Then I got a message from OH suggesting that he take me to dinner. Again a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I mean, I really was spoilt.
We discussed where we should go for dinner and I suggested a Canadian restaurant that had just opened up in town and which was getting pretty good reviews, to the point where you needed a reservation as they were generally pretty full. So I googled them to get their phone number and on checking out Tripadvisor the reviews were indeed pretty good but there was more than one mention of slow service (probably because they are just starting up and trying to keep staff overheads low, I would think). When I pointed this out to OH he said to forget it as he wouldn't be putting up with slow service. I knew what would happen, he would get all snitty if he was not happy with the service and the evening would be ruined. So rather than try this place (I can always go another time with a girlfriend who has more patience than OH) I mentioned another of my favourite places and again OH wasn't sure so - rather sarcastically I thought - he said "what about going to Stan's"!!!
Well Stan is a Nigerian friend of mine who has opened a "bijou" little place in the village. In fact, in our village there was only one restaurant - no shops, no taxi rank, no bus stop even - nothing, nada, zilch - until Stan came along. The existing restaurant in the village is very good but was not open on this particular evening.
Stan is married to a French woman and our kids became firm friends when their family moved here. Stan saw a need in the village and somehow or other managed to persuade the village council to let him rent a small piece of land and put up a couple of portacabin-style huts to house a little shop. Part of the hut is indeed a small shop for basic necessities and the rest is given over to "haute cuisine". Well not really "haute cuisine", more like plastic plates and a few non-chipped glasses. But you know what, the place is working out. It fills a need in the village to have a place where local people can get together for a chinwag and a glass of wine while putting the world to rights under Stan's eagle eye.
Now Stan doesn't exactly move with the speed of a leopard or the grace of a gazelle. More of a slow, steady plod and squelch. In fact I'm not sure if it is his knees or his shoes but something makes a squelching sound with every step he takes (actually it's more of a loud farting sound but I am trying to keep this blog classy!). "Anna, what do you want with your fries?" (please imagine this said with a strong Nigerian accent). "Mustard please Stan" (this would be me - with a strong Brummie accent). Squelch, squelch, squelch. "C, what do you want with your fries?" (Nigerian accent again). "Mayonnaise please Stan" (OH - Dutch accent this time - are you keeping up - you will be tested later). Squelch, squelch, squelch (not quite sure why he couldn't get the mustard and the mayo at the same time but I digress). In any case, he has a simple menu (pizza, moules/frites, salad, burgers, etc.) and a friendly welcome so he is popular among the locals - I mean, some of the farmers just drive up on their tractors to buy a baguette and have a beer. Another impressive thing is that the local kids actually respect and like Stan too - none of them would ever dream of giving him any trouble!
Anyhoo (and moving seamlessly on), we decided that instead of going to some fancy-schmancy place in town we would go to Stan's so OH and Stan could put the world to rights, OH having travelled extensively in Nigeria for his work. I ordered something Stan bills as "nico-frites" - which is basically a plate of fries with melted reblochon cheese on top. Uuummmm! OH said he didn't want anything. Turned out that he knew I wouldn't finish what I had ordered which would leave him to finish the rest. So all in all, my romantic, no-expense-spared birthday night out cost OH €13 for one plate of nico-frites and a couple of glasses of wine. Don't tell me we don't know how to live! But you know what, we both agreed we had had a lovely time. Back home in time to watch the rugby, a good movie and a lovely evening all round.
Next day a friend called to invite me out to lunch for my birthday. When I explained to her that D and I had planned to go to a couple of vide-greniers (car boots - to all intents and purposes) she asked if she could come along. We went to a first vide-grenier in a place called Scientrier. Well actually they call it a "vogue" which is basically a funfair and car boot, where you get the added pleasure of watching little kids with candy floss in hand get chased around the fun fair by a swarm of wasps!
I picked up a nice glass bottle and my friend, indeed treated me to a birthday lunch. Another plate of fries but this time with a grilled sausage and mustard. Ahh this is the life. Then on to another car boot at a place called Nangy. This was much bigger and quite the treasure trove. I could have spent a small fortune (well one or two more euros) if I had been let loose. As it was, for the grand total of €4, I did, indeed, pick up a few gems.
I realized afterwards that the big jar is actually a rumtopf - a jar to make rum punch in - the ingredients are shown on the outside - you simply add rum and sugar cane! I shall have to give that a try!
As I turned 57 on my birthday I am technically eligible for early retirement but since I had to take out a mortgage to buy my ex out of the house I won't be able to take advantage of this just yet. Another 4-5 years I'm thinking. In the meantime, I feel thoroughly spoilt, all those pretty presents for my birthday and one-and-a-half plates of chips all to myself. Bliss indeed!