Well, our French friends have been and gone. It was a busy week full of discovery for us all. Despite the almost unrelievedly awful weather, Yorkshire’s sights, both rural and urban, gave a good account of themselves. But here are one or two of the more unexpected discoveries our friends made.
Harvest Festival. Saturday evening found us in church for a very special concert by the St. Paulinus Singers, a Ripon Chamber choir. As we entered, our friends were struck by the celebratory pile of pumpkins, cabbages, carrots and Autumn fruits assembled for harvest-time celebrations in church. They’d never heard of such a thing. Oh, and the concert began dead on time too. Another first for them.
Charity shops. The French have little other than away-from-town-centre large warehouses given over to the sale of donated goods and run by Emmaus. The often carefully dressed shops we’re so accustomed to on the British high street are unknown to them.
Closed for business: open for business. As we know, shops here tend to be open through the day. But what a surprise for our French friends to see them closing for the day at 5.30 p.m. rather than around 7.00 p.m! To find supermarkets open in some cases 24/7 was even more astonishing.
Houses without shutters. Evenings walking round town fascinated them. Instead of shutters there were curtains, which might or might not be drawn. How exciting to have glimpses of another set of lives! This is denied to them in France as shutters are usually firmly closed there as night falls.
Buttered bread. As born-and-bred Ariègeoises, our guests were unused to the idea of having butter AND cheese or ham or whatever on their bread. They rather felt it was gilding the lily. But they weren’t keen on the fact that bread is not produced routinely at the average British dinner table. It’s odd, we too have come to expect bread as part of a meal in France, but never in the UK
Milky coffee and tea. The default position for both in France is black (strong coffee, weak tea)
At the butcher’s. Of course our guests wanted to cook a slap-up meal for us. We all struggled a bit with this one, as French and English butchers cut their beasts up in different ways. As a recently-lapsed vegetarian, I’m re-learning slowly all I ever thought I knew, and starting at page 1 in French butcher’s shops.