One Summer In France – Episode 30

Libby and Helen carried some nibbles, a bottle of wine and two glasses down to the small teak table under the rose-covered pergola in the side garden overlooking the canal weir.

“I thought we’d indulge ourselves for half an hour before we start preparing dinner,” Libby said, pulling the cork out of the wine bottle and pouring two glasses.

“It’s so peaceful here,” Helen said, taking a glass and settling herself in a chair. “No traffic noise at all.”

“The quietness is one of the things Dan and I loved about this place,” Libby said. “Also, there does seem to be a certain magic about it. Santé,” she added, picking up her own glass and clinking it with Helen’s.

“Another thing I can’t quite believe is how busy you are already,” Helen said.

Libby shrugged.

“That’s still down to Agnes, really. She built up a good reputation over the years and most of the guests are regulars. The test will be next summer, seeing if they return.”

“I know the Bichets are long-standing customers, but the family that arrived yesterday just appeared,” Helen said. “They seem more than happy with what you offer.”

Libby smiled happily. So far people did seem to appreciate her style of hospitality.

“This evening when the Pauls arrive, I’ll be full for the first time,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind being roped in to help? I feel I’m hijacking your holiday.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m only too happy to pitch in,” Helen said. “But you’re clearly going to need some help for the rest of the summer.”

Libby nodded.

“I’m going to put up a notice in the village shop next time I’m in there. Agnes has promised to help this evening and tomorrow night.”

“So, what are we cooking tonight?” Helen asked.

“Starters will be les beignets de fleurs de courgettes.”

“Oh, I loved those when you did them for Peter and me that time,” Helen said. “I’d never have dreamed courgette flowers could be so delicious.”

“The main course is cod with white wine sauce, served with asparagus and new potatoes. Followed by the obligatory cheese board, and then dessert is either tarte tatin or raspberries and fromage frais. Does that sound all right?” Libby asked anxiously.

“It sounds delicious. It’s a good job I’m only here for the week,” Helen said. “As it is, I’ll be dieting for the next month when I get home.”

They both turned, hearing a car stop in the auberge parking area.

“I’d better go and see who that is,” Libby said, standing up.

To her surprise, Agnes got out of the car with two people she’d never seen before.

“Libby, this is Kevin and Tracey Chambers. They need your help. They have been badly let down with their house purchase and need somewhere to stay while it resolves itself. Three nights at the most.”

“What’s happened?” Libby asked as she shook hands with the couple.

“They’ve come over to complete the purchase today and move into the cottage over Spezet way tonight, but the vendor is declining to let them have access to water and electricity. The notaire says they can’t complete until he’s sorted it in their favour. He’s promised it will be finalised by the weekend, but in the meantime they need somewhere to stay.”

“I’m so sorry,” Libby said. “I can’t help. I have guests arriving this evening for the last available room. I’m full for the next week.” She turned to Agnes. “Do you know anyone else who could help?”

Agnes shook her head.

“Everywhere, like you, is full.” She glanced at Libby. “What about the gîte? You’ve got that ready, haven’t you?”

“It’s clean and tidy, but I haven’t decorated yet. But yes, it’s empty. You are welcome to stay in it until you move into your cottage, if that helps,” she said to the couple.

“Thank you,” Tracey said. “You’re a life-saver.”

“I’ll get the key and some bedding,” Libby said.

Helen volunteered to make up the gîte bed and see to anything else that needed doing while Libby and Agnes started dinner preparations in the auberge.



Margaret Scott

Margaret is a sub-editor within the Production Team on the "Friend". Her main job is to work on the stories and make sure the magazine leaves us in its best possible guise. When not doing that, however, she either has her head buried in the old “Friend” volumes or is out and about giving talks or going on Warner trips (fab!). She hates cheese.