About In The Dordogne
Start Of The Adventure
Derrick and Sally Rand
2017 Derrick and Sally Rand
book is dedicated with love and gratitude to a couple we met when we
were young and who introduced us to the joys of France.
fought all his life against ill health and this book was started as
an email diary to amuse him during his last battle.
normal and frankly fairly boring couple in their fifties, thankfully
saved from becoming even more normal and boring by Sal’s re-kindled
sense of adventure.
characters and events in the book are real but because of the nature
of some of the events their names have been changed.
those that we met in our routine life have had their names changed to
save any guilt by association.
1. The start of the folly.
2. Everything in France is better?
3. The welcoming party.
4. They eat horses?
5. Three in a bed – well almost.
6. Like a butterfly.
7. Condoms and fleas.
8. White spirit.
9. The dungeon at Chateau Pompette.
10. The dompteuse.
11. Le mélangisme.
12. Electric Blue.
14. Saint Valentine.
16. Cravate de notaire.
17. Goodbye hygienist, welcome male cows.
18. William the Conqueror.
19. France – Just the good bits.
20. Jumping potatoes and the meaning of life.
21. Amusing biscuits.
22. Del’s sword.
23. The Genius.
24. My little whore in France.
25. A rich man's Southend on Sea.
26. La Récompense.
27. Del’s Language Academy.
28. Toboggan run.
29. Pissos and Sore.
31. Pour mon cheri.
32. L'heure de l'apéritif.
33. Le jour du poisson.
34. Le Grand Large.
35. Poor Jason.
36. Poor Sal.
37. Couilles de chien.
38. Casse croûte.
39. Bon anniversaire.
40. Petit gris.
41. They are all tarts!
42. Le 15.
43. Confusion and threats.
44. Come Home Del!
45. Sex in the sand?
46. The house is a prison.
47. Tears in the eyes.
48. Roast Beef.
49. Ni barbe, ni moustache.
50. You are my dustbin.
51. Sympa réponse.
52. Playing games with Jason.
53. Everybody’s playing games.
56. Help! We have a wig in a tree.
57. I’m the mummy mouse.
58. The Famous Last Straw.
59. Un Appel.
wife, Sal, and I have found that, in our life, nothing much works out
to be as expected. Perhaps if we had followed a straighter path then
our life together might have been more predictable. Previously, all
the daft ideas have been mine. This crazy idea of going to live in
France was Sal’s idea. At least I am innocent of that.
marketing to me of my long-standing idea for a sexual adventure was
strategically excellent. Previously, Sal had always had an excuse,
sorry Sal, a good reason to reject my suggestion. It was amazing to
now hear Sal propose something that I had been suggesting for an age.
There was however a catch, we had to go to live in France, not my
favourite holiday destination, but as Sal pointed out this was not
for a holiday. Not at all a holiday, since there was the additional
problem of having to learn French, not part of the original bargain!
Sal found day-to-day life in France very frustrating, not so much the
language but the French people! Most books about Brits going to live
in France paint it either as a paradise or a country full of dodgy
builders. We found it a wonderful country but the French people
could be very unforgiving when we made mistakes with our use of their
did add some complications to our life, one four legged and one four
wheeled. Both were fun but quite beyond the original plan, such as
it was. The lack of planning was not really a problem since some of
the ‘adventures’ were outside of any reasonable person’s
I have said, Sal did a very good job on the marketing of her idea to
me and to be fair she did come up with her part of the sexual
bargain. In fact she took to the sexual adventure much more easily
than I did, so much so that a couple of times when writing of our
adventures she toned down some of her part in the escapades.
you do feel tempted to read this book, firstly I hope that you will
enjoy it and hopefully smile a little, perhaps even laugh. If you do
then please try to believe that the most bizarre things cannot be
invented, there is nothing as strange as people and this applies just
as much to the French as to a slightly quirky English couple.
Chapter 1. The start of the folly.
is a rainy day in May 2008, I am looking across the terrace, that’s
French for patio, at acres and acres of vineyards and watching leaves
floating in the freezing cold swimming pool. Normally I find this
view beautiful but today it is just alien, we are not at home in
are in the Dordogne. I thought that this was the south of France and
not the south west of France. So do the idiot people who live here
since they do not heat their swimming pools. Even if the rain
stopped we could not use the pool since the water is always freezing,
at least so far. Perhaps in July and August it is better. At least
we are told that it is. The floating leaves are restful, in an
why are we here? It started last autumn in England. I can remember
exactly the evening that it came to the surface. I had a surprise
for Sal but it transpired that she had a much bigger surprise for me.
had cooked a fantastic ready meal from Tesco, our favourite
supermarket, and had opened two bottles of Sal’s favourite Chilean
Merlot. I had forgotten to buy a starter but it did not matter, we
just drank the first bottle of wine. We were eating Coq au Vin,
which is French for cockerel in wine. I had chosen this very
carefully as Sal had recently become very keen on exotic French food.
just the right moment I told her about the wonderful BMW that I had
seen for sale at a bargain price. I told her that it was just her
thing. The rest of the conversation become a bit of a blur but went
something like this.
do not want a BMW, that is your choice not mine. It is strange
though that you mention cars since I had thought about a new Renault
Laguna for you,’ suggested Sal.
the hell do I want a Renault Laguna for? It’s an old man’s car.
