Blockades and paddling

Back again in May. French fishermen are blockading ports. Red painted slogans strung up on old sheets, and thick black smoke from burning tyres at many of the roundabouts as we drive out of Caen, instead of Cherbourg. I have brought my mother with me on this short trip. She has come well prepared, with books and newspapers, for the long waits in the van as I do my buying. She has also indicated that, as we are near the sea, that she would like a paddle!

A morning of buying from one dealer with a large warehouse results in piles of gloriously monogrammed linen sheets, a huge mirror with crest, long oak farmhouse table, rush seated chairs, sundry glass and ceramics. The van is almost full already. We head off to lunch in Portbail, a peaceful estuarine port, where we enjoy a table on the terrace, the sunshine and sea air. But the sky turns an ominous grey and large spatters of rain drown our omelette and frites. We take refuge inside as the rain bounces off the tarmac. The proprietress is looking increasingly worried as she stands at the doorway. Suddenly she calls out “Ca vient, Jean!” and water starts to lap over the threshold. The restaurant is at the bottom of a hill, and the rushing gutters can’t drain away quickly enough. Staff and customers engage in a flurry of bailing out with white plastic buckets that appear from the kitchen. Others frentically worked to sweep the water out the door. Eventually, all rather damp, we mop our brows as the sun returns! My mother got her paddle – just a little earlier than anticipated.

We stay again at our favourite manor house – and manage this time to load in the large armchairs!

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