Friday, May 29, 2015

Mini Cooper Road Trip in France

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France.
Our 2015 Mini Cooper road trip itinerary 

Hooray, it's Friday! I've had a busy week catching up on my domestic duties, clearing out and cleaning forgotten corners and rediscovering the spare room. The sofa covers have been washed and I've vacuumed under the cushions. The dog has been bathed and all the animal bedding has been cleaned. I've recycled magazines, light bulbs, batteries and even a toner cartridge that has been sitting around for months. I'm on top of the washing and ironing and I've even vacuumed the porch. This burst of activity, from an otherwise slovenly housewife, can mean only one thing, important guests are on their way! However I'm not doing this because my in laws are expecting it to be spit spot perfect, I'm doing it for me. In an ideal world I'd be this organised on a daily basis, but realistically that will never happen. Now I'm up to date I feel better and although I'm exhausted I know I'll enjoy my holiday more now I've worked for it. 

On Sunday Adrian and I are heading south on a road trip in Gizmo the Mini Cooper. If you remember our disaster last year (see here) please keep everything crossed for us that this year will be more successful, thanks. We will be leaving the running of my 'normal' life to his parents. They will be able to fill their days taxi-ing Ed around, feeding the old and wobbly cat who prefers to eat little and often throughout the day, mopping the stream of saliva that pours from the toothless mouth of the old cat, cleaning out the cat litter tray, feeding the dog, playing ball with the dog, walking the dog, picking up after the dog, watering the garden, feeding the birds, collecting eggs and cooking. Hopefully they will also have a bit of time (and good weather) to sit in the garden, listening to the birds and watching the swallows and house martins darting about. Maybe they will get time to visit a market, have a coffee in a bar and watch the world go by. They might even get a day at the coast.

Our route this year will take us along the back roads to Sarlat-la-Caneda, Castres, Nimes, Montbrun-les-Bains, Meyrueis and Rocamador. We are certainly looking forward to our adventure and I hope Adrian's parents are looking forward to theirs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book review of French Impressions: The Dordogne River by George East

My review today is for French Impressions: The Dordogne River: from source to sea by George East, a travel memoir of a road trip along the River Dordogne.
French Village Diaries book review  French Impressions: The Dordogne River by George East
French Impressions: The Dordogne River

I have read some, but not yet all, of George’s other France based memoirs and they always make me laugh, so I was delighted to find this one just before setting off on our own French road trip that (as luck would have it) will include some of the Dordogne. I was not disappointed; this book had me crying with laughter more than once thanks to his original and often hilarious ways of recounting the things he has noticed or his descriptions of the people he has met. He was so honest about his experiences it was refreshing. I’m glad we are not the only ones to have done a spin of a car park, realised that no matter how beautiful this particular Plus Beaux Village is, it is sadly too busy for us see more than a drive by glance. Welcome to the real France that some guidebooks gloss over!

In this book, George and his wife visit the main tourist attractions from the source of the river in the Auvergne to Blaye on the Atlantic coast, often taking the back roads, sometimes following signs to small detours, occasionally getting lost, but always enjoying their journey. Some establishments they find to eat or stay a night in are warm and welcoming, others not so, but all are described with humour. Some of the places he writes about were familiar to me and I really enjoyed revisiting them with him, others were new and George certainly whet my appetite for a road trip and gave me quite a few places to add to my ‘must see’ list. With a combination of interesting facts and funny stories, from this trip and previous ones, he has the ability to simultaneously inform and entertain his readers throughout the journey.

This book would be perfect for anyone who enjoys humorous memoirs about travelling in France and should be a must read for anyone planning a holiday in the Auvergne, Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées, Poitou-Charentes or Aquitaine regions.

French Impressions: The Dordogne River: from source to sea and George’s other books are all available in paperback and ebook format from Amazon and all good book shops.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Family cycling in Charente Maritime

French Village Diaries family cycling Charente Maritime Poitou-Charentes river Charente Saint Sevinien
River Charente, Saint Savinien

Yesterday I was treated to morning coffee in one of our favourite bars and lunch in another, as we just couldn't make up our minds which one to go to. I had to work for my treats though, with a 25km hilly bike ride to coffee, another 15km to lunch and then 18km home. Some may say that following 58km yesterday, the last thing my legs wanted today was another 40km ride, but some may say that was just what they needed. All I'm saying is that it's not often14 year old Ed actually asks to spend time with us on a family bike ride, so I was going no matter how tired my legs were.

