Shirleyella simplychateau, the Countess du Breuil, stepped out of the heavy-gilded doorway of her palazzo into the warm dark night. Her soft brunette chignon with tumbling curls cascaded out from beneath the hood of her long, black, floor-length velvet opera cloak that covered her stunning size six couture silk gown. ( shut up and drink your cocoa ............this is MY story!!)
She tiptoed to the stone steps leading down to the water at the edge of the Grand Canal where she found, waiting as arranged, Danielo Craig, her personal gondolier. He had spent his day preparing his cherub-bedecked gondola to ferry what he felt was his most precious cargo. He helped her off the steps and into the seat that he had festooned with the finest Fortuny silk and damask. As she passed him she gently caressed his cheek with her fingertips. " Thank you, Danielo", she whispered in his ear.
He stepped up behind her to his rowing platform and began to guide the craft out into the stillwaters, lit only by the small candle at the head of the gondola and the moonlight that danced upon the water. She did not see him gently touch his cheek where her fingertips had lingered. He would never again wash that cheek - but leave it to become ingrained with dust and much darker than the rest of his face. He knew that as time went on would become a laughing stock in Venice with one half of his face dirtier than the other............... but only he knew that it would all have been worthwhile just to have felt her soft touch.
The Grand Canal was silent in the late evening air. A gentle mist rose from the waters as the gondola silently made its way towards the Fenice Theatre for the awards ceremony. Danielo sang quietly to the Countess in his perfectly-trained soprano voice the traditional family song which had been passed down in his family from generation to generation, which he had first heard whist sitting on the knee of mother, Wendio." Just one cornetto give it to me". [Come on....come on.... keep up........ Wendio as in Wendy Craig!!]
As they approached the pontoon at the side of the Fenice she could see the roaring candle torches lighting up the red carpet on either side and three men standing at the water's edge nervously awaiting her arrival. As her gondola touched the wall the men jostled for position to be the one who would take her hand and escort her into the gilded entrance hall.
Georgio Clooniyo stood his ground and offered his hand to the Countess. Both Johnnio Odeppio and Thomaso Sellickio had to stand back as she slipped her tiny hand into his strong,- perfectly-manicured hand and they walked together side by side towards the theatre.
The bustling entrance hall was full of the Venetian aristocracy, all bedecked in their finest attire. There was an immediate silence followed by a gasp of admiration as the Countess swept in. Her cape slid to the ground to reveal the most delicious Chanel gown and draped over her exquisite bare shoulders a 17th century black lace shawl handworked by the silent order of fairly celibate monks of Murano - the shawl being a parting gift from the Seigneur Sean de Connery after she had spurned his advances but which she kept as it carried both his crown and monogrammed crested logo - SC. Simply Chateau - what could be better!!
A trumpet fanfare announced the start of the ceremony and the Countess was escorted to her seat by one of the many ushers in waiting - Pierce Brosnini.
The evening progressed and the tinkling laughter coming from the Countess flowed as easily as the champagne as she sat with the attentive Cloonyoso, Deppio and Sellickio at her rose-bedecked table.
As the awards progressed she rose elegantly as her name was called and walked slowly amongst the assembled aristocracy to collect her prestigious LIEBSTER BLOG AWARD, an award that had been chosen to be presented to her by none other than the world-famous Baroness Abigail de Boylissimo, famous for her wonderful blog, "My spottio Ponio".
Walking across to the centre of the stage she accepted her award and then turned towards the admiring crowd at her feet. Lowering her long, sweeping lashes to hide the tears welling in her eyes and in a low, husky voice trembling with emotion, she said, " I would like to thank my mother and father, the Wolverhampton Road Primary School, Bentley Drive Junior School, the Edward Shelley High School for Girls, Cadburys Chocolate, Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps, Madame Besnier's fabulous gateaux in her shop, Sir Digbert Fanshawe Brownshaw, Marks & Spencers magic knickers - and a good glassfull of baileys Irish Cream - all of whom, in some way or another, have played a great part in my life.
Before she was able to start her next sentence, someone screamed, there was a huge crash as a table and the contents on it went flying - and Johnnio Odeppio leapt onto the stage, ran to where the countess was standing and without further ado threw her roughly over his shoulder and ran off stage to the back of the theatre and into the night air towards the Grand Canal shouting "she will be mine".
The countess, unperturbed, bristled with the frisson of knowing that below her couture gown she was wearing her pair of inflatable safety knickers. As Odeppio man-handled her into his boat and pushed it away from the wall towards the centre of the canal she activated her pants, slapping both thighs approximataly 4 inches above her knees. They inflated immediately, lifting her clear off the side of the boat and into the water.
She had of course planned for this eventuality ( it had happened several times before!) and, within seconds, she heard the familiar throbbing sound of Markio's engine as he approached in his Gustavian-grey coloured motor boat to whisk her away to an early morning brocante!
Firstly....I must get out more.....secondly thankyou Abby for my award....I love you with a passion reserved for chocolat filled chocolat eclairs from the patisserie!!!
The marsh or "marais" as it is called here is flooded and the water is advancing quietly towards the chateau. This was the view when I opened the shutters early this morning......................
