One family friend, an honorary 'ton-ton' (the only gay in the village)spent every family occasion singing the back catalogue of Claude Francois and Barbara (Sid'amour à mort) and displaying how he could thread cutlery through his nose. He discovered this hole in his septum by mistake when cleaning one nostril with a handkerchief and realising to his delight that the end poked out the other nostril. Ton-ton was also a devotee of 'finger dancing', enacting a passionate tango on the table with his hands. This song always reminds me of him:
I had no idea what to expect on this Christmas eve, never before having heard the expression 'nuit blanche'. *
We arrived about 9 pm which struck me as rather late. Crates of oysters were cracked open. I'd contributed two entire smoked salmon, one Irish, one Scottish.
At 11 pm we sat down for soup, an hour later, salad. In fact courses were served approximately every two hours for the entire night. I tried salsify for the first time, in a gratin, which I loved. I tried to keep up but in the early hours of the morning I must have fallen asleep. For I woke up, head in my plate, feeling remarkably refreshed, to see that the others were now tucking into a plate of venison.
"Venez les enfants, on mange Bambi!"called uncles and brothers-in-law laughingly at the children who were still up, revving around the sitting room on their new tricycles and singing into their new karaoke machines.
Around 10 am, the meal finished with cognac and fruit, yoghurts tossed onto the table and teensy cups of expresso. I played with a cube of sugar, dipping it into my cognac, 'faire un canard' (make a duck).
Of course then, soon after, it was midday, and the French do not like to muck about with their meal-times.
"Lunch-time! à table!" went the call.To my astonishment and, it must be said, admiration, people sat down and started eating again.
*White night, a French expression for staying up all night and going straight into the next day.