French Village Diaries family cycling Charente Maritime Poitou-Charentes river Charente Taillebourg
Taillebourg Charente Maritime

We live ten kilometres from the Charente Maritime border and whether we hit the coast or stay inland we often enjoy a day out there. Today we cycled a relatively flat 40km circuit taking in small towns and villages with Romanesque churches, ramparts and chateaux, including Saint Sevinien, Taillebourg and Fenioux. We cycled through vineyards, poppy fields and wheat fields just beginning to turn yellow. We traced the banks of the river Charente and cycled through marshlands where storks were nesting. We had sun, cloud and at our beer stop, a bit of drizzly rain. It was a lovely day and we even met a few fellow cyclists.

French Village Diaries family cycling Charente Maritime Poitou-Charentes Taillebourg
Taillebourg Charente Maritime
The first one was a Frenchman with a very old bike who flagged us down at the side of the road to borrow a pump. Next we saw a very Parisian-looking couple effortlessly whirring downhill on their electrically assisted matching bikes, as we struggled up hill with nothing but tired legs and orange flavoured sports drink to power us. Then there was the sleek real cyclist, wearing the Lycra strip of a local cycling club, who breezed past with a courtesy ‘bonjour’ as I was puffing up another hill. But I was quick. I leapt on his back wheel and used his drag to power me up the hill, overtaking Ed and Ade with ease. Well, OK, I'm lying. I spluttered a bonjour, but before the thought of tagging behind him had entered my weary head, he'd gone to catch up with my boys. Oh well, I can but dream and anyway I'm sure he only had the power to overtake as he'd been using my drag to climb most of the hill.

Tomorrow I will not be on my bike, but it won't be a day of rest as the lawns need mowing and the car needs cleaning.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My turn for a bad day

French Village Diaries life in France
Tap water should not look like this!

Top tip of the day – if the water coming out of your tap looks like the contents of the glass above, do not put on a wash containing all of your husband’s white work shirts. They will reappear looking like you have been tie-dying with rust, trust me! Although in my defence I didn’t know there was a problem with the water until after I’d put the machine on and then noticed the watermen and their little van working outside the house.

This was just one thing that I could have done without yesterday, especially as I’d completely run out of washing tablets, so in order to attempt to re-wash them I had to go begging to the neighbours. I’m really not usually this disorganised, but as I had been housebound for almost two days, waiting in for a seemingly elusive courier delivery, I hadn’t been shopping.

Added to this, Adrian was getting itchy feet, the sun was out, but we were in (desperate not to miss the courier) and his bike was calling. He was also under stress as the work shirts I was trying to wash were for a job in London next week and there was a UK rail strike planned for just when he needed to get from Stansted to London, London to Reading and then Reading to London. Following on from Mini's bad day earlier in the week, yesterday it was our turn.

Thankfully, the second wash of the work shirts resulted in a line full of bright white washing, phew. Just as I finished hanging it out, the courier delivery arrived, yippee and then the news on radio informed us that the rail strike had been called off, hooray! I decided a celebratory meal was in order and loaded up the bread machine with the pizza dough ingredients and spent some time working in the garden while it did the hard work for me. However, all was not well. The paddle had jammed solid, so all that had happened was that the ingredients had been heated gently but not mixed. I rescued the dough and kneaded it by hand while Adrian set about fixing the jammed mechanism. The pizzas were delicious and the bread machine lives to mix another day, but I was glad to get to bed last night and I’m rather glad it isn’t a Friday 13th today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book review of Clancy Goes To France by Emma Kate Herbert

My review today is for Clancy Goes To France: A Mother and Daughter Take On A 3,000 Mile Road Trip In Continental Europe With A Vintage Car (Travels With Lola On The Back Roads Book 1) by Emma Kate Herbert. This memoir about an unusual road trip in France ticked so many of my boxes I couldn’t wait to start reading it.
French Village Diaries book review travel memoir Clancy Goes To Europe Emma Kate Herbert
Clancy Goes To France

We join Emma, her 3 year old daughter Lola and their 40 year old Peugeot (Clancy) as they make a 3000 mile road trip around France, recording what they see every day to share with Emma’s father whose MS and cancer mean he is unable to return to France. I felt it was a lovely thing to share her experiences while fundraising and raising awareness about MS along the way. I loved the author’s passion for her subject, her determination and her honesty about the ups and downs she experienced and although I’ve read many travel memoirs in France this one really does offer something a bit different.