I told you that at 50 I wanted a decent car or a mistress or a boat,’
I said reasonably. ‘Now I’m coming up to 55 so something
exciting is a must, and not an old man’s car!’
be so unreasonable,’ said Sal getting irate quite quickly since we
have had this conversation before. She knew all about my next
impending mid life crisis.
Laguna is the latest model, a series 3,’ and after a long pause she
added, ‘and left hand drive.’
the hell can I do with a left hand drive old man’s car, and who
cares if it is the latest model?’ I asked getting annoyed about
this nonsense about a Renault Laguna since it was about as
interesting as my Ford.
will be safer driving a left hand drive car in France,’ said Sal
smiling. ‘Please don’t get angry Del. It’s horrible.’
don’t want to have another holiday in France,’ I asserted. ‘Last
time it rained all the time that we were there.’
is not for a holiday,’ said Sal. ‘We have the chance to go to
France for a year, free of charge, we can let our house, there is a
new Laguna to use and a swimming pool and if we do go we can expand
Sal I don’t much like France or the French, I don’t want a
Renault or any other type of Laguna, you know that I can’t swim and
as for my horizons, yes I’d like to expand them, so I guess I have
to settle for a mistress!’
just make sure that you get one that can cook, wash, iron and clear
up after you since I won’t be around!’
the mistress was a joke. Look this conversation started with me
trying to sell the idea of a nice BMW instead of the Ford to you.
Perhaps I didn’t do a very good job of the selling exercise but not
half as bad as your selling of the crazy idea of moving to France!’
I agree, the car was not a good enough selling point. However we
have the chance to try a new life and with little cost or risk, not
to say hardly any effort in trying it out,’ enthused Sal. ‘Just
imagine going to a market in the morning and bringing home lovely
fresh food to cook and then sitting by the pool in the afternoon sun
and eating, having a drink and then making love together beside the
water.’ Eventually Sal stopped.
being reading too many holiday brochures Sal.’
you are just too romantic! We have lost a bit of our romantic
sparkle, so just imagine meeting a nice sexy French couple for a
romantic dinner, some flirting and seduction and then to make love
together. It could really give our love life a boost!’
you really serious, or is this just a pretext to get me to go to
France?’ I asked, not quite sure if I was hearing correctly or was
this just a wonderful sales ploy.
it’s not a pretext Del. I feel that we have stagnated so it would
be part of a radical change to our lives.’
you really re-considering swinging?’ I queried hopefully. This
was a long-standing discussion between us. Normally the answer is
in the right environment,’ was the reply.
always say that, but it’s always a case of the right people, not
people that we know or people that we might know, or people who live
too close or live too far away. Always a good excuse, sorry reason,’
I said a little belligerently, forgetting that I was in the middle of
a selling exercise for the BMW.
I’m serious. Perhaps we could make some new friends where we could
combine some culture as well as sexy things. It would give us a new
interest, help to keep us feeling young.’
is very persuasive. She had some very good negotiating points. The
probability of trying swinging was a strong motivation.
we were young ‘swinging’ was called ‘wife swapping’ and to us
this seems a more honest and less nasty name, whereas to many the
thought of either is probably unappealing.
our youth, we had a couple of very close friends with whom this
nearly happened. At the time there were scandals in the newspapers
about groups of neighbours who would put their house and car keys in
a hat, at the end of a party, and each man would pull out a set of
keys and then take possession of the car, the bed and the wife for a
dinner in a restaurant we discussed this with our closest friends and
everybody thought that it sounded fun. The sticking point was some
idiot didn’t want his best friend driving his car. That idiot was
me. That was the end of it and so nothing happened in that dim and
distant past, which is probably just as well. The style of these
things has changed and I certainly would not mind who drove my Ford
or somebody else’s Laguna, but keys in hats have now been replaced
by the internet.
back to autumn 2007. It transpired that two friends, Jeremy and
Margaret, were leaving their home in the so called south of France to
work in Dubai for a year and we could have their home and their car,
the wretched Laguna, for a year. No charge, we just needed to look
after their house. There was a swimming pool, a gardener and wine in
the cellar, thrown in. We just needed spending money.
had seen an agent and the income from letting our house was
incredible. We could lock away our valuables, my porn collection and
Sal’s collection of glass elephants, sell my Ford and her
Mazda. We would keep the old Toyota 4x4, affectionately known as the
had it all worked out.
it turned out it was not exactly as we expected. There was a
swimming pool, but as mentioned it was not heated and it was not the
gardener’s job to clean it. It had to be cleaned otherwise it
looked horrible and quickly turned a nasty green colour, as I was to
find out. Cleaning somebody else’s green pool that is too cold to
use must be one of the greatest time wasters ever, especially if you
job it was to clean it, was to a degree, academic as we did not see
the gardener until mid March.
there was a fantastic wine selection in the cellar, but it was all
carefully labelled and priced! It was a pay as you drink system,
complete with a webcam watching it. I had a look but the wines, the
vintages and the prices were out of my league.
in reality, three of Sal’s selling points were not wholly
worthwhile and having a webcam in the cellar meant that there was one
area of the house that I never went into.
is not entirely true since one night, when I was feeling just a
little pissed off since we did not have any decent wine to drink and
I was thinking about this crazily priced wine, I did go into the
cellar and have a look around. As I looked I realised that knowing
how Jeremy’s mind worked he would probably get an alert to say that
his collection was being looked at.
