we left their house at around 9.30pm, our dogs were still in the garden (they had invited us into their home at about 5pm) in the pouring of rain, the cellar door was still wide open, and Rich was staggering to and fro.
In the cellar door Rich went to close it and bring the logs upstairs, whilst I went round the front to let the dogs in and feed our menagerie. After about ten minutes there was still no sign of Rich and I went down to the cellar to retrieve him. There he was rolling about on his back like a beetle with arms and legs flailing shouting “help!” “help!” I managed to get him onto his feet and somehow up the cellar stairs, he then proceeded to make directly for the toilet to call Huey down the big white telephone (lets put it this way he was not well!)
After half an hour I decided that I needed the loo and Rich needed to let go of his new white ceramic love, and would be better off in bed. Somehow I managed to get him up the stairs where he promptly passed out. Needless to say I left a bowl beside him.
To say we had a quiet New Years Eve would be an understatement as Rich, bless him, struggled all day, muttering under his breath that the neighbours had tried to kill him; although I don’t remember them pouring drink into his mouth, and being honest he was a willing participant.
We have now invited them over to our house but I think that it will be safe to say that Rich will be in control of pouring the drinks! And slightly better attired!! We will also have the phrase books and good old google translate at the ready.
It is good that we have finally started to integrate, but what I way to start!!