The responsibility on Emma’s shoulders as the only adult in charge of a vintage car, a three year old, plus all the driving, route planning and decision-making made for an exhausting challenge where she often struggled to live up to her own expectations of her dream trip. I think she did a marvellous job and really shouldn’t be disappointed at what they failed to see, as from personal experience no matter how many road trips you take in France, there is always more to see.

The pace of the book was good and her descriptions of France kept me interested, but I did struggle a bit with the flow, as I felt there was a lot of unnecessary repetition in the narrative. While this never stopped me wanting to read more, I would have had a more enjoyable read without the sense of déjà vu.

What I loved more than anything was Emma’s attitude of seizing the moment and taking the adventure and I couldn’t help feeling Lola is one very lucky little lady to have a Mum like Emma and I hope they continue to travel and make memories together. I also hope that through this book she is able to encourage others to make their own memories.

You can follow Emma and Lola at their website and on Facebook where she shares plenty of photos. Emma is an active fundraiser for the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society and will be making donations from the sales of this book to them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mini the dog has a bad day

French Village Diaries dogs animal tales
Mini the dog

Mini is a rather spoiled seven year old black Labrador cross who has lived with us since she was a puppy. She has a choice of sleeping spaces in the lounge, her bed, complete with cosy, duvet base, or two fleece covered sofas that she prefers to stretch out on rather than share with us.

She is groomed and walked every day, gets to play ball whenever she demands and is much loved. She adores and is adored by Ed, who walks her regularly and happily shares a sun lounger with her.

When we go out, she has a safe space in the front courtyard with access to sunny spots, soft grass, water and a shady, sheltered area with her outdoor bed. However, all was not well when we returned home this morning. Mini didn't run to the gate, keen to greet us, instead she was stood by her bed and wasn't happy. An intruder (who I've nicknamed Goldilocks) was curled up in her bed and was showing no sign of fear (or desire to move) despite a large black dog bearing down on her. In that very snooty way cats have, she just ignored the fuss going on around what she feels is now her new bed. Goldilocks please go home, Mini isn't the friendliest of dogs when it comes to sharing and I'm sure you must have a far less smelly bed at your home.

French Village Diaries cats animal tales
Goldilocks the intruder
This blog is linked up with the Eco-Gites of Lenault Animal Tales blog linky.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

My patisserie challenge, tartelette aux fraise

My patissiere challenge, tartelette aux fraises

Welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself.

My choice today, the tartelette aux fraises, just screamed the arrival of summer and if I'm honest looked almost too good to eat, almost. The crisp pastry shell is home to a pool of crème pâtissière which is then topped with a tower of fresh strawberries that are glazed and finished with an artistic swirl of cream. 

Difficult to eat daintily, but oh so worth the mess, I loved the combination of fresh strawberries with cream and crème pâtissière. The sweetness was just right and my only complaint was that it didn't last long enough, but there is always next week. This made me smile when I saw it at the boulangerie this morning and I was still smiling when I finished eating it.

Something else that made me smile this weekend was the HOPE book sale. With thousands of books to rummage through, I can always find something on a French theme that I've not yet read and here were my lucky finds today.

HOPE book sale 

Here are my previous patisserie challenge posts, in case you missed them:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Book review of French Dirt by Richard Goodman

I thought it would be nice to post a memoir Monday review today for French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman, a memoir about a year in a potager in the South of France.

French Village Diaries book review French Dirt Richard Goodman potager gardening France memioirs
I was attracted by the beautiful cover of this book that, as well as its French theme, made me want to open it up and read more. Inside, I discovered a lovely memoir of the special time the author and his girlfriend had when they swapped New York for a small village in Provence. He describes the characters, their daily routines he witnesses from his house on the village square and his clever plan to become accepted in the community, even though they were only going to be there for a year. Being in France, in a village where generation after generation had worked the land, Richard felt he needed some land of his own in order to grow his own food. He persuaded a local farmer to help him and began to toil his soil, learning from those around him. As with anything where Mother Nature is involved there were ups and downs, but his hard work, determination and enthusiasm are what I will carry with me from this book.

