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Rene and Me

( George East )

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The sequel to Home & Dry in France tells the story of our heroes’ attempt to survive a year living off the land and their wits at their dilapidated watermill in Normandy. Determined to make a go of living the good life, the Easts find themselves with an unofficial estate manager and mentor as René Ribet moves on to their land in his ancient caravan. Their new friend will, he says, school them in the ways of the countryside and help them restore their ruined property and fortunes at the same time. To the innocents abroad he appears a godsend. To the locals in the nearby village of Néhou, however, René Ribet is known as The Fox of Cotentin. Doomed schemes launched by the unlikely partnership include bottling the waters of their polluted stream, manufacturing the first ever garlic-flavoured car deodoriser and holding rallies for metal-detecting enthusiasts to discover the whereabouts of the long-dead miller’s legendary hoard of gold. As the seasons pass, the couple finally realise that the real treasure has been all around them, all the time..

Extract

René and Me

May 16th

To Carteret and a special treat for our guests.

Known elsewhere and somewhat ironically as the St Tropez of Cotentin, Carteret is a former fishing village on the west coast which now boasts more restaurants, bistros and bars per head than any other settlement on the peninsula. On the quay is an interesting Italian-style restaurant which is owned by a barking mad patron who seems at permanent odds with his live-in waitress and lover.

On our first visit there, crockery exploded off stage in the kitchen before he fled into the night, leaving customers to rescue their own pizzas from the oven. There followed a series of dramatic phone calls, causing the girlfriend to desert us in mid-serve and follow him into the street before both returned for a tearful reunion at the next table.

Thinking this will all make Rinaldo feel at home, we arrive for the matinee performance and study the menu. Our friend is not amused to find that the only wine on offer is French, which he takes as a comment on the standing of his own country’s produce.

After letting off a fruitless burst of Italian at the waitress, he demands to see the owner, and is even more upset to find that he too is French, and that he learned his art and craft when working as a delivery biker for the famous Pizza Tout d’ Suite in Cherbourg.

The meal goes from bad to worse, as Rinaldo is duly surprised and extremely unhappy to find a French cheese topping on his Neapolitan Surprise Special, and the final straw is the discovery that the English translation of the sweets on offer includes his alleged regional speciality, Banana Shit.

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