Once upon a country mouse

Well this is healthy.. Swaddled sniffling in blankets in bed for late-late-night chatting, abortive blogging and CNN’s Election Night broadcast. Please let Barack Obama win!!! Some 86% of the French would vote for him. France Info explains it (facetiously I hope): “Il est français,” this because Obama’s maternal ancestry descends from Alsace some 6 generations ago. It’s probably the most tenuous of claims any country has yet laid on him… And Alsace might not even have been French then! C’est de l’obamanie, ça. Just please let him win.

This past week was marked by non-vacation for us sad sacks while the rest of France went on jolly Toussaint break. So off we went for a weekend in Normandy, courtesy of the cutest, most exotic couple in the recent history of the Chinese diaspora..

Meet the backs of Davina and Thiam Min. She’s Mauritian, he’s Tahitian, both are Hakka, live and breathe French and worked in Singapore for a while. It’s a long story (and unlike some, well worth telling), but the upshot is that they’re engaged and living in Paris. Every so often they pop by to Cabourg, a rich seaside second-home town, to tend the huge (but enormous!) garden/farm at his overseas brother’s country estate.

Paris is beautiful, but the country is literally a breath of fresh air. Everything was so crisp and uncontaminated, it was like a mini-pilgrimage to a better place. We arrived late on Friday night and after a tremendously reinvigorating cold shower because the heater hadn’t warmed up yet, tumbled into bed to watch (of all things) Spirited Away, probably the most pastoral movie I have.

Fluffy Crocs enhanced the cosy alternate-universe atmosphere.

The next day was a riot of domestic activity: when we weren’t eating, we were cooking our meals; when we weren’t doing that, we were picking produce and transforming it into delectable, garden-fresh fare. Heehee.

A garden patch.

Picking them was such fun. Actually, it was more like shaking the tree and dodging big, red raindrops by clumping around as quickly as our heavy boots allowed in the rich earth. These are the crunchiest, tangiest.. apple-est things I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

La raclette : a divine combination of molten cheese and cured meats, the comfort of a long winter’s night.

And when we tired of that, we went for a walk :

She sells seashells.

Such bliss, to be surrounded by the wide expanse of sand and the calm English Channel with three of the dearest people I know here.

There’s a boy in the carriage that the first horse is pulling. Very noble treads.

Sunday morning we all slept in, except for the intrepid Thiam Min who woke up at dawn to see if the alleged rabbits hopped around the garden as the friendly gardener claimed they did. This local chap, quite a talker, also hunts ducks from a WW II bunker near the beach with his buddies, makes a mean apple cider and churns out preserves from various fruits I didn’t even know existed. No bunnies that morning.

Morning jog!

Davina’s Pot au Feu.

Lots of peeling, slicing, dicing, stirring and pounding later, Rebecca’s Tarte Tatin and Thiam Min’s Compôte de Pommes.. Yummm.

The weekend over, we piled into the car for the ride back. Just before we left, the setting sun lit up the bush at the bottom of the garden to show the fine filigree embrace of perfect gossamer webs.

Whizzing back to Paris as bucolic France poured past the windows and the three others lolled comfortably asleep in their seats, I reflected on what a journey it’s been these 3 years or so. I know it smacks of the maudlin and the mawkish but if there’s anything I’m proud of of my sojourn in this wintrier clime so far, it’s the relationships with all the people that I’ve gotten to know better over these years. (That means with you, too.) The time with these particular three was a blessed one, and the best thing is that it felt like a prelude of more to come.

[Yes they can! .. What a speech, what a campaign. The world looks set to be a better place. (=]

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~ by grossomodo on November 5, 2008.

One Response to “Once upon a country mouse”

  1. Isn’t it just lovvvvely!! My dream retirement home, the fresh, crisp country. The last taste I had out there was in Albany, when you’re all fast asleep. Even the road side air at 15c was fresh & crisp, by the motel. Hardly any traffic, that early in the morning. It was simply the simplest, best thing the good earth has to offer in that sojourn trip.
    I’m glad you have already a good load of fond memories, especially of people you have met, made friends, enjoying the warm fellowship, in the least expected corners of France, and elsewhere on earth. Spread your wings, see the world. When you hit my vintage, you will surely sigh to yourself with satisfaction, there’s nothing more you would wish for in the time you’re spent on this good earth.
    Got to run, catch high speed rail, transit bus, got a plane to catch…….

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