“You’ve got to come home…..and you’ve got to come home NOW. I’ll explain when you get here.”
I was on my way to Tournus to do the daily shop when the phone rang. I turned the car around and headed back wondering what on earth was going on. Surprise VAT or hygiene inspection? The ceiling’s fallen in?
I duly arrived back home to find Rebecca clutching a large glass of something alcoholic (not unusual but not normally at 9am). “What’s up?” Long pause – stiff drink. “There’s a s..s..s…snake in the bedroom” followed by another stiff drink.
As most of you know, Rebecca doesn’t do reptiles, not in magazines, on TV or in films and definitely not at zoos. So to be innocently tidying the bedroom, lifting up a carrier bag and finding a snake curled up under it was just a bit much.
I was duly despatched upstairs with no details of make or size of the offending beast and images of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” were running through my mind. I grabbed a towel from the bathroom, paused and thought of calling Christophe and asking him to bring the rifle he uses for wild boar, then thought better and looked into the bedroom.The carrier bag was lying under the window. Armed with my towel, I gingerly lifted up the bag to find a grass snake that couldn’t been more than 6 inches long and looking a lot more scared than Rebecca. I put the bag back down on it and went to the bathroom to exchange the towel for a flannel, picked up the bag, caught the snake and released it at the top of the garden. Fait accomplis!!
Normal service now being returned to ‘Le Chardon’ it then became a question of how the hell it got there. There was no way it climbed the stairs or got in the back door (big step there as well) so it had to have been brought in by someone or something. Our eyes locked on Chablis. This is a dog who in early spring takes great delight in carrying drowsy lizards around the restaurant offering them to anyone in exchange for a chip or a piece of steak. You can imagine her delight – “Look Chanel, I found a stick in the garden that runs away when you drop it.”
Staying on the subject of animals we had quite an event in Chardonnay at the end of July, 660 dogs arrived from all over Europe (with their owners) for the European Hare Coursing championships.
Ranging in size from whippets to Irish wolfhounds, there were borzois, salukis, afghans, deerhounds and greyhounds, from as far east as St Petersburg, as far north as Helsinki, Estoril in the west and Rome in the south. Needless to say we were rushed off our feet all weekend with our
rooms occupied by the vet and the sponsors of the event. We filled the restaurant every midday and night and were turning away 20 to 30 people each evening!!!
In August we did something totally unheard of. We closed for two Saturdays on the trot and then for a week.
The first was for a friend Hazel’s birthday. We held a surprise party for her on the day, a Thursday, as her husband Howard had arranged for a lot of friends to come from England & Germany. Their family were already here staying with us and Hazel was under the impression that she was coming here for a drink, collect the family and go on to a restaurant. We had friends suddenly wandered in. It was a great evening. On the Saturday they had arranged a big party in a barn next to their house for all their friends, French and English.
There was a band and a friend, Jean-Claude roasted two enormous legs of pork on a spit. We were intending to go after we finished in the restaurant but as we had had no bookings by 5pm (not unusual as the French just turn up and tourists tend to drive past and stop) we shut and went for the whole evening. Another restaurant owner we know had done the same thing so it wasn’t easy to find somewhere to eat that night! We had a wonderful night and got home in the early hours. Fortunately, as all our rooms were occupied by people at the same do, we didn’t have to get up too early to prepare breakfasts.
The following Saturday was our nephew, Alex’s wedding to Annabel. They live and work in Dubai so had friends coming from all over. Again all our rooms were booked so we shut for the weekend opening at 5pm on the Sunday for our traditional 15th August barbecue. The ceremony was at the mairie at Uchizy conducted by Paul Talmard (in French of course) and assisted by James (who translated into English).
Afterwards we drove to a restaurant on the banks of the river and spent a very pleasant evening returning home in the early hours. Breakfast arrangements were the same as the week before!!!
That evening we held our traditional barbecue. We originally had around forty people booked but picked up quite a few more from the wedding. Unfortunately the weather was starting to turn so we had to cram 56 people inside. It stayed dry so all the salads and the barbecue were outside.
Two days later we packed our bags and crammed 140 litres of wine into the car and travelled back to the UK for the first time since October 2008. We went to celebrate Richard and Eleanors’ (Nick’s uncle and aunt) Golden Wedding. We had a great time catching up with all the family, some of whom we hadn’t seen for fifteen years. We stayed in the local pub – it was interesting being on the other side of the counter for a change. The best bit was coming back to the pub on Sunday evening after an evening with friends and relatives to find it closed and the latch on the door locked so we couldn’t get in. No matter how hard we banged on the door, sounded the car horn and called out, the publicans were dead to the world. Three attempts at phoning them proved no better. Eventually Nick banged a bit too hard on the door, breaking a pane of glass (getting badly cut at the same time), but we were then able to reach in and drop the latch to open the door. The following morning our hosts couldn’t have given a damn. They had checked the lock before they went to bed, they said, and no, they didn’t hear the telephone as it doesn’t ring upstairs………as for the glass and Nick’s cut hand, well, these things happen. It might be some time before we go back.
Then it was back home and back to business. Things are just starting to quieten down now, it is mid-October and we’ve introduced our winter hours shutting on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and closing after service at lunchtime until 5pm. Having said that, we did lunch yesterday for eighteen, had fourteen in today and have twenty six reserved for tomorrow night. No rest for the wicked!! Our next lie-in (ie no people in rooms and breakfasts to do) is another ten days away but that could change with more bookings. Roll on our next break at Christmas when we are going back to UK to spend our first Christmas in five years with the family. We have to be back for New Year, we already have bookings.
On a final note, if you are travelling in France and a warning light comes on in the car and you call your breakdown service, what happens next. If you have AA cover, an AA patrol van turns up. No kidding, look at the photograph. John and Denise, together with Peter and Wendy were staying in the gîte for their third year running and this warning light came on in the car. John had AA European cover so called them. We couldn’t believe it when an English registered AA patrol van appeared in the car-park one hour later. The problem was found very quickly and following a visit to the Honda dealer in Mâcon (hire car provided while they ordered the part), they were back on the road two days later. Apparently the AA have four patrol vans in France during the summer and one happens to be in Lyon. The guys speak French and are very efficient. This one took a call whilst sorting out John’s car and went off to Dijon to another breakdown. A great service and well worth the money for peace of mind.