Monday, 5 March 2007

Baths are cheaper in France

Baths are cheaper in France; at least that is the excuse that Ian made, for us to spend a weekend shopping in French D.I.Y. shops. (DIY is ‘bricolage’ in French, which I think sounds much nicer). We left on the 5.00pm ferry on Friday night and by 8.30 French time were tucking into a three-course meal with wine for little more than £12.00 each, at our hotel in a place called Wisques, about 3 km from St Omer. We have stayed there before and liked it as it a bit out of the way; the restaurant is good and it is run by a friendly French couple. Wisques would be a tiny hamlet if it wasn’t for the two Benedictine Abbeys of Notre Dame and St Paul which are on either side of the village. Both seem to be inhabited and St Paul’s seemed positively buzzing, with its own visitor’s car park. It must be one of the few still able to survive these days. (Mind you, the monks around there seem to have spent a lot of time brewing beer so maybe that is why!) Saturday daytime was spent between Calais and Bolougne, in various bricolage places looking for baths, heaters, taps etc. After an exhausting day we drove over to visit a friend of Ian’s who lives in the Somme. Jacques-Paul lives with his girlfriend Madeline in a house that he built himself, together with various animals. All of us sat on the sofa together, humans and animals; while Ian and Jacques-Paul discussed the merits of various tools, sealants, fillers, ways of constructing walls and the price of houses in England and France. After lunch the following day we drove back to our hotel ‘the long way’, through the fields of the Somme, past countless cemeteries and memorials to soldiers killed in the great war. Every time I have been to that area it has been grey and wet and all you can see are miles and miles of fields and sky. I can’t imagine how terrible it must have been to have been stuck there, wet, cold, knowing you were probably going to die and missing home. However, when the sun comes out you see the same birds as there are in Sussex and the villages look charming and inviting. Jacques-Paul was telling us that there are parts of the Somme where the farmers still can’t deep plough because the earth is full of human remains.

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