Tuesday morning. Sue’s at her French Language Classes. A one minute uphill walk away. I’m ‘on the loose’ so I’m off exploring this small unique, enchanting hilltop village of Sancerre. Strolling up and around the twisting Rue’s, via ‘Rue Saint Dennis’, ‘Rue des Vieiles’ into the shortish narrow ‘Rue des la Tour’ and the town centre where a few Cafes are setting up. Beautiful sunny day, not a cloud to see. Through the town centre, a ‘Bonjour’ here and there to Madame’s and Monsieur, sometimes they answer back, others look at me as though I’m Chewbacca enquiring as to the whereabouts of Hans Solo. Down hill slightly on ‘Rue Porte Cesar’ past the exclusive very french Chateau which is mostly hidden behind a high rock wall, further obscured by ancient grand trees and end up at Esplanade Porte Cesar where there’s a ‘panorama’. A place to take photographs. Away to the right, theres a small park with ten Chup a Chup shaped trees in two lines, with at the end, one of those 22nd century automatic stainless steep toilet cubicles. Its like a Tardis where its roomy inside, one can say Hi to a Dalek, do their business and get a shower if they are not careful. It does not look out of place discreetly positioned down the end of the small esplanade against a 15th century rock wall.
In front of me IS a sweeping Panorama out over the Loire River valley, with the river way below down a steep embankment, across a few rolling low hills. The river looks shallow, sand banks showing, barely flowing as its been a dry summer. Shimmering light slightly distorts fields where neat rows of grape vines march up and down the hillside following the contours. Flashes of the cream limestone soil shows through the vines. Groups of trees huddling where man has not cleared due to the terrain or soil, houses dotted about and there’s the lower down village of Saint Satur squatting all disjointed, fallen like Humpty Dumpty at the bottom of the proud walled hill where Sancerre sits. I hope neither Paris Hilton nor Posh Spice, the Nouveau-Riche, finds out about Sancerre. Leave it alone please 14 second famers.
Way away to my left, as I slowly move my sore neck, Why have you got a sore neck Sonny Boy, the ‘panorama’ is spoilt by two enormous chimneys chuffing out shrouds of bluey grey smoke. Its the Chinon Nuclear Power Plant one of 19 plants and 58 nuclear reactors that France has. One is never far away from a Nuclear Reactor in Froggy land!!!. These plants supply 75% of Frances energy needs and the country earns 3billion euro’s annually from the sale of power to adjoining countries. The Chinon plant draws its cooling water from the Loire River except in 1986/7 when the river froze and the army had to blast open the intake pipes. Then in 2004, radioactive sodium was released into the atmosphere during a ‘leak test’. Somebody forgot to put the diapers on the reactors. Don’t worry about a Chernobyl happening here as it could happen anywhere in the world. The US has 99 reactors, China 39, Japan 39, this after they shut down their Kamikazi (Tsunamis) prone plants. Russia has 35, India 22, Canada 19, the UK 15 and so on. Oz, nary a one but we should be talking about it. Open the dialogue. Bob, Richard and Sarah Hyphen will of course, spit lentils, froth at the mouth and chain themselves to a passing Black Hole. New generation plants are ‘safeish’, so says Dr Strangelove and if theres a problem, the radioactive cloud will drift east from Oz and get rid of those pesky bully New Zealand Ruggers players who we never seem able to beat. Its cheap power, virtually greenhouse gas free and nowday’s does not need to be close to a water supply for cooling. However, they need hot air. Canberra or Barnaby’s constituency would be a perfect location.
There I stand, musing deeply and I need to these days as the hard disc drive and the wiring in the cranium are shorting out due to wear and tear, rust, whisky fills the capillaries giving nutrient rich blood the heave ho and due to a life spent slightly outside the bounds of normal social intercourse. There’s a tap on my shoulder. Is it God or the Devil calling me. I turn and theres this youngish late thirties well built man, pleasant face, he’s gibbering on in Froggy Speak. I do not understand a word. In these situations I pull myself up to my full five foot ten, puff the chest out and say in Oz Speak, I’m an Aussie. He looks confused. As am I. I immediately follow this up with putting my arms in front, hands down and hop a bit whilst softly singing Skippy, Skippy, Skippy. He looks at me completely bemused as though I’m the Second Coming and/or a lump of smelly French Cheese. I confirm his thoughts by saying Parlavou la Francay which I do automatically in France when I feel I am not in control of the situation. I’m definitely not in control and compound our flourishing friendship by saying those Froggy words which Sue tells me means, Do you speak French. I know he’s a Frenchman by the number of ‘wee’s’ and ‘oui’ and ‘bonjour’s’ he says. We settle down and our relationship develops hiccup like. He is here as either his brother has died and is to be buried and/or ashes spread at Sancerre or his brother is getting married and the man in front of me is scouting locations for the bucks party and/or the nuptials. Pick one Des.
