Those were the days, my friends

Cloud, mist, fog, and rain darkened our door last week which was a bit sad as we had two friends visiting. They euro-starred here. To get to Calais from London, you have to catch the Eurostar to Lille and then get on another train to come back to Calais. It doesn’t make sense as the Eurostar actually rises from the ‘tunnel sous manche’ in Calais. Maybe the French want to force people to visit Lille, or to have the English make use of off their fancy TGV trains, but I suspect it may have more to do with thwarting the refugees.

All around the shuttle tunnel are miles and miles of ugly, forbidding barbed wire fences, presumably to keep out refugees. Last week, about 200 brown skinned young men, with small, neat backpacks were escorted across the heath opposite our house into town by armed gendarmes. Another day, as we drove along the road to go to Wissant market, groups of more dishevelled and tired looking refugees were sleeping on the side of the road. As we went to Calais Frethurn to collect my two friends, there were bands of refugees dotted around everywhere. Two Kurds were asking Jerry about buses. He was the worst person to ask, I don’t think he has ever caught a bus in his life, not in England, Ireland and certainly not in France. Anyhow, now refugees are much more in evidence. I wonder what the French did with them during the summer.

Despite the squally winds and mizzle, we got a few walks in with the friends. Just North of Wimereux , you can walk all along the cliff path from one pretty French village to another between the Cap Blanc du Rey and Cap Gris du Rey. So, after visiting Wimereux market and buying an enormous custard tart for the weekend, Jerry dropped us in Ambleteuse, and togged up in our coats and hats and we set off along the stony beach to  Ardresseus. I have never seen such beautiful stones on a beach, full of colour: blues, greys, reds, browns, yellows. I got a few to bring home). I also loved the crunch and crackle under foot…like a marching along a massive bowl of rice krispies. We could have walked through the sand dunes which would have been much more romantic, but it’s hard on the hip and I would have had to chase Poppins chasing rabbits.

The next day, we took Ellen and Lesley (a different Lesley) to the Musee du Chateau in Boulogne which took us on an epic, very interesting and dry tour of Egyptian mummies, Grecian vases, Alaskan native masks Polynesian spears, and Italian renaissance paintings.

Egyptian Mummy in Gold Leaf
Egyptian Mummy in Bandages

We had planned to go out to dinner, but it was too wet to venture into town, so we dashed across to the intermarch and got the wherewithal for salmon and prawn stirfry (I had bought fresh chilis and ginger in Paris) and beverages. The next night we braved the rain, and went to La Vie est Belle and shared a delicious tomato tart (yes, to those of you who know Jerry), various rillettes, un boucherie (Lesley wondered if it was horse because it was so very large), and a delicious chocolate mousse. The next night, after the friends had been taken to Calais Port to catch the boat home, we ate out in the Café de La Marie. I tried a french Andouillette sausage and that is certainly a delicacy I won’t be packing into the car.

Andouillette is a French coarse-grained sausage made from the intestine of pork, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings. Andouillettes are generally made from the large intestine and are 7–10 cm in diameter. True andouillettes are rarely seen outside France and have a strong, distinctive odour coming from the colon. (from Wikipedia)

After the two women left, the wind and rain still howled around the roof and chucked the garden furniture about. However, it gave me the opportunity of a day’s rest as my body had totally tuned into the tempest and was I tossed with raucous coughs and swirling snot.

I soon recovered when we decided to visit the grand intermarche to buy stuff to take home. I had a very happy time filling the trolley with wine, petit beurre biscuits, cheeses, pate de compagne, madeleines,  brioches, butter, flageolet, tinned cassoulets, canned saucisses aux lentilles etc. Mon Dieu I said at the Caisse as I looked at the thirty wine bottles cascading along the conveyer belt…as if I hadn’t put them there.

Before I leave Wimereux, I want to give the final French word to the Musee de Batterie. Formidable. All the time I have been coming or passing through the Pas de Calais, walking the cliffs, or along the beach, there are the ‘pill boxes’ and I have often tried to imagine the German soldiers stationed in there. The Batterie (there were fourteen of them along the coast) is like a giant pill box, a veritable hi tech killing machine. We saw tanks, shells, the anti aircraft artillery, Rommel’s asparagus (wooden poles used against sea invasion) the mines and guns used by the men in navy. On the last day of the war, it fired shells for three hours on Folkestone and Dover. The Musee de Batterie tells the story of the men who designed the guns, how they lived there and the weaponry they used. It was a chilling reminder of how mankind puts his progressive technology into practice.

We leave Wimereux tomorrow. Me and Poppins will miss the beaches. The next stop is London for a few days where I hope to visit family, the Tate , Victoria and Albert, and maybe even the RHA… then, finally, back to the Cavan forests and lakes to enjoy the final splendour of the autumn colours.

I’m also looking forward to facilitating a new poetry workshop back at home. The last workshop I did, we never had enough time to properly read the poems that I chose as prompts each week. I think there is great joy in reading poems together, so this time round, we will spend four weeks reading and discussing the poems alone, and then four weeks workshopping the poems they prompted!

So…from au revoir from the Pas de Calais. I have had the most wonderful time.

Je reviendrai! Demain, a Londres!

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