Archive Article: 2000/07/21

21 July 2000

MR LAPORTE has just visited with one of his wifes lovely large terrines of rabbit and pork pate, which she is very good at making. That solves the problem of what to have as a starter for the next few days.

The Laportes have retired, selling their farm down the road and they have moved into one of the estate cottages in front of the Chateau de Vimer on the edge of the wood – so we are virtually neighbours now. They keep us well supplied with wonderful pate and we keep them stocked with our cider.

Every now and then, the Laportes get together with Mr and Mrs Dufresne (our and their landlord) and Mr & Mrs Ages (the mayor of Guerquesalles and his wife). Sometimes we are invited along and I wish I had as good a memory as Mrs Dufresne and I wish I had her talent for storytelling. She has a wealth of anecdotes going right back to the war and before – and such an aptitude for imitating accents, especially of that era – that we double up laughing.

The truth is that it was very difficult for her and her family during the War. The chateau was occupied eight times in two years by the SS, but Mrs Dufresnes mother, the countess, was such a strong character she refused to give up her home and so the family stayed and did their best to lead a normal life.

When Vimoutiers was bombed and the hospital wiped out, the chateau served as a temporary replacement and, even though the conditions were dire (the lack of medical supplies meant Calvados was used as anaesthetic and disinfectant used for amputations) the stories that we hear of those times are full of character and humour. She never dwells on the horror of it all.

After 17 years of entertaining evenings, we are still surprised to hear tales we havent heard before. I think she should write a book.

Last weekend there was a brocante in town, a sort of antique fair, and we went for a browse around. As well as lots of Brits, there were some lovely pieces of furniture – typical French wardrobes, heavy farmhouse tables, old lace tablecloths and a postcard stall where Tim and Cherry, browsing through old black-and-white photos/postcards of Guerquesalles, fell on some lovely old pictures of the chateau which, of course, they bought.

The Laportes have been down recently, collecting snails. We have loads of them around the farm – really big ones. They have taken some home, they are going to feed, clean out and then cook them – something I have never fancied doing but, if were lucky, we may get an invitation to dinner to eat some. Hopefully Mrs Dufresne will also be invited and we could take the photos and, hopefully, hear some more gripping tales.

Shell shock… Chrissies hoping to try eating snails soon.

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