As the day got brighter the water seemed just a little higher................
So we decided to relocate the beehive "just in case". I really don`t to have to wade across the marsh to get it back should it float away!!!
The day stayed very cold but sunny with no breeze so we decided to set off for the beach for a stroll. Sir Digbert Fanshaw Brownshaw needed a little coaxing from his bed.................
But once he was out of his pyjamas he was more than happy to skip along the sand...............
I had just decided that this is the beach hut I would like to open up, paint Gustavian grey and add faded florals to the windows ......
When there was a splash behind me. I expected it to be Diggers doing the backstroke and then I saw what I have been straining my eyes for months to spot. THE SEAL!!!!! I almost dropped the camera in the panic but just managed to capture him before he dipped out of sight. I think you can just see him below....................
I don`t know how long seals can stay underwater but he didn`t surface again as he obviously knew I had the camera poised!!
I am quite sure it was the seal and not Monsieur Durreau from the boulangerie in a black swimming hat!!!!
I hope that you are having a wonderful Christmas break mes belles!
Bonsoir mes belles.................long time no speak!!
We have just had a short trip to the UK to visit family and are now back at the chateau for Christmas.
I know that we live in France - a country renowned for its wonderful food - but we are in fact quite rural here in deepest darkest Normandie and, unless you grow your own food, you have to search quite hard to find wonderful Christmas fayre. If you are lucky you will find a sad old goose with its head dangling over the end of the boulangerie counter or pate in the shape of piglets with raisins for eyes!
So.....let me tell all of you ladies back in England that as we headed back for the ferry I gave Tesco and Waitrose a good bashing and have left you just one sprout and an out of date mince pie!
It is so nice to be home again even if the weather is horrendous.
Last night Diggers kept trying to wake me. If he needs to go out in the night he usually nips out through the cat flap so I knew he was trying to tell me something. At 4am I gave in to his demands and went down into the cuisine with him but couldn`t see anything unusual - just Charles le Baron going back out through the flap so I went back upstairs to sleep. Early this the morning we had a visit from the gorgeous Tony and Jill of Bois-fleurie fame: http://www.bois-fleurie.blogspot.com/ .
The rain and wind lashed outside as we sat snug in front of Hercule (who is now, finally, behaving himself!) and munched on the amazing chocolate gateau Jill had made. Jill is probably one of the most talented seamstresses, gateau makers and artists that I know , so I know that when she arrives she is usually clutching something delightful. It was the kind of gateau that makes you instantly pack a suitcase and follow her to her home with the hope of moving in!
It was whilst we were munching away that I noticed something under the table. I took a closer look - and there was a huge dead rabbit - so big that I had no idea how Charles had managed to struggle through two cat flaps with it the night before! So I thought.....do I mention it or not? I decided had to as it was such a grim sight. Fortunately Jill and Tony have cats of their own and understand the presents they sometimes bring home!! So that is what Diggers was trying to tell me all along - that`s my boy!!
As the day went on the gales got worse and worse and George, the weathervane on our roof, creaked and groaned in the wind. We telephoned our nearest friends to see how they were weathering the storm only to be informed that their TV aerial and satellite dish had been dislodged and was hanging precariously over the edge of their roof, their shed roof had disappeared and they had no electricity making it impossible for them to operate their electric window shutters and gates.
I went along with Mark to help them but rather than stand in the pitch black house with the shutters firmly sealed, I sat in the car and watched as they battled with a huge piece of plastic sheeting trying to lash it onto the shed roof. Just at the point they has secured one side of the sheeting huge hailstones the size of Elizabeth Taylor`s diamonds started beating down on them. I decided to participate at a distance by staying in the car ......ooooh it`s tough at the top you know!!
Tomorrow we will choose a Christmas tree and I have a feeling the decorations will all be pink again this year! Why not?!
Of course I couldn`t stay in bed yesterday morning.....not when there is a brocante....no matter how small !! I know Abby of My Spotty Pony told me I shouldn`t go out truffling too soon but I was a violation to the code and didn`t pay attention!!! Sorry Abby!
It was quite easy to twist Mark`s arm to get up whilst it was still pitch black outside as this Winter brocante always had a steaming urn of mulled wine on offer!
It was held in an old cattle market where the light is quite dim until daylight appears but I still managed to spot something wonderful hanging in the shade against a wall. A little closer truffling and I found this wonderful old iron church chandelier..............
I took it out into the early light just as the sun was coming up and ooooooohhhh................the verdi gris finish is second to none!
The photographs really don`t do it justice!
Chalky soft green with a look that simply could not be reproduced. The old cord covered wiring is still in place and I was told it had hung over a church altar for many years.
It`s enough to make you don a cassock and join the church choir!!!
Hercule my adored 1930s enamel aga is one of my treasured possessions and one of the best buys I ever made. He was bought initially just as a decorative piece to fill a huge fireplace here but soon we realised how well he works and we have come to rely on him. He heats the whole house with a delicious glow. He was christened HERCULE after the detective Poirot after we discovered he was made in Belgium.