I love France, I love gardening and this book was a perfect read during the short days of winter. It reignited my enthusiasm and made me long for the better weather of spring when I could get back out in my vegetable garden. I'm sure I'm more on top of the weeds this year thanks to reading this book!

French Dirt is available in paperback and ebook format.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My patisserie challenge, capitole abricot

French Village Diaries patisserie challenge capitole abricot
My patisserie challenge, capitole abricot

Welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself.

My choice today is the capitole abricot a light and airy layered sponge, sandwiched with fruit filled cream and topped with meringue. It is soft, moist, fruity and melts in the mouth giving a very satisfying eating experience. It's hard to believe something so light actually contains any calories at all! If I’m honest, I’m feeling a bit of a glutton today as Ed and I thought homemade pizza would be a great end of school holiday treat this evening and I've also made another batch of tiny double chocolate tartlets from Jill Colonna's Teatime in Paris (I fear these are becoming a habit). At least they are only very small and should last us a few days.

French Village Diaries homemade pizza tiny chocolate tartlets
Home baking

Thankfully we have also been quite good at getting out on our bikes this week and have covered over a hundred kilometres, including a morning coffee run this morning as the weather was perfect. 

French Village Diaries cycling Deux Sevres Poitou Charentes
Cycling Deux Sevres

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie

Here are my previous patisserie challenge posts, in case you missed them:

Royale chocolat

Friday, May 8, 2015

A vote

French Village Diaries voting UK France elections
Postal vote papers

A vote is your formal expression of opinion or choice. The same letters written with an added French accent become a voté, which means ‘voted’ and is called out each time a vote is cast at a bureau de vote in France.

Yesterday the UK held it’s general election and although this may seem like an odd topic for a French blog stick with me, it has a decidedly French twist.

As a European in France, rather than a French national, I can vote (and was voted for) in the local level elections and can cast my vote in the European elections, but my voice is a silent one in the departmental and national elections in France, as I have no right to vote. I’m not really into politics, but this annoys me, as I’m far more interested in the day-to-day decisions affecting daily life and taxes in France than I am in the UK, having left there over ten years ago. Despite this desertion I was still entitled to vote in the UK general election yesterday by setting up a postal vote, which I did. Like the elections in France I was presented with a list of names on the voting paper, however, unlike in France where you vote in an entire list of candidates (see here), in the UK I had to choose just one name by placing an X in the box. The list contained all the usual suspects, but tucked in at the bottom was The Roman Party.AVE, which wasn’t one I remembered from my years living in Reading. Following a bit of Internet research it seems I’m not the only foreigner dipping their finger into local politics, but some obviously have more ambition than I do. According to Wikipedia, The Roman Party was founded by a Frenchman from Bordeaux, who now lives and works as a bus driver in Reading and as an admirer of the ancient Romans, he credits “when in Rome, do as the Romans” as the basis of his policy, which sounds quite sensible to me. The party has been running since the 2009 European elections, although with little success.

I thought it quite amusing that the British born French village councillor, who hasn’t lived in the UK for over ten years and who can’t vote for the President of France, could have voted for the Frenchman living and working in Reading and standing in the UK general elections.

Vive la démocratie!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A small taste of a big adventure, cycling La Vélo Francette

French Village Diaries cycling La Velo Francette Freewheeling France Niort Marais Poitevin
With Freewheeling France cycling La Velo Francette
One day I would love to take on the challenge of a big cycle adventure. As a child, going out on my bike was limited to cycling the towpath of the Basingstoke canal, turning around and heading home. More than anything, I wanted to be able to do circular cycle routes. Here in rural France I’m in circular cycle route heaven. Whether we pick up a marked route in the Charente or plot our own route, the varieties are endless. But I want more. I want a big adventure. 

French Village Diaries La Vélo Francette Caen La Rochelle France Cycling
La Vélo Francette
In June of this year a new French cycle route is opening up, La Vélo Francette, that runs from the Ouistreham ferry dock near Caen in Normandy to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast. With 600kms of marked cycle ways linking up and joining existing cycle routes, just reading about it was enough to give me a tingle of excitement. Lynette Eyb from the French cycling website Freewheeling France, is giving the route a pre-opening test ride, with the help of various local tourist information offices. I won’t deny I’m slightly green with envy, but yesterday Adrian and I were able to meet up with her and her friend Nicole and help escort them through one of our favourite cycling areas, the Marais Poitevin.

