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Les Vacances de Mr Wool

  Mon 13th June 2011

Meet "Steve", as my children named "him". It's a merluchon, a small-tailed hake, from the market in La Trinité Sur Mer. The girls watched half-revolted, half-fascinated, as I made an amateur's job of gutting him and his equally unfortunate friends, before chasing them round the caravan with his severed head, making him talk.

Gutting the fish was absorbing, and I wish I knew more about piscatorial anatomy. The small flat pale brown lungs were obvious, as was the tough optic nerve which resisted the caravan's sharpest knife, the attempts to cut which only resulted in the eye jerking to and fro strangely, making him look like a fish in a circus. Much of the rest of it was a bloody mystery. A few days later I saw a master at work in the same market, slicing a yard-long fish under its gills, holding it by fixing his fingers in its mouth and drawing his hand down along its cut body to remove the entrails.

We ate Steve at a barbeque with some quasi-relatives and a couple they knew whom I'd not met before. I couldn't help wondering all night why the witty deadpan provocateur Mark had decided upon the precise, taciturn Mary. She briefly dealt with our enquiries as though conscious of a need to be courteous, and ventured a total of one question all night, asking Kirsty whether her top was "vintage". After a litre or so of cider I couldn't be bothered to make much more of an effort with her.

Each Monday there's a "Pot d'Accueil", during which plastic cups of cider are dispensed in a gloomy anteroom of the 1830ish farmhouse around which the campsite was developed. Men talk about either "the drive down", or how glad they are to be have been made redundant; women revert to children. I chatted to Florence, the stagiaire, a breathily-voiced 19-year-old girl from Rennes, dressed in layers of opaque and transparent black.

A couple of days later, feeling trapped in a social evening in semi-relatives' caravan, the iPod blaring and a sparing allocation of drink delivered with fractional but unmistakable reluctance, I was mentally searching for an escape plan. An idea came. "Right, you must excuse me, I've got a date with Florence. No, no, not really," I said, lyingly adding plausible detail. "We're just going to meet down Les Terraces and she'll talk in English and I in French and we'll help each other out."

In the silent gap afforded by their incredulity that I had arranged a night out with a 19-year-old French girl, I nimbled out of the caravan and walked into town to my favourite bar for an evening's reverie with some Belgian lager and the harbour water's beautiful glistering.


Dolmen de Kermarquer

No Breton holiday is complete without a day of sunburn and multiple mosquito bites to accompany a meander around Iron Age burial sites, so we cycled our way round some dolmen and menhirs on a circuitous route to one of the best bars in the area. The dolmen above dates from about 5000 BC and is interesting for some regular short corridors leading off it, the function of which is as much of a mystery as is my apprehensive face in the picture.

Eventually we got to the bar. Punk and chanson album covers and a literate library round the walls: Malraux, Molière, Edward St Aubyn, and a booklet presenting a translation of Allende's last speech on Chilean Radio, before he met his death in circumstances that were the subject of an investigation whilst we were in Brittany. A few doors away, in my decade-long search for an outstanding Breton cider, I bought some "Extra Brut" (trans.: "medium dry") of François Séhédic. Not bad, but no matter how "biologique" and "artisanal" the methods, the Bretons cannot resist carbonification.

Whilst we were out, a Dutch couple had moved in next door. At dusk, me and Kirsty outside drinking M. Séhédic's overnamed cider, I turned and saw them through the hedge. She, in a red and white polka dot flared dress, gently laid herself down on top of him on the plastic lounger, before kissing him, open-mouthed, slowly.

Arriving at Manchester Airport, we were suddenly outnumbered by a much larger group of passengers who appeared to be coming back from a colloquium on "The Body As Advertising". Most people bore brand names across their chests or handbags: HEN LEYS PRO JECT in silver letters at 45 degrees; others seemed anxious to ensure that something called G STAR was to be taken RAW; and several women displayed their affection for an evidently popular person referred to only as "PB". At the carousel it all became clear: there was an arrival from Malaga ten minutes after ours.

4 comments

That poor fish. Subject to your relentless amateur hacking. My father was a butcher and he was a maestro around a roasted turkey. Well done on the spying, though.

Mon 13th June 2011 @ 11:59
Comment from: [Member]

Yes, there’s room for improvement in my fishmongering skills. I mightr get one of my foodier friends over to show me how to do it properly.

Mon 13th June 2011 @ 13:02
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

Nice to have you back, esp as you now represent 25% of my blog-reading habits and Fweng Ebola NEVER BLOODY BOTHERS these days.

Mon 13th June 2011 @ 18:03
Comment from: [Member]

I know, that is developing into one of the biggest bloglosses of 2011. He’s brilliant at it.

Mon 13th June 2011 @ 18:59


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