I imagined Dubai time was about two hours ahead of us and as it was
11 pm in France I hoped that he would be awakened by an alert and he
was now watching. So I browsed, took bottles out and put them on one
side, in clear view, with the labels towards the camera, and then
checked the prices. In total, about 600 euros worth. I laughed
thinking of Jeremy thinking of his profit. I then slowly put them
all back, waved goodbye to the webcams, and went back upstairs,
opened a couple of beers and shared the beers and the joke with Sal.
one of my irritated moments when I emailed Jeremy asking about the
gardener who never arrived, I told him that I would clean his
freezing cold pool but I would not dust his wine collection, it was
too expensive to touch.
don’t have kids or any real family, both our parents having been
dead for a long time. Sal does have a sister who is with her latest
flame in India so there was little chance that we would see her or
more importantly him. The sister is OK, for a women of sixty who has
been married three times and has had many ‘boy friends’. The
latest is a real pratt but there was little chance of seeing them,
had worked out flight times to and from Bergerac and with Bordeaux as
a backup. I work just three days a week in the office, or less, with
the rest of the time working from home, so travel would not be a
problem, at least not for Sal.
explained that there was a large ex-pat community where we are going
so we could learn French gradually. Also there was an evening course
starting in two weeks time, and she had enrolled us on it.
evening course, that’s a bit of a liberty Sal, enrolling me on a
course, my evenings are busy!’
is rubbish Del, just less time for you in the pub. Something to take
your mind off work and cars.’
OK for you. Your education included French and you always like to
practice when we’re there. For me, I didn’t learn any French and
the only French that I need to know is to ask when will it stop
house is in the south, not in Brittany or Normandy, so it won’t be
raining all of the time,’ said the weather expert.
that conversation was last year and we have now been living in France
for almost five months. Most importantly I have a new car! That is
actually not true, I had spent rather a lot on a car but it’s not
the most important change, so what is?
the most important thing to happen is the addition to our family, a
four legged addition, but more of that later. Perhaps too much!
sexy side has worked out, and we have made some real friends, both in
that way and by chance. There have also been some disastrous sexual
encounters which were amusing, but only in hindsight! We have met
some people with weird ideas, even stranger than ours!
language has not been a problem for Sal, in fact for her it seems to
be a real plus, a new interest. For me it has become a new problem.
Sal is fond of saying that language is all about communication. In
my opinion this is complete rubbish. To me it is often giving
another person the opportunity of making me feel inadequate.
problems for me centre around work, the general feeling of
uncertainty about my age and a greater feeling of isolation. Being
that much further away from the office is one aspect. Working from
home in England for some of the time was great and when there was a
need there was the possibility of getting into the office in less
than one hour. Being a flight away is another matter.
almost half way into our trial we are thinking about what to do next.
Sal is talking about opening a bed and breakfast. It seems like a
crazy idea but who knows. It is a very big decision, more of that
problems with work or where to live next are nothing compared with
trying to persuade French friends that the English can cook. It’s
hard to get past the French preconception that all English cooking is
awful and that the English live on a diet of fish and chips followed
by a pudding made from stale bread.
have learnt a lot about French food and wine, the hard way, that is
by consuming it, sometimes in error but mostly with pleasure and if
not real pleasure at least with amusement.
the last while the need to resort to ready meals has diminished,
since Sal has re-discovered her ability to cook and has in fact
become quite a decent cooker, as the French call it. Whilst we are
not considering publishing a French cookery book, Sal’s French
cooking is appreciated by French friends, quite unlike our attempts
to show that English cooking can be good!
we do have a problem and get a little sad our new family addition is
around to bring us back to earth with a smile.
Chapter 2. Everything in France is
autumn was very hectic preparing for our forthcoming year living in
France, at least it was for Sal. Of course I helped by making sure
that she made all the right arrangements for letting the house and I
did the man’s stuff, I sold the Ford and the Mazda to friends in
it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Those were the last things to
do, which were easy but before that I had the not so small task of
negotiating with my boss, Mike, and my team that I would be working
from France. I tried the subtle approach and asked if other people
had thought about living abroad and working from home but, it didn’t
work, I was soon found out. We had informal chats in the pub and
then got down to details in the office. After a bad start it seemed
to go well.
conversations with my boss were too easy. He thought that it was a
good idea right from the start and that he would love to, but could
not, do the same thing. The way that he agreed and helped me was
unnerving, was he looking to ease me out? Only time would tell.
quickly, much too quickly, the evening of the first French lesson
arrived. We were not the first to arrive. There were two men
waiting for the class to start, one youngish and one our age. The
younger one looked typically French, shortish but not in blue
overalls and a beret with onions hanging around his neck, but in a
tweed jacket and cords with a pink shirt and a scarf around his neck.