We met in Coulon, a pretty town in the heart of the Marais Poitevin, and a regular start point for our bike rides in the reclaimed marshland area situated between La Rochelle and Niort, that is criss-crossed with canals, waterways, footpaths and cycle tracks. We joined them for the 20km ride into Niort, which is our closest big town; somewhere we have to go to if we need something not available locally, or if we have to visit the Prefecture for official French bureaucracy. It is not somewhere we had ever considered actually cycling into for pleasure. The beginning of the route took us through our beloved Marais Poitevin where we acted as unofficial tour guides and pointed out the knobbly, pollarded trees that are essential to keep the structure of the canal banks, the fields of angelica, which is a local delicacy and told them about our visit to the annual market that is still held in barques on the water (see here for photos). Although we knew the start and end destinations for this stretch of La Vélo Francette, it was nice that the route itself was a new discovery for us as well them. Arriving in Niort along the cycle path by the river was so different to battling the traffic and reminded us that cycling into a town or city is always a special way to arrive, like sneaking in the back way. The view of the town sitting above the river was quite spectacular.

French Village Diaries cycling La Velo Francette Freewheeling France Niort Marais Poitevin
Niort, Deux-Sevres
It was lovely to actually meet Lynette in person and we chatted like old friends from the moment we pulled up outside their lunch stop in Coulon and twenty kilometres later as we arrived in Niort we were still chatting away so decided to join them for a drink in the sun (any excuse). What struck me most was that despite being cycling enthusiasts Lynette and Nicole are still just normal cyclists. Neither of them has undertaken a big adventure before, they are not kitted out with the latest cycling must-haves and they are very laid back about the number of kilometres they still have to travel. Their attitude is that cycling is something anyone can join in with, from a short family ride to a big adventure like this one, cycling in France is accessible and fun for everyone.

French Village Diaries cycling La Velo Francette Freewheeling France Niort Marais Poitevin
Refreshments in the sun in Niort, Deux-Sevres
On the drive home, part of my brain was back to routine thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner and wondering if the washing had dried, but part of it was thinking wistfully about their next step, making their way north through the hillier contours of Deux Sevres from Niort to Parthenay. Bon courage ladies, I’ll be keeping up to date on your progress via Lynette’s daily blog posts (see here). Have fun for me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book review of Teatime in Paris by Jill Colonna

My review today is for the brand new cookery book Teatime in Paris!: A Walk Through Easy French Patisserie Recipes by Jill Colonna. Jill is the author of the Mad About Macarons! Make Macarons Like the French cookery book and the informative website of the same name, see here.

French Village Diaries book review Teatime in Paris Jill Colonna2015 is fast becoming my year of the patisserie. As part of my weekly challenge I’ve sampled new flavours and textures, I’ve learned interesting and amusing facts about French culture and I’ve been doing my bit for our local village economy. Much as I love baking, I’m a basic home cook not a patisserie chef and so I’ve never really thought about abandoning Bernadette at the boulangerie and trying to make my own. However, my blogging friend Jill Colonna arranged for me to receive an advance copy of Teatime in Paris in the hope she could tempt me to be brave and give her easy patisserie baking a try.

When my prettily wrapped book arrived the first thing I did was to have a good look at the pictures, as a recipe book can be so much more with great pictures. This book not only has beautiful hand drawn illustrations but stunning photography too, of Paris and of the patisseries Jill assures the reader are easy peasy to make. I decided the best test of this book would be to choose something I’ve never attempted to make, something that isn’t available at our boulangerie and something that really appealed to me.

The first hurdle to jump was an attitude one as I am a lazy baker. I don’t like time consuming faffs or fancy details and I’m notoriously bad at following a recipe without omitting/substituting something along the way. Add in my notoriously grumpy (but lovable all the same) oven, who is hot or off and I really wasn’t sure I would be able to produce anything that resembled the photos in the book without losing the plot. With over fifty recipes there was plenty to choose from, but it didn’t take much to decide it had to be the Double Chocolate Tartlets.

