Catching up

Well, here we are – back in La Belle France and very glad to be so.

It was lovely catching up with friends and family but the comparative hustle and bustle of the UK – even in Milton Keynes and relatively quiet areas such as the Forest of Dean and the Gloucester countryside – was a real culture shock. So many people and cars and all seemingly in a tear-arse hurry to get somewhere.

Mrs Shark commented on how little I swore in France after hearing me let rip at a driver who cut me up on a roundabout in MK but even she used some colourful language at the utter cunt who overtook a coach just east of Chipping Norton and almost rammed us head on.

Admittedly, there’s more room in France – it’s a bloody big place – but even so, people seem just that bit less hurried and this all seems to contribute towards a more relaxed demeanour, generally speaking.

It’s cherry season here and we’ve come back to a bumper crop. The tree in the garden is laden with ripe red cherries and after bottling some with cognac yesterday, there’s now jam to be made. This means that Mrs Shark has been busy buying jars, thermometers and a great big sterilising machine for said jars.

It seems to be sales time here and we’ve bought some garden furniture and a couple of small barbecues so that we can reciprocate the many invitations we’ve had to go to eat charcoal-blackened meat…

The trip back to the UK also meant that Waterstones and other bookshops got a right rifling and we’ve returned with many, many books, having just about exhausted our supply of new books we brought with us last March.

I can’t recommend anything we’ve just bought (not finished anything yet!) but here are a few titles from the last batch that I can heartily recommend.

Dennis Lehane – The Given Day: the latest novel by one of my favourite authors. It’s a bit of a departure for Lehane as it’s an historical novel. It tells the intertwining stories of a young Irish-American policeman and a black fugitive set in early 20th century Boston. It had me gripped from start to finish and the superb characterisations made me really care about what happened to the two main protagonists.

Anthony Bourdain – Kitchen Confidential: inspirational stuff describing the true life story of a punk chef. It’s like Led Zeppelin hedonism meeting gastronomic armageddon with a seasoning of smack, sex and knives. Genius stuff with Bourdain pulling no punches whatsoever.

William Sansom – Darkfire: The fourth book I’ve read featuring Shardlake – a sort of Tudor sleuth. Again, great characterisation makes you care about the hero and a wry humour and sharp attention to period detail make this a delight to read along with the three others so far published. Sansom captures the atmosphere of Tudor religious/political paranoia very well indeed.

After a week of beautiful weather back in the UK, we’ve come back to even better weather here with heat but not as much humidity as back in the UK. It’s currently about 38 degrees celsius outside our back door and it’s quite bearable. However, it’s starting to cloud up a little and I have a feeling that later today we might well have some spectacular thunderstorms.

(3 hours later)

In typical Mayenne fashion, the clouds just went away after an hour or so of warm breeze and it’s now yet another balmy evening. Barmy too, with 5lbs of cherries stoned and a huge vat of jam bubbling away under the watchful eye of Mrs Shark. 

We’ve just had chicken in satay sauce with noodles. Here’s my own recipe for the dish with a cheat satay sauce:

Mix together 2 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter with a dessertspoon of dark soy sauce. Add 200ml of boiling water to which you’ve added about half a block of creamed coconut and then mixed to a paste. Blend this into the peanut/soy mix and add half a teaspoon of minced red chilli – more if you want it hotter. Stir into sauteed sliced chicken breast, red peppers and mange-tout peas. Serve with thin egg noodles.

‘33’ beer is currently 6 euros and 5 cents for a pack of 30 25cl bottles at the Super U this week. Goes very well, chilled to buggery, with the above dish.

Picked up some chicken rillettes on offer – let’s hope they’re as good as the pork ones.

After last week, during our sojourn in the UK we had three barbecues. Once we got back we bought all the kit and have had a couple here – one with sausages and pork chops and one with brochettes made of cubed beef, mushroom and red pepper. It seems that BBQs are the most popular way of entertaining during the summer months, so we’re having one with guests the weekend after next.

Mrs Shark claims to have seen a hoopoe whilst we were out driving to Pouance this morning. That evens out the Golden Oriole I saw the week before last. Last night we went out looking for glow worms and found several. There also seems to be a pair of kestrels that have taken up residence near here. They were both out hunting yesterday, so perhaps they’re working on a second brood.

I’ve made contact with a British guy living nearby who sings and plays guitar. We’re meeting on Saturday. If we think we can play together then gigs are – apparently – waiting. Be nice to play again. I have to admit that I’ve hardly picked up a guitar in the time I’ve been here so it’ll be good to have an excuse to play, being as I’m such a lazy sod!

The cats are pitiful in the heat – they just sack out under the hedge for hours and then emerge when it’s cooler. It’s too hot for even Django’s bloodlust – the local wildlife is safe during the day, although I should imagine that the nocturnal variety still gets an ass-whupping. The two cats are pathetically grateful to be home and although we can heartily recommend Les Creature Comforts at St Aubin Fosse Louvain for your cat or dog’s vacation, run by the lovely Stephanie Lack, there ain’t no place like home. For us and the ginger bastards!


6 Responses

  1. Rather than carrying around masses of books, do what we did and buy a Kindle.
    Best buy ever and eco friendly too.

  2. “Mrs Shark commented on how little I swore in France after hearing me let rip at a driver who cut me up on a roundabout in MK but even she used some colourful language at the utter cunt who overtook a coach just east of Chipping Norton and almost rammed us head on.”

    Sounds familiar! When chauffeuring my mother around, she always used to ‘tut’ whern I used some rather descriptive language to describe the morons sharing the road.

    So who was hanging out of the side window screaming ‘Indicate, you cretin!’ the other day as I passed a roadsweeping lorry..? 😉

  3. Good to hear from you Steve Baby

    for old time’s sake…someone old, something new, something borrowed….

    something very Blue!

  4. Yo Steve, are you still clashing with the knuckle draggers and if so, where? I’d like to catch up and see all the action.

  5. I haven’t been very active in that department recently, although I may have brought an EDP ape out into the open with a recent post. Look for ‘Someone Superior”s comment. He sort of reminds me of someone…
    The EDP really are an irrelevancy and although they seem to be led by a few really very unattractive people I don’t think there are enough totally stupid people about who would swallow enough of their crap to form any significant following.
    File under ‘wannabee drooling knob-ends’.

  6. Actually I said "8 miles to BOSTON Brian!" Whooo Hoooo! Way to rock it! Geezer

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