I was to see this scarf many times and I invariably had the same
urge, to tighten it. He always had two days of stubble, never more,
older man was also short but dressed in jeans and an overcoat. The
school room was cold and very stark. The man was pale and almost
Stubble stood up languorously and said to us, presumably in French,
‘Bienvenue, je m’appelle Jerome. Enchanté.’
explained in her best school mistress manner.
has said, welcome, I call myself Jerome. It’s a funny way to say
that my name is, but that’s how it’s done. He then said
enchanted, how nice.’
then replied to him in the same flowery manner.
to be outdone, I said, ‘Bonjour, I call myself Derrick Rand but you
can call me Del or Randy.’
Monsieur Derrick,’ was the reply followed by a limp handshake.
pale man then joined the conversation in fluent English.
I’m Peter the Painter.’
handshakes, not limp this time.
do you paint?’ Sal asked.
life,’ he said, and after a long pause he added. ‘Normally walls
but sometimes ceilings, they always keep still.’
laughed at his joke, this time, but by the end of the evening we had
heard it enough and just smiled. Jerome was not amused, still it was
his second time of hearing. We were to learn how different a French
sense of humour is to the English style.
next to arrive were a couple, who introduced themselves, in quite
decent French, as Rick and Sue, at least it sounded quite decent to
me but the teacher did not seem to understand.
they were about our age, or probably older. It transpired that they
were school teachers who had taken early retirement. They had a
school teacher look about them, heavy jumpers and heavy tweed
trousers for him and baggy jeans for her. He talked all the time in
French, which was clearly not as good as he thought, since nobody
seemed to understand him. Sue was giving the English version for the
benefit of the small group. It seemed that they spent a lot of time
in a holiday cottage in Normandy but wanted to live there
seemed very taken with them, me less so, the man was too fond of his
own voice for my taste.
to arrive was a fairly smart couple, younger than us, they introduced
themselves as Cliff and Suzanne and announced that he was a school
head teacher and she an artist. They certainly did not look like a
teacher and an artist. From the little that they spoke it seemed
that their knowledge of French was very limited and that they were on
the course for stimulation and pleasure. Pleasure to learn French?
Well it takes all sorts!
were getting a little impatient by now as it was well after the
alleged start time but Jerome told us that we were waiting for one
more student to arrive.
he finally arrived my feeling was why had we bothered waiting? He
was young, tall, with blond hair just a little too long, and too good
looking. All in black, black trousers and a black jumper.
all round and handshakes all round, and he prattled to Jerome in
French, well at least it sounded like it. What was clear that he was
Simon, a banker, and was just dying to buy something near Nice as
‘somewhere private.’ As he was a banker I thought that a couple
of years in solitary confinement in one of Her Majesty’s prisons
would probably suit him on the privacy stakes.
French lesson was now in progress and rather than repeat it word for
word I will try to give you a flavour. If you want to experience it
for yourself then just enrol in a local course and you will have the
whole ghastly thing on your doorstep, complete with the local version
of Jerome or whatever the female equivalent is.
was interesting was the interplay between the people. It was clear
from the outset that the levels of French understanding were very
of Rick and Sue fame, the school teacher, thought that he was pretty
good, while his partner was in the also-rans group.
the Painter just kept quiet, presumably thinking about Still Life.
and Suzanne, the head teacher and artist, also just kept quiet. They
were probably in the also-rans group.
the banker, was competing with Rick for top dog in the best student
was keeping quiet and was the dark horse of the also-rans whereas I
was there with Peter the Painter, very pensive, but thinking about
wasted drinking time at the pub.
about one hour there was a break to give us a chance to ‘pratique’
according to Jerome.
don’t need to practice,’ I said to Sal. ‘I need a fag. I’m
going outside for a smoke.’
you don’t smoke,’ said Sal.
just taken it up,’ I said heading for the door.
cold damp air drove me back inside quite quickly and I was amazed to
hear how well Sal was doing chatting to Simon and Rick. The three of
them seemed to understand each other. It was remarkable to hear my
wife talking in a foreign lingo and being understood. I felt very
proud of her and also a little envious.
the Painter was taking to Jerome, in English, about paint colours for
his apartment. Suzanne, the artist, was adding a few ideas about
colours and Cliff, the head teacher, was reading a French phrase
joined him, to cement the also-rans grouping.
it give you any useful phrases like please take your clothes off?’
I asked, regretting my suggestion as soon as I saw his reaction.
I don’t think so. It’s more of an everyday phrase book,
directions and that sort of thing,’ he replied very seriously.
tried to explain that it was just a joke, but I felt that I had
already created a terrible impression.
less than successful conversation was happily cut short by the class
asked each of us to explain in English why we wanted to learn French.
