Monday, 7 July 2014

Dining in the dark

Do you remember the traditional 1980s style dinner-parties involving table-cloths, polished silverware, flower arrangements, and well-dressed guests drinking Blue Nun wine and enjoying prawn cocktail followed by chickien kiev?  Saturday night was nothing like that.

Preparations started in the morning with a trip to the supermarket – in Spain - as the prices are so much cheaper.  In fact I totally misheard the butcher and thought he was asking me for ‘Treize’ euros (13 euros in french, which I thought was reasonable) but he actually said ‘Tres’ (3 euros in Spanish – even better!)  Spending an afternoon slaving over a hot stove has never been my idea of a good time (I’m surprised M & S hasn’t gone bankrupt since I left England) and bearing in mind that the temperature that day was 38 degrees, we decided to cheat a little.   A lot actually.  Having decided on a slightly Moroccan themed menu we tracked down a restaurant and asked them to prepare a Tajine and sat and had a beer in the shade while they cooked it. 

The hardest part of the rest of the afternoon’s preparations was the immense amount of time it took to peel the stickers off the newly purchased plates and glasses – and also trying to stop all the sun-lounger cushions from flying into the pool as by this time a strong wind had picked up and outside was not just an oven, but a fan oven.  With just 5 minutes to spare (just time to apply a second layer of make-up and drag a brush through my hair) everything was ready and the guests arrived.  I had invited my ‘young’ tennis partners and their wives and my first surprise was not just how brightly coloured their clothes were but the wonderful presents they brought – plants for the garden, champagne, home-made conserves, etc.  All very generous and very welcome. 
While my command of the French language is OK on a one-to-one basis, when there are 9 people talking at once I find it very hard to keep track of what they are saying but it was an evening of fun and laughter – mainly at my expense I fear!  Hopefully the fact that the evening didn’t end until 1am speaks for itself, and I learned four valuable lessons.  Firstly, never/always invite Joel to your house – he never stopped taking photos all night and it felt a bit like an invasion of the Paparazzi (although many thanks to him for forwarding all 64 photos), secondly, if you have a dog who is addicted to playing with tennis balls it is always useful to invite tennis players to a Soirée, thirdly, I need lights in the Pergola – due to the high winds the candles kept blowing out and nobody could see what they were eating, but the final and most important lesson is to invite French friends more regularly

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wimbledon here I come!

The ‘twilight’ zone continues here, as last week I found myself playing in the semi-finals of the Men’s Doubles in the village tennis tournament!  This was surprising for several reasons: firstly, I never signed up to play – apparently there was a meeting at the tennis club one evening when I was back in the UK for a weekend and when I returned my ‘boys (the 70 year old men I play with) proudly announced that they had signed me up for the competition and that I would be playing with somebody called Dominique.  I was amazed that they had found another woman in the village who played tennis but ‘Dominique’ turned out to be the man who runs the local wine shop!  We won the first round without playing as luckily (for us) one of the opposition team had broken an ankle, so on the Thursday night we played our first match.  We lost 6-1 6-0, partly due to the fact that Dominique had been drinking wine all day, partly because it was the first time we had played as a ‘team’ so either both of us ran for the ball or neither of us did, partly because our opponents Romeo and Giles had hair-styles like plastic Lego figures so I coudn’t keep a straight face , but mainly because they were much better than us.  At the end of the match (and I use that term loosely) Dominique turned to me and asked if I was free to play the next evening as we were now in the semi-finals.  It turned out that Romeo had stood in for somebody at the last minute and was already due to play in the next round which meant that if he won again, he would be playing in the final against himself!

The semi-final match was even more of a débacle.  We were playing against 2 of my ‘boys’, Francis and Jean-Jacques, and I had a slight hope that they might be a bit kind to me but absolutely not, they were out to win, although they still couldn’t resist shouting ‘leave it’ whenever I looked as if I was going to hit a ball that was going out (apparently one of my many faults in tennis!).  We were beaten 6-1 6-0 and my only comfort is that they went on to win the final so we obviously stood no chance!

There were no surprise invitations to play in the Finals on Sunday but in the evening we went to the presentation ceremony (all competitors were given a first-aid kit emblazoned with the logo of the Conseil Générale) and this was followed by drinks (served by Dominique, naturally) and a ‘Grillade’.  Trestle tables and chairs were laid out and about 20 of us sat and shared a good meal.  All of this took place on the car park beside the tennis court but despite the fact that we were surrounded by broken glass, litter and graffiti it was a convivial evening – and lovely to meet the various wives and partners of my tennis friends who were equally interested to meet L'Anglaise who plays men's doubles!