Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year (2013)

Tuesday 1 January

Can't think of an original title for this post.  Happy New Year will do and in particular for the readers of our blog.  Best wishes to all and let's hope that 2013 may be a happy, healthy and prosperous year. Let's also hope that the violence all over the world may be toned town a notch or two to start with...

So, how did the new year start?  Of course we didn't get up very early and skipped breakfast. After that Kevin skyped and we talked a while to catch up on their and our holiday news.  For the rest we filled our day with this and that till it was time to go and find out what the 'dessert' was that we had been invited to by Mireille and Bernard (the neighbours).  We took a plate with oliebollen to share and set off in the rain.  Visiting neighbours here does not constitute a few steps to next door, it means a walk down our chemin, a bit along the main road, and a walk down their chemin.  Umbrellas came in pretty handy!

Upon our arrival we noticed that we were not the only guests, they had also invited a friend, so there were six of us.  The table setting made it quite clear that it most likely was going to be afternoon tea and drinks, which appeared to be correct.  I was glad we had brought a plate like the custom is in Australia.

We started off with a cup of coffee, which we again drink without milk.  I don't know what it is with the coffee the French people produce, but at home I can't stand black coffee.  Here I actually prefer it black.

After a bit of a chat, and after we have tried a few of the oliebollen, Mireille gets up and produces a bûche, of which I had to take pictures, of course:

bûche is in the shape of a log, much like a bûche de Noël (Yul log cake). However, before we get to eat it Bernard wants to take pictures too and all of a sudden we are distracted for a while, because he wants his friend to take pictures of the four of us.  This takes some time, because their friend is an old Frenchman of the country who is not quite up to date with all that newfangled stuff like modern digital cameras.  He's simply not able to press a single button on a little square box and is the cause of much laughter, in which he good-naturedly joins. We go through a series of pictures first, but he just can't get it right:

A lesson in 'how to take pictures'

Mireille is helping to press the button

Me on the way to point out something 

Bernard also behind the camera to help out

And when he finally gets it he has his finger in the way ;-)
We try to think of something else and I come up with the idea of a tripod, because my camera has a self timer.  So, Bernard gets his tripod and we try again, this time with better results:

Next we all get a glass of pink champagne, followed by another cake, this time called a brique (brick).

Bernard filling the champagne glasses and maman  Germaine in the background

the English-French dictionary in the foreground,
our helping hand 

Although all the talking had to be done in limited French and English and with hand and feet and all kinds of body language we had a most pleasant afternoon and talked a lot about customs in Australia as well as in France.  It was 8 o'clock before we knew it and after we had been presented with a few mandarins we thought that that could mean that the meal had come to an end, so by half past 8 we decided it was time to go home.  It seemed the polite thing to do, in particular when you don't know exactly what is required.

By now you may have noticed the difference between the two houses, René's and that of the neighbours.  Although the houses are equally old, the one next door has not been renovated like the one we are staying in.  It still has an old sink in the corner and an old wood stove.  The colours are even brighter than the ones in  René's house upstairs, and the table is surrounded by a row of simple matted wooden chairs (without a comfy chair in sight), but.... it is so much more pleasant to stay in.  It exudes warmth and cosiness in all its simplicity and unpretentiousness.  The one room is almost packed to the rafters, but it was a most pleasant place to visit.

Well, the first day of the year has already gone.  Time flies when you're having fun...


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