If we could do it in French so much the better, if not to do it in
English, and the class would help put it into French.
luck would have it I was asked first.
stood up and decided to keep it brief.
don’t want to learn French,’ was my reply.
was some laughter but not much and certainly not from Sal.
was the only word uttered by the teacher, and he asked Sal her
reasons for wanting to learn French.
amis,’ and after a pause, ‘are lending us, I’m not sure
what that is in French, leur maison pour une ane.’
that sounded pretty French to me, but Jerome was not impressed.
non, non. Une ane is not correct, you made it sound like une
âne,’ he said sharply. He then added, une âne is a
donkey, une anneé is a year.
that really matter, surely nobody would make that confusion in a
conversation?’ I asked.
you it would probably not matter,’ he replied, ‘but for a serious
student it does matter.’
ordeal continued in the same way.
was next to speak and started prattling away and in the end Jerome
had to ask him to limit himself otherwise there would not be time for
so it took almost ten minutes to translate his version of French into
the real thing according to Jerome. This involved Rick writing out
his phrases on a white board and Jerome correcting them with a red
wife Sue was the next victim but she had been preparing herself with
a dictionary and came up with the perfect phrase.
mêmes choses,’ she said in a very froggie way.
was not impressed.
does not like that, since it means the same thing, and above all she
got it right,’ whispered Sal.
the Painter was next and did not even try the French side.
I have a little apartment, well not so little really. It’s very
nicely decorated and I have a new friend. She’s quite a lot
younger than me, and she’s French, so that is the reason that I am
here, she does not know much English,’ he said.
and Suzanne were next, well actually it was Cliff who was next and
there was no attempt to speak French.
a professional head teacher, he said looking at Jerome in a knowing
way, ‘I had to keep my brain active in my work and as part of my
career progression. I have enjoyed doing that, but now with
retirement on the horizon Suzanne and I are looking for new
intellectual challenges. We hope that there will be enough
intellectual challenges in these classes to fulfil some of our
a poser! Still it took some translating and was actually the only
interesting bit of the evening. Perhaps Jerome had noticed the jibe
about professional teachers, since he took the text in English, wrote
it down carefully on the white board and together the class
is interesting that in France you call a brain a servo. In
England the brain is the driving force but a servo is something that
receives commands and acts upon them,’ commented Cliff smugly once
the translation was completed.
will learn that between the two languages there are many words that
are the same but have quite different meanings. They are called faux
amis or false friends.’ Jerome replied pompously.
at last we had learnt something, perhaps things were looking up.
Perhaps with three teachers in the class Jerome would have to buck up
not for now. Things went downhill again when Simon had his turn. He
started spouting away in his version of French and he made the same
mistake as Sal had made and said ‘une ane’.
rivalry with Rick came out to the fore with a very loud ‘hee haw,
hee haw,’ from Rick.
of the class laughed.
in the pub, after the usual chatter with faux amis, it split into two
groups. The men’s group of Simon, Peter, Rick and myself talking
about serious matters, cars and houses.
girl’s group were centred around Jerome and they were talking about
things French. Cliff had joined the girl’s group.
the rivalry between Simon and Rick they were getting on pretty well.
In fact we were all getting along quite well as we had something in
common, apart from being in this class. We all had or wanted, in
Simon’s case, the possibility of living in France for extended
was the difficult one as he was so full of himself and his desire for
somewhere private near Nice. I am not an expert on French property
prices but Simon was making it clear how expensive something near
Nice was, and he would have to limit himself to under 100 square
metres as a sea view was essential even if it was a restricted sea
view. Being a banker he just could not resist talking about money
and especially his money.
the Painter was the opposite. During probing it came out that his
girlfriend was twenty years younger than him but the real problem was
where he lived.
complained about the problems of living in France with burglaries and
theft from cars. I naturally imagined that he was living in a bad
quarter of a large industrial town so I asked him in the end.
to be nosey Peter but where do you live?’ I asked.
the town is basically nice, my father bought the apartment and we had
lovely holidays there when I was a child. It’s only 150 square
metres plus a terrace but it was large enough for the four of us. It
is now mine and we have a sea view but these days the beach does get
too busy in the summer but that is to be expected in Saint Tropez.’
spilt his beer.
second week I, very sadly, had an evening meeting and so missed the
class. Afterwards Sal was so enthusiastic about the progress that
the other students were making, although Cliff and Suzanne were also
following week I was present along with the defaulters of the
previous session, Cliff and Suzanne. The evening had a theme, which
was food and wine. Jerome, being French, was an expert on both of
these and especially the superiority of the French varieties.
lectures were given in French with pauses and then questions and
answers. It was a reasonable way of getting people involved but
there was often a delay at the start whilst the also-rans tried to
catch up with what was going on. There was also, at least on my
part, a reluctance to accept the border between teaching and
preaching. Yes, we were there to learn the French language but not
to be told that our culinary heritage was less important than that of
Sal told me not to be serious about the content of the lectures, the
content was just to get us interested and involved, to make the
learning process more interesting.
French class each week became a highlight to look forward to for Sal
and for those who had a reasonable start point in speaking French it
did seem to be quite good. People could talk about the allotted
subject for the week and be corrected, sometimes quite rudely, by
Jerome, but at least they would remember.
the also-rans it was not so good. Rick’s wife Sue and I were so
behind our partners that we were getting nowhere. Cliff and Suzanne
were obviously spending a lot of time studying between the weekly
class that they were catching up. No doubt their education had
included French language lessons so they were in with a chance. It
transpired that the reason that they did not attend the second class
was that they were too busy catching up!
the Painter was catching up rapidly to everybody’s surprise. It
transpired that he was having private lessons each week with a French
girl and so he also was making good progress. In a quiet moment in
the pub he confided that she had become a ‘friend’ not just a
teacher. How does he do it, I wondered? Also how would he manage
when his new ‘friend’ wanted to visit the apartment in Saint
Tropez which was perhaps already occupied by his other French
‘friend’. At the very least she would want to visit him. Poor
chap, what a problem to have!
