I’ve been out two nights consecutively! That is not normal for me. On Thursday I went on walk through the forest, with pauses very 300-400 metres to stop and listen to a different style of musical group, ending with an al fresco meal in the courtyard of an 11th century farm, the “Ferme de Parcot”. I’d arranged to meet Kate there: Kate lives in Camden but has owned a small holiday home not far from me for 35 years! Brigitte, who used to run the “Ferme de Parcot”, and who first organised the walks twenty years ago, also joined us: she was relieved that when she retired, her successor, Maude, continued to organise them. They have been exceptionally lucky in that all that time only once has the walk had to be cancelled because of poor weather. One couple with acoustic guitars sang songs in an English folk style, a quartet from Toulouse sang songs about wine and a couple of men wearing oppositely matching clothes (red dungarees over a yellow shirt while the other wore yellow dungarees over a red shirt, etc.) sang, all in French, some jokey blue songs, e.g. “going to the dentist blues” At the end of the walk and before the meal were aperitifs, some home made with fruit and vegetables grown on the farm. I had a wild strawberry punch which was very pleasant, not too sweet and coolly refreshing. The meal began with half a Charentais melon with a slice of ham, sprinkled with edible flower petals, followed by a sort of stew with rice - not, I thought, as good as when it had been chickens roasted in an old bread oven, but they did have over 150 people to cater for!

Last night was a local night market. Night markets are popular in this region: there are stalls selling food with tables provided for everyone to sit and eat and some sort of entrainment laid on, usually music for dancing. Last night the venue was on the banks of a river, and I’d arranged to meet a friend, Linda, there. Her English neighbours, fairly recently arrived in France, had come too. We looked at the food on offer and both decided on a Chinese (Vietnamese!) platter which was pretty good. I’d already bought a bottle of chilled rosé wine from a stallholder who recognises me every year and says “You don’t need a glass, do you?” as I always take one. At one point a man walked past and stopped to say hello: Coen, one of the vets I use. He had a scruffy little terrier type dog on a lead and I asked “Is he yours?” it wasn’t like the dogs I’ve previously seen him with. “It looks like it” he said, going on to explain that it had been taken to the surgery after having been found injured: Fractured femur and pelvis. I asked if it was a car accident and he said they didn’t know, he could have been dropped from a height. I gasped and he said they sometimes saw things that shocked them dreadfully. “We call him Lego,” he said “Because on an X-ray with all the pins we put in he looks like a Lego construction: there’s more metal than dog! We’ve put so much work into him it’s probably better for him to stay with us; he has no ID” I wasn’t going to say that Lego is plastic…. A bit later a group of about six men came and sat near us: When the sun had set I'd put my hat on the bench next to me and one of the men picked it up” I’m sorry, “ I said, I’ll move it to make room.” He said no, he just wanted to try it on if he may! I said OK and one of the others took a photo. The one opposite asked if I was on holiday, so I said no, I live not far away, about 11 kilometres. At about 22:30 we decided it was time to leave, and I was packing my things away when the man almost opposite pushed over his plate with a few leftovers of steak and asked if I’d like it for my dogs. I was a nit nonplussed, said thank you but no, they have a regulated diet and asked how he knew I had dogs. The man next to me had told him: he had come to my house a few years ago to give me a “devis” an estimate, for the base for my garage and, so he said, I hadn’t replied. I was a bit embarrassed that I hadn't recognised him and said I tried very hard to reply to every devis I received. He then said “Your dogs are about so high.” And put his hand at Cavalier height from the ground, and said where I lived. One of the others told me “He is ‘célibataire’” (single), but I didn't know to which man they were referring. The man opposite asked I was single. I said sort of, I was “veuve” which somehow sounds nicer than the word widowed. He then asked if I would like to be no longer veuve, and I said I hadn’t really thought about it, my husband had been an exceptional man. That seemed to end the conversation so we said goodnight to them. As we walked back to the car park, Linda said “I think you pulled!” I said I wasn’t quite sure which one was chatting me up or on whose behalf.” We had a laugh about it.

Jane