I have grown used to his little foibles as he has mine and we have a good working relationship. Well I should say we DID have a good relationship. For the last few days he has flatly refused to stay alight. No matter what I have tried to coax him with he does not want to know. The chimney is all clear after the ramonager Mr Rousseau did his yearly clean a month ago, we have dry wood and good quality coal, so what is his problem? This morning I resorted to melted candle wax all over the coal which just produced a mist of hideous smelling smoke but no action.
The air is very still on the marsh with not even the slightest breeze and the storks have arrived back for the winter. I do hope we haven`t been chosen for one of those huge storks nests that they tuck inside the large chimey pots in the region.
So Hercule let me advise you Sir.......Mr Rousseau will be here again on Monday to check the chimney but meanwhile may I remind you that you are a guest in this house and I expect better manners.
Let that be the end of it and fire up before I thrash you to within an inch of your life with a ticking bolster!
Pottering around today I found an old text book about Marie Antoinette that I had found at a summer brocante tucked away on a shelf. So, as I am supposed to be resting, I slumped back under the quilt for a read - and became more and more engrossed in all the details of her life and what an amazingly decadent time it was for the aristocracy living in Paris in the 18th century.
From the 1760s it became " de rigeur" for ladies to "pouf" ( raise) their hair as high as possible. Marie Antoinette took this trend to the hilt, often undergoing elaborate hairdressing rituals that lifted her hair to a height of three feet!! These amazing constructions were strengthened with wire, linen padding, horsehair , pomade and flour.
She was also famous for the amazing embellishments that decorated her huge hair. Jewels, silk ribbons, plumes, birds, glass-beaded flowers - and even the incredible "Belle Poule," a model of a French warship of that name! The Queen's most famous coif was the "innoculation" pouf that she wore to publicize her success in persuading the King to be vaccinated against smallpox!
She employed a flamboyant, tiny man ,Jean Francois Autier Leonard, ( above) to style her tresses. He was an arrogant man and short-tempered, often throwing tantrums and hissy fits when something upset him. Leonard performed some "hair-raising" feats with her coif. Soon, women all over France were asking their stylists to arrange their hair "a la reine" ......like the queen.
One of the ladies at court had a huge concoction upon her head that included a gilded bird cage with a live, chirping bird inside!
As the fashion went on ladies suffered from hair loss, eyestrain and headaches due to the constant teasing and styling of their locks. Many had to travel with their heads hanging out of their carriage windows as they were too tall to fit inside!
Another problem were the fleas and lice that inhabited these huge styles and during the latter part of the 18th century fashionable ladies carried a long thin stick for scratching their scalps.
At night their amazing styles were wrapped with linen gauze like a huge ice cream cone to try and keep the shape and many slept propped up with pillows. With the use of flour as a stiffener it is not surprising to hear that vermin took to many a ladies hair as she slept searching for a meal!!
Can you imagine if these styles were " de rigeur" today? Mice?......Lice?......not really very nice!!
Well................... you don`t get rid of me that easily you know!!!! Just when you thought it was safe to go back on your pc I`m back!!! I really refuse to be ill again after this most recent episode!! It`s been one hell of a year for me!
I realised that my blood oxygen level was low again on Sunday morning when I was as wobbly as an alchoholic who had spent the night locked in a local vineyard.
So, with overnight bag packed "just in case", off we went to Valognes hospital to hand myself in! They checked me out before linking me up to an oxygen cylinder, zipping me up in a huge sleeping bag like a caterpillar and loading me into an ambulance where I was taken, with the full flashing lights regalia, to the larger hospital at Cherbourg! I don`t see why I should go quietly - do you? Poor Mark had to follow in our car - eventually getting left behind when the ambulance driver decided to run through a red light!
I was promptly hooked up to a drip and the first of two sachets of blood was pumped into me (I didn't realise how freezing cold it was as I felt it going in!).After the second bag I was then transferred to the maternity department ( excuse me?) to be monitored, sharing a room with a very sweet 19 year old girl who asked if I was " enceinte" ( preganant!). As a menopausal old mule I found that question very funny to say the least!!
The next morning it was very apparent that the blood they had given me was checking out as quickly as it had checked in - and I was told they would operate to see what was going on later in the day. The surgeon's name was Vlad....short for Vladimir.....short for Vlad the Impaler? Whilst I nervously awaited the op I was given three more bags of French blood; surely that makes me completely French now?
So, the op. is done, I returned home today and, hopefully, that is the end of all the hoo har!! I am, as I write this, crumpled under a quilt ( 19th century faded floral of course!) with Digger at my side and Charles the Baron at my feet. I have been doing a little tv watching and after Ray Mears bushcraft I now know how to build a bear trap, make my own teepee and how to tell wolf poo from bear poo . That is sure to come in very useful for early morning brocanting!
Having received 9 bags of nice French blood in 7 weeks I would like to say a big 'merci' to those wonderful donors who handed it over - and hope they were rewarded with the best macaroons with their cafe afterwards.
A big 'merci', also, for all the wonderful messages of support. Normal service is to be resumed very quickly. Now............... how long can I hang it out under this quilt being spoiled and waited on??