French Village Diaries Teatime in Paris Jill Colonna book review
Chocolate tartlet cases
It was my first attempt at chocolate pastry and also the first time I’ve used the Magimix to make pastry as I'm usually a do it by hand pastry maker. I even had to dig out the instructions to see which paddle was the pastry making one, but I’ll definitely be making it this way again, it was so simple. I put the pastry in the fridge, feeling it was a little more crumbly than the picture in the book, but I was still hopeful. While it rested I dug out my tartlet cases that had been relegated to the back of the cupboard for years, as the only time I used them they stuck. It was a bit of a nail biting wait to see if they would stick or pop out of the cases this time, but you have no idea how pleased I was that by following Jill’s instructions they worked and I had four beautiful tartlet shells waiting to be topped with a chocolate ganache filling. I will admit that it took me slightly longer to prepare than the book stated, but I was being careful and cautious and ensuring I followed the recipe correctly.

French Village Diaries Teatime in Paris Jill Colonna book review
Double chocolate tartlet
The finished tartlets got and 8/10 from both my husband and my son and if I’d have had some fresh strawberries to add to the top I think it would have been a 10/10. There were certainly no soggy bottoms, but there was plenty of crunch, an intense chocolate flavour and  a smooth silkiness from the ganache. I added stewed rhubarb to the top of my tartlet and I thought it worked really well adding a fruity tartness to the rich chocolate.

I will be making these again and experimenting with flavours from our orchard. I can see these becoming a regular topped with our cherries, red currents, strawberries, raspberries and walnuts. Thanks Jill, this really is an easy walk through guide to some delicious French patisseries. I can't wait to try more recipes and I even think I'm brave enough to have a first attempt at choux pastry. If I can have success at a first attempt, anyone can! This book would be a fantastic gift for anyone who enjoys baking.

Teatime in Paris!: A Walk Through Easy French Patisserie Recipes is published by Waverley Books and is available in hardback format from Amazon and all good book shops.

You can follow Jill on Facebook, Twitter and her website and read my interview with her here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mum, can I go to a party?

French Village Diaries teenagers family life France parties parenting
He is no baby now

“Mum, can I go to a party?”

“I guess so, when is it?”

“Mum, that party…”


“It’s now a sleepover party, that’s still OK though isn’t it?”

“Oh, I guess so, where is it?”

“Mum, that sleepover…”


“It’s at the salle des fêtes (village hall) in Les Gours, that’s still OK though isn’t it?”

“Oh, OK, but whose party is it? Is there going to be an adult there? What about food and drink? What about girls?”

“Oh Mum!”

Panic! My baby is 14 and although he is responsible and sensible and like the rest of his year group seems to be ready for mixed sleepovers in village halls, I’m not! For a quiet, shy child who has only recently blossomed with the confidence that comes from now being accepted into a group of mates, I was both delighted he wanted to go, but terrified of the ‘what-ifs’ too. Ade and I were wavering and needed help with our decision so I asked another mum with a daughter in Ed’s year if she was going.

“Oh No, No, No, No! They are too young, I don’t know the family organizing it and it’s in a public venue where anyone could turn up. No, she wanted to, but No!”

In a way I was relieved someone else shared my fears and fuelled my argument, as now I knew that if I said no, he wouldn’t be the only one not to be there. I felt mean, but it felt safe and that made me happy. I did however decide to get one more opinion from another family whose son had been invited and who have a slightly older daughter so therefore more experience than us. It was a much more reassuring call. They had known the family for about ten years and were more than happy that they were normal, responsible people. They also told me that this type of sleepover in a hall is ‘the done thing’ for kids in rural France. Their son would be there, their daughter had already been there, done that and it was just a part of growing up. Our decision was changing again and it was agreed Ed could go, so long as he agreed to the rules: no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs, no sex and no leaving the hall (unless in an emergency) and if anyone you don’t know turns up and starts causing trouble RING US, whatever the time.

I’m not sure if kids in France seem to grow up quicker than in the UK or if it’s just that kids of this generation are more advanced than I was at their age. Thankfully I can report Ed had a great time on Saturday and returned home happy, tired and just a little bit more grown up after a night of laughs, music, pizza and selfies, but not much sleep. To think it only feels like yesterday that it seemed so important to be worrying about him not eating solid foods with lumps in or how we were going to progress to dry nights without nappies. I certainly feel tired and old after what turned out to be a busy weekend for us (too busy even to indulge in my patisserie challenge, sorry).