I would do better if I had a young French female ‘friend’ to help
me. Why didn’t I ask my lovely Sal to give me some help? Pride, I
worse than the classes were the evenings in the pub after the class.
The men’s group had unofficially been disbanded and now the whole
evening was centred around Jerome. He groaned on about life in
France, the importance of the family, the importance of food and
wine, the beauty and variety of the countryside, rural life etc. etc.
It sounded like a setting for Midsummer Murders and I could think of
the first murder victim.
tried to interest me in these discourses as she said that we would
get more out of our time in France if I became more involved. That
seemed pretty reasonable but frankly I would rather that we
discovered things for ourselves rather than running down a check list
from the pratt Jerome. After all if France was so bloody wonderful
why didn’t he go back? I’d happily give him a luggage label.
Chapter 3. The welcoming party.
build up to moving to France was terrible. Sal became more and more
interested in French life, she tried some new recipes, which were
horrible, and bought French wines which seemed low in alcohol and
taste. Although Coq au Vin from Tesco, our favourite English
supermarket, has a French name it tastes OK. However Sal’s
version, made from a recipe from someone in our French class, took
forever to cook and tasted no better with bits of totally overcooked
chicken. Apparently the Coq, the cockerel or rooster, is a male
chicken and is much tougher and takes more cooking but it seems that
they do without male chickens in England so the recipe used with a
chicken was a waste of mediocre, but expensive, French wine.
were some practical things which normally have to be done when
changing country for a year but I thought that these could pretty
much be ignored. Most people going to live in France would probably
have wanted to learn some French and undoubtedly learning about
French rules and regulations would also be near the top of the To Do
list. We did not actually have a To Do list but as Sal was handling
the language bit so very well I opted for the rules and regulations.
fact as I was to be paid and taxed in England, not quite as it should
be done but ignoring that small point, then the rules and regulations
really came down to health insurance and driving. As it is Sal who
normally needs the doctor she agreed to handle the health bit so I
just had to work out which side of the road to drive on and the speed
also needed to bone up on swimming pools as we had never had one.
Not being able to swim could be considered a handicap and I did
consider swimming lessons. After careful thought I decided to skip
the lessons since in reality the actual swimming was not too
important, I just needed to wander about with a beer in my hand and
make sure that nobody pissed in the pool.
need to be able to communicate quickly and easily with the office in
England was critical but as Jeremy had said that his internet works
so well then there is not much more that I can do about that. It
really is amazing what a fuss some people make about a simple move.
and I had found a good balance in the process of organising the move.
Put simply Sal did the work and I moaned. That seemed fair to me as
it was her project.
can remember one notable conversation when this balance broke down.
In fact the balance broke down very badly, and was perhaps a turning
was after a tedious session with Jerome and his class and everybody
was doing well except me. Sue, the other also-ran, had dropped out
some time ago so I was now in a league of my own.
you worked out everything that we need to take to France?’ Sal
it’s all done,’ I said proudly.
you tell me what you’ve purchased or have I to do that as well?’
Sal asked a little peevishly.
course the shopping is for you, but it’s easy, all we need are
power adapters for our computer kit and your hair dryer.’
it! We’re going to live in a foreign country for a year and that’s
all you can come up with,’ said Sal angrily.
your vibrators are all battery powered so we do need a power adapter
for the battery charger. What else is there?’ I added jokingly.
funny Del. Why can’t you take this seriously? What about kitchen
equipment? Have you checked what they have?’
no need, they will have a microwave and a bottle opener. Bound to.
Margaret can’t cook, just like you, so she’ll have all the
microwave kit. Perhaps she can tell us if there are decent freezer
stores? I’ll send her an email. You know that there are not any
Tesco supermarkets south of Paris?’
you told me all about the problem with Tesco, but let’s get one
thing straight, I did enjoy cooking when we were first married.
However with your unwillingness to wait for a meal to be cooked we’ve
lived off expensive and boring ready cooked food for years. I want
to re-discover and develop my cooking skills and not be held back by
you. I want to improve and develop over the next year and you could
start thinking along the same lines.’
nice,’ was all I could find to say.
you’re thinking about improving you can start by trying to improve
on the choice of wine that you serve. I am totally fed up with
Chilean Merlot so going to France will be a chance for you to get
back some of your old interest in wine. At one point we used to
drink wine from France and Spain not just from South America.’
thought that you liked Chilean Merlot,’ I said, really hurt.
at one point I did, but the same old thing, time and time again.
There does have to be change, even if it’s only to realise that
sometimes the old things are the best.’
this why you are considering swinging? You want a change, because
I’m boring?’ I asked with dread. Up to now I had thought of the
excitement of being with another couple was the incentive but was it
the same old thing that was a problem?
