16 July 2010

What did you do yesterday?

Yesterday at 9:00 a.m. I fired up the Peugeot and went down to Madame Barbier's (her real name) in the village for my semi-annual haircut. The occasion for this one is my trip to Paris and points north starting Sunday morning with CHM. Wouldn't want to look shaggy and provincial in sleek, stylish Paris.

I drove down to the salon de coiffure on the off-chance that I'd be able to get a haircut without an appointment. Mme Barbier was busy at 9:00 but she had a free slot at 10:00. Her salon had been closed on Monday and Tuesday, as she stretched the Bastille Day holiday on Wednesday into a four-day "weekend" for a trip to the coast at Noirmoutier with her husband. She said the heat had been unbearable in Saint-Aignan last week, and she was right. She just had to get away, out to the coast where there was at least a breath of fresh air.

I told her I'd run up to SuperU and do some shopping I needed to do, and I'd be back by 10.

On the way to SuperU, I drove up through the vineyards south of town. I was coming up on the good boulangerie up there and thinking it would be good to stop to get a baguette because our bread deliveries have been suspended until next Tuesday — the porteuse de pain is on holiday. It would be better bread than what I could get at the supermarket. There was only one other customer at the boulangerie and she seemed to be chatting with the boulanger and boulangère rather than buying anything. — « Allez-y, she told me, je ne suis pas pressée. »

I got a baguette « pétrisane » — one that is kneaded by hand rather than in a big electric mixer — and decided to have a croissant as well. I had a little creux — a hunger pang. Just looking at a croissant can do that to you.

At SuperU, they had a special offer on slices of leg of lamb for grilling, so I got a package, along with the eggs, mineral water, and rear windscreen wiper blade that I had on my list. I also picked up a package of chicken breasts, which is something I almost never buy. I usually buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself. But I have a recipe for boneless chicken breasts with cooked apricots, and I didn't want to thaw out the whole farm-raised chicken I have in the freezer just for that dish, because I'm going away for a week on Monday. It would mean too many leftovers.

On my way out of the store, I looked for the grocery checker named Édith, who we met at a party years ago and who is always a friendly face, but she wasn't there. She told me in June that her gendarme husband was being transferred to Tours, so they would be moving. I guess they've gone now. Such events make me realize how long we've lived here.

On the way back to Mme Barbier's, I drove through Saint-Aignan rather than back through the vines. There was a lot of traffic coming off the bridge and headed toward the zoo (I assume). I stopped off at the house and left the groceries with Walt. I still had 15 minutes before 10:00 rolled around. Walt told me he had called the roofer, but we had to wait for a callback. I put on the new wipe blade — no it wasn't raining but now it's done — and drove the 2 miles back down to the village center for my haircut.

Mme Barbier knows CHM — he's been to see her a few times for a trim — so she always asks about him. She also knows our California friends who own a house about 10 miles south of us. Mme Barbier said she was surprised she hadn't heard from them this summer. I told her their annual trip had been slightly delayed, but that she'd surely see at least one of them before the first of August.

She really sheared me, as I asked her to, like every other time. I get at least two haircuts a year, and sometimes three (in leap years). She charges 10.50 €, and she discourages people from giving her a tip. The woman who was leaving as I arrived was going to pay 12.70 € and didn't have change. She told Mme Barbier to not bother with the 30 cents change, but that didn't work. « Il n'y a pas de raison, » Mme Barbier said as she counted out a bunch of little copper coins.

By 10:45 I was back home, shorn. It felt good and I don't know why I put off haircuts for as long as I do. Je me laisse vivre, as they say here. For our lunch, Walt grilled a couple of slices of lamb and a few slices of a big zucchini from the garden. The little electric grill out on the terrace is very convenient. We had the rest of the potato salad with it, and it was all really delicious.

I tried to watch a movie on TV after lunch but I fell asleep in my chair. It must have been the wine with lunch. I was awake long enough at the beginning to realize I had seen the movie, a French one with Nathalie Baye and Jean-Pierre Bacri, before. When I woke up, I made a cup of coffee. I got out the varnish and a brush and applied another coat to the staircase. CHM rang just as I was finishing up and we chatted about the upcoming trip for a few minutes. Then I went for a pretty good walk with the dog.

By the way, I don't know who left us a copy of a book called Célestine: Voices from a French Village, by British writer Gillian Tindall, but I thank whoever it was. I've finally picked it up to read and am enjoying it very much. The third chapter, describing the village about an hour south of Saint-Aignan where Ms. Tindall bought a house 35 years ago, is full of accurate and revealing details about life here. That village could well be the one we live in.


  1. Ken

    If your copy of "Célestine" is an ex-library book (hardback, plastic covered, old) then it was us.

    Célestine is the perfect name for a lady of a certain age - so good in fact that we appropriated it

  2. Hi Simon, this copy was published in NY and has a price in dollars in it. And the dust jacket is slick paper, not plastic. I don't see any library markings in it. If you haven't read it, I can pass it along a little later.

  3. A very nice slice of life. You packed a lot in and seemed to enjoy it all--as I did, reading about it.

  4. Thanks, Carolyn. It was a nice day. Today too, by the way.

  5. "She charges 10.50 €, and she discourages people from giving her a tip...."

    Egads, the lady's a dream come true!

  6. I could have given you Celestine- I used to have that book. I love reading histories.

    I see Walt is also getting shorn for the summer. I think you have found an excellent barber in Mme Barbier.

    Have a great trip, hopefully you be including us, your faithful readers on the journey.

  7. I was in France the whole time I read the story. How lovely! You'll have to say hello to CHM for us. He is missing the earthquakes, the heat and humidity. He left at he right time.

  8. That was a great summary "A day in the life...."

    My day - well, the kids were away most of the day with their friend and I got to actually sit and read a book in the afternoon!!! The simple things....

  9. A very nice 'slice of life' post.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?