We're not having a "main" holiday this year so we've been very hopeful of good times and good weather on the shorter breaks that we've enjoyed. They most recent being a weekend in the waterways and marshes of the Marais Audomarois based in Moulle in the Pas de Calais, sister to the Nord in the Nord Pas De Calais region. This was to be an extended version of the occasional get togethers we've taken part in with colleagues both present and past from Max's place of work, plus partners. Originally a "Come Dine With Me" event at someone's home and latterly at other events such as birthday parties (two sixtieths this year alone), it was at the first of these back in June that a plan was hatched to spend time away à huit. I was dubious to say the very least about spending time with people who, lets face it, spend most of their time gossiping about their work. Yawn. So it was, with some trepidation and the hope of lashings of rosé to dull the pain, that we set off that Saturday morning bound initially for La Cousinerie from where -thence sounds far too Swallows and Amazons - we were whisked to St Omer by one of the party and his wife.
Once arrived we waited in our "hosts'" ie the primary arrangers and local couple's, café bar for everyone to arrive, eased into the day by a "petite bière" for some but coffee for me. Early starts require copious amounts of caffeine to jump start the system. Already people were appreciating the ale and looking forward to sampling the local produce mostly from smallholders and independent growers.
A walk along well defined wetland paths later and we were in the forest having lunch. I quickly realised that this was not going to be a weekend of making do and camping fodder, baked beans et al, as the group gathered round to enjoy a locally sourced pâté, some farmer's cheeses and delicious bread albeit made by a new chain of bakeries, Boulangerie Louise, at a good price and to artisanal quality and taste so sought after by the French. All washed down by a quaffable rosé from a box. This was a good sign though I was wondering how far one small box of wine would go between eight...
Our provisions arrived together with a portable electric barbecue. Tables were purloined from the empty gîte next door, chairs arranged and there was a frenzy of activity in the kitchen. Our lead couple had cooked al dente cauliflower and green beans from the area, which were seasoned and dressed, large juicy prawns were décortiquéd and various plump sausages and cuts of meat were arranged on the barbie. A salad mixed and tossed, cheeses arranged ready for later consumption and soon the champagne flûtes were ready and primed for the beginning of a feast of good simple food.