I the problem?
Del, I detest the word swinging. It sounds so naff and casual. Can
we use the French term, monde libertin please?’
course we can if you tell me what it means,’ I replied.
would probably translate as libertine world,’ replied Sal.
thought that somebody who was libertine was somebody who was casual
about sex. Sounds like swinging to me but in French,’ I said.
still prefer it in French,’ said Sal.
so you would like to enter into the monde libertin because you are
bored with sex with me, is that it?’ I asked very defensively.
that is not true. I love our sex together but we have become
predictable, very predictable. Being with another couple might help
us find new pleasures. We might even break down some of our taboos,’
I don’t have any taboos, it’s you who has the taboos. Taboos
are for women,’ I replied, too hastily.
you suck another man’s cock?’ Sal asked.
course not, but cock sucking for men is a perversion not just a
taboo. Surely I can say no to a perversion?’
the same way that I can say no to anal sex, that’s a perversion,’
but an awful lot of people try it,’ I replied. ‘It’s not the
same as cock sucking. For example, is your taboo about anal sex a
taboo that might go?’
I might try it in the right circumstances. For example if a sexy
evening went really well and I was sufficiently excited by the
situation, I might give it a go,’ Sal said provocatively. ‘Tell
me Del, how would you see a sexy evening progressing?’
I thought that I undressed the other woman and gave her one. Clearly
there has to be some finesse and foreplay first, therefore I might
snog her a bit, pinch her tits, stick my hands up her skirt and give
her my magnificent cock to suck, but basically it is just like being
married, but with somebody else’s wife,’ I said without smiling.
so says the last of the great lovers! I know that you said that as a
joke Del, but I could just see it happening like that,’ said Sal,
also without smiling.
said that I was joking?’ I asked.
can’t you take anything about this move to France seriously and
just help a bit? Your constant jokes and jibes are really spoiling
the start of this adventure for me,’ said Sal looking really upset.
I’m sorry. Joking is a bit of a defence mechanism for me. This is
really your adventure but I have more to loose, for example my job.
I know that I’m a hopeless case for the language, so what do I do,
do I get depressed or do I pretend that it doesn’t matter and joke?
Frankly I’m as much scared as I am excited. For the things
between us, I realise that I’m boring, I’ll try to do better.’
there were not too many moments like that and at last all was set for
our departure from the UK in early January. Christmas and New Year
had passed well and we were a little sad to be saying goodbye to
England for a whole year but there was no possibility of changing our
minds. The house was let for a year, two cars were sold and we were
left with the old Toyota tank.
had been fascinated by what we were doing and we were told by so many
that they would like, just like us, to get away for a while and try
something new. Of course what I was doing was not new, just more
complicated, more expensive with flights back and forth to be paid
for, and an extra degree of uncertainly added.
letting of our house to a nice young couple had been simple and their
large deposit gave us a good feeling. The house needed
re-redecorating anyway so if the nice young couple made a mess we
could use their deposit to pay for the re-decoration. I hoped that
they would have a few exciting parties.
really good news was that the French course had finished and there
had been a very sober last night in the pub. All of the class had
made good progress, except one, but I had expected, for a long time,
to be the dodo of the course.
office party was even less sober than usual. The fact that I was
going away meant that there was an additional excuse for excess and I
just managed to stop myself making a fool of myself with a certain
lady. There would be time for that sort of thing next year, was what
I told myself the next day when I was having mixed feelings about my
was to drive down to our new home with our Toyota tank loaded with
our belongings and I would fly over a few days later. I had a couple
of important meetings that had come up at the last moment so we could
not drive together. Frankly I hated driving the tank so a flight
would be much less unpleasant.
would stay with Jeremy and Margaret for a few days to get all the
hand over details sorted, like electricity and telephone accounts to
be changed into our names and to open a bank account. This would be
simple stuff for Sal and a chance for her to practise her French.
She was then to meet me at Bergerac airport.
I arrived at Bergerac on a Sunday evening and waited for Sal. I then
waited some more. I phoned her mobile but no answer so in the end I
left her an irate message. Half of me was anxious and half angry,
the last being the stronger since everything was closed and it was
cold. There were slot machines for coffee etc. but I did not have
any euro coins.
almost an hour my phone rang.
Del darling,’ said Sal, ‘but I could not find Jason.’
the fuck is Jason?’ I demurred.
is a sweetheart and just two years old and has been rescued. Please
don’t swear in your first sentence in France,’ said Sal.
you cannot go about rescuing children, even in France, you must give
him back it’s not legal.’
was rescued by Jeremy and Margaret, not by me, they have just passed
him onto me’ protested Sal.
you trying to get us in put into prison Sal?’ I asked.
be silly Del, by the way Jason is black,’ Sal said and paused.
died a thousand deaths, had Sal really become party to theft of a
child, a black child?
this is awful!’ I exclaimed in fear.
is black, he’s a black Labrador,’ Sal said laughing.
was a good windup, you sod. You complain that I swore and yet you’re
over an hour late and you trick me into thinking that you’ve stolen
a child. On top of that I dislike dogs especially large black ones,
just get here I’m cold and hungry, what’s to eat?’ I asked.
a point, with all the time spent with Jason I did not sort out a
proper meal, but the car’s warm. There is some bread and pate that
I bought in the market and some wine in the house. See you soon,’
and so saying she rang off.
was about to ask why they gave a child’s name to a sodding dog but
it was too late.
was a mud coloured Laguna that arrived. I recognised Sal and saw the
dog on the passenger seat. Sal opened the window and suggested that
I get in the back quickly so that Jason did not escape from the car.