I explain with more Skippy acts that I am an Aussie tourist. He writes his name on the back of my Froggy Phrase book as ‘Julien’ and I learn that he is an accountant in a town about 20 minutes away. Married with an eleven and a four year old. Pigeon Pair. We must look like two Mime actors to any observer. Slowly getting to know each other we decide to go for a cup of tea up the ‘Rue Porte Cesar’ to Sancerre’s main Square. I nearly upset our budding friendship when I tell him my name is Des. He looks at me again as though I’m a lump of Froggy Cheese until I grasp from him, that the word ‘Des’ in Froggy speak means, ‘of’. Nobody in the correct cranium hippocampus balance in France, apart from those who drink Absinthe followed by several triple espresso after their child is born, would call a child ‘Des’. We have that cuppa tea at Cafe des Arts which proves the point. He uses his iPhone translator app to give me more info on his life and I do more Skippy acts. Outside in the sun we shake hands, lifetime friends and exchange email addresses. We do have a second coming as schoolgirl Sue appears out of the blue with her classmates. Julien cannot believe that I am Sue’s husband. I feel that way every day. He shakes his head as Sue and Julien go into Froggy Speak and start pointing and laughing looking at me. Sue tells me that Julien is here to take photographs from all of Sancerre’s ‘Panorama’ locations of which there are five. I present him with my map showing those possies. He is delighted and after due consideration, I determine that he would be a shoo in for the first Froggy Speak PM of Australia.
Later after lunch, having settled down via a small glass of Stella beer, at the said same Cafe des Arts, I go for walkies intending to find the ‘Market’ down the hill at the village of Saint Satur. I had the wife’s wish list. My first mistake was going right at (Rue) Ramparts des Dames instead of left as everybody told me to. I’m a ‘smarty pants’ and go right because I can just about touch the village just there. I see it through the trees at the bottom of a steep incline. Des or ‘Of’ as I am becoming known, is going to find a short cut down the hill full well knowing that everybody from Julius Cesar in 51 BC, the Huguenot’s, Franks, Goths, Vikings, Napoleon and Hugh Jackman had failed at finding a short cut into and/or out of Sancerre. I soon discover that Froggy roads and tracks do not follow steep inclines. Like in Oz. I knew that, but I’m stupid. My route leads me to traverse several longitudinal goat tracks, jump fences, walk through vineyards, wave to Froggy Vigneron’s, cross a long bending road aqueduct and find the village of Saint Satur. But its not the Saint Satur where we got our groceries on the first day here. I wander around a bit, ask directions at a Citroen workshop who no understand. If I had wanted a de-coke of the exhaust pipe, then they would have taken the time to try and understand. I’m lost and consult my iPhone Google Person but ‘Of’ mucks it up. I walk on in a near deep terminal sook until a miracle. Theres the supermarket and alongside it, the ‘right’ road that leads back to Sancerre. I’m overjoyed and instead of getting all the goodies on the ‘wife’s list’, I consider buying a small bottle of Absinthe as I’m hyper, out of my sook, and want to be a Frenchman named ‘Of’. I walked near 22,000 steps or near 18k’s that day. All as per my Apple Fitbit tracking device which does not tell fibs. ‘I occasionally do Mum’. Your’e a naughty at times sonny boy. Have you been to confession?
Each evening, when the Good Wife is not out gallivanting with her classmates, or on a wine degustation after school meet, attempting to sip their way through all of the Loire Valleys wines, we chat. Its a requirement of our marriage manifesto, in the small print. The Good Wife downloads her lessons, the bits she thinks I will understand, there goes sixty seconds, and I download about my expedition around the perimeter of Froggy Land. Another thirty seconds gone as I skip the bit about me being a ‘goose’ like Barnaby. I tell the Good Wife what we are planning to have for Dins that evening, as I’m the ‘house husband’. She, the French lady I live with, changes that to something edible that keeps my gut orchestra playing Peer Gynts ‘Morning’. Even though its evening. Moi gets to choose a beer, and from Her cellar, She chooses a vino.
After dins, we go strolling, chuck a ‘Bonsoir’ here and there. Its still daylight at 8pm, many people are about so we join in and have a Kronenbourg Beer each at ‘La Connetable Cafe’, come Brasserie come Restaurant. It has a large screen TV showing Froggy men running around chasing a round ball. In the bar with all the noise, you would think that the Huguenots were at the village Ramparts as Froggy men shout, gesticulate angrily at the screen whilst making rude noises like ‘Oiu’, and ‘Holy Sheet’. When the stress level goes up another notch, they go outside to drag on a foul smelling Gauloise or two, emit Trouser Bugles and continue waving their arms about excitedly to demonstrate that Ruben should have used a ‘header’. Sacre Bleu!!!
Au revoir from Me 😇 and the French Lady, Oiu 👩🏻