Saturday, 26 April 2008

Hubble Bubble

My Mum occasionally claims to be a witch. Not the Wiccan, earth-energy crystals and incantations type. More the fortune-telling, randomly clairvoyant variety. She was recently asked to do a reading of Lady Macbeth at an event marking Shakespeare's birth and death on April 23rd. By all accounts, it was a bravura performance, but I reckon she would have also gone down a storm doing a bit of "Double, double, toil and trouble..." An opinion formed by the unexpected appearance (in a big cauldron, fittingly) of soup which looked like it was made of frog-spawn. Actually, the initially unsettling ingredient was tapioca, or "perles Japons", as the French rather romantically call it. I'd only ever had tapioca as a sweet milk pudding and had certainly never considered it as something to chuck in with the broth, but actually it was delicious, once you got used to the odd texture.

Then there was the small matter of the bat. Theo and I had just retired to our bedroom for a siesta, afternoon constitutional or spot of honeymooning (choose your favourite euphemism) when interruptus in the form of a bat diving through the almost-closed shutters of the window sent me disapearing under the bedclothes and Theo crouching down on the floor to avoid the creature's madly flapping aerobatics (ahem). It's not that either of us are scared of bats, but it's not exactly fun being trapped in a confined space with a small mammal quite beside itself with panic. Thankfully after a minute or two, it found its own way back through the window and Theo and I were able to recommence our preferred method of shaking the shutters.

Finally, I feel I should mention something about French markets. They are fantastic places, a cornucopia of freshly produced food, crafts and plants and flowers. Even the more modest ones put the best English farmers' markets to shame. But they aren't for the faint-hearted. Buying from them involves a bit of confidence in spoken French and a certain amount of strength of will to resist the hawkers' sales patter. But toughest of all is avoiding being run down or otherwise bashed by the shopping trolleys being pushed or pulled from stall to stall by les anciens. Multi-coloured, tall canvas bags on a frame and wheels which they wield like weapons. It's pretty effective too. I soon learned not to stand in the path of an elderly woman hell-bent on buying her demi-kilo of champignons - if those things get dragged into your ankles, you soon know about it. There was an especially impressive array of trolley-wielding pensioners at the Saturday market in Cahors, where Theo and I went to buy 46 artichokes among other things for the huge banquet Mum had planned for our French wedding fete on Sunday. Frog spawn, however, was not on the menu.

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