It was apparently better that I stayed in the back as Jason must have
been used to sitting in the front with his last owner and to move him
now was too difficult. I was too tired to argue, so I shoved my
luggage in the boot and got into the back of the car. I suggested
stopping in a restaurant but Sal told me that I was being silly as it
was Sunday night and most restaurants closed on a Sunday night.
let’s stop for a curry,’ I suggested.
are not any curry restaurants,’ said Sal.
a take away curry will do if it’s good.’
are not any curry restaurants, take away or eat in, good or bad.
There is a choice of pizza restaurants and one might be open,’ Sal
opted to get home. During the journey Sal told me that Jeremy and
Margaret had had to rescue Jason as some friends were leaving the
area and could not take Jason with them. In that way he was now
being passed on again.
Jason has not settled in yet, but look at him looking at you,’ Sal
would rather that you watched the sodding road, how much further is
it?’ I asked.
are almost there Del, do not worry, I have a nice surprise for you,’
she said smiling at me in the mirror. ‘Do not worry about Jason
the poor thing was insecure. Having had three owners in three weeks
is a lot for a sensitive young chap.’
is not a young chap, he is a bloody dog but don’t you worry Sal,’
I said. ‘We can leave his settling in problems for the next lot.
He’s not staying with us.’
continued the drive in silence and in the end we saw Jeremy and
Margaret’s house. It looked bigger and older than I remembered and
I momentarily thought about heating bills.
was about to get out of the car but Sal stopped me, clipped a lead
onto Jason’s collar and asked me to hold it and the dog whilst she
got out of the car first. I was then instructed to pass the lead to
her. Sal explained that this rigmarole was so that Jason could not
escape easily. Sal took Jason to the house whilst I was left to get
myself out of the car and to heave my luggage out of the boot. The
wind was freezing cold so, wasting no time, I rushed into the hall to
be met by Sal coming out of the kitchen with a funny look on her
off,’ she said gloomily.
the problem?’ I asked.
went into the kitchen together. There were some torn bags of food
and crumbs on the work surface.
this black shit?’ I asked figuratively.
that, shit, mouse shit,’ Sal answered gloomily. ‘I am sorry, but
with all of the fuss over poor Jason I forgot to put the food that I
had bought in the market for supper into the fridge. The result is
that the bloody mice have been around again. I’ve had such a
problem with them.’
you can get the gardener bloke to deal with the mice, if he comes
from around here he must know how to deal with a few mice,’ I
a good idea but he’s ill. He can’t work at the moment as he is
recuperating,’ said Sal.
we just telephone and ask him the best way to get rid of them and if
not when can he work again?’
mean can’t I just telephone. Well I can’t. He had a small
accident and developed an hernie when he was working here last
autumn. He has had an operation and so in a few weeks after lots of
rest he will be able to work. He is staying with his family in
Nantes to rest so I cannot even disturb him, I had thought of that,’
said Sal miserably.
developed an Ernie, what’s an Ernie?’ I asked bemused.
it’s spelt hernie, but pronounced ernie, as in the name,
it’s a rupture.’
we had a dog, mice, a ruptured gardener and no food. Was life in
France going to continue like this?
Chapter 4. They eat horses?
morning. I had slept OK, as at the last moment I had found some
Johnny Walker so I had a good glassful to make up for the lack of
food. The previous evening I had left Sal alone to clear up her mice
shit. When I woke up the following day and went downstairs for a
coffee Sal was around but things were a little cold between us. Not
much was said until I mentioned that I would walk to the town and buy
Boulangerie next to the church is the best and please take
Jason, he needs to open his bowels, don’t forget a plastic bag, a
large one,’ instructed Sal.
will buy bread where I like and you can keep Jason here,’ I replied
and I walked to the town. He was actually quite good company and
seemed to understand some English. At least he stopped sniffing when
he was told to ‘Leave those turds alone’. We found the church
and the bread shop. It was closed, or rather they both were. So was
the second choice of bakers. We almost stopped at the bar but I was
totally lost as to what to say so we wandered around. Jason crapped
outside the Gendarmerie, the French for the fuzz. I did not
have a plastic bag so I kicked it, the shit not the dog, into the
road, not a good idea as it turned out.
town seemed to consist of a very old and impressive church, two bread
shops, a butcher, a grocery shop, a bar, a florist, a hairdresser, a
toilettage, whatever that is, the Gendarmerie, a cemetery, a
junk shop, a pizza shop and a pharmacy. The pharmacy and the bar
were open, but other than that everything seemed to be closed. Many
of the buildings were very old with just modern frontages. It was
actually very picturesque and not spoilt by lots of people rushing
about doing shopping, or to put it another way, it was old, closed up