Next morning, after cherry clafouti and coffee, I asked, did Monsieur know anything about gear boxes? Sadly not. They waved me on my hesitant way with a big bag of cherries. I needed to get this problem checked, but drove on further south first to see another dealer. I pulled up after a rather erratic journey and Sylvie was wonderfully reassuring – first we will ring my garagiste, she said. There followed a prolonged debate about leaking gear fluid and the impossibility of getting spare parts for an LDV Cub in France. “Before we decide what to do,” she said, “have a look around the warehouse, and then you will stay to lunch.” I was enormously grateful to her! A large chestnut coffer, dusty and in need of attention was spotted; a huge gilt mirror frame and a few other small items. While she was preparing a salad in her house just down the road Sylvie announced she was going to lend me her car to drive over to the Perche – and while I was away she and her husband would load my van.
So on a scorching afternoon, after much profuse thanks, I drove off in Sylvie’s Renault Espace with the back seats taken out. I stopped later at two dealers and amongst other bricoles bought a pretty floral dinner service as well as a big bag of earthenware painted billes (marbles).
I stayed that night at the long stone farmhouse of a lovely English couple. Their older dog had died since my last visit, but George the Jack Russell remained and had been joined by his energetic niece, Betty. They bounced around in the evening sunshine and did a bit of scent marking on Moe’s front tyre. My tension was receding and Helen sent me off to the garden with a glass of wine – “Come in when your glass is empty,” she said. “It’s just you and me for supper tonight. In the garden ok?” Supper was melon with ham, cutlets, raspberries and cream, and I spent a perfect evening with this gracious woman. One of the strings to her bow was to review chambre d’hotes. She told me about a favourite place which had had a rowing boat provided for guests to get across the river for dinner. But as guests were tending to lose the oars on their way back, the owner had provided a pedalo instead! I reluctantly made my way to bed early as my alarm was set for 5.30am.