Sunday, December 03, 2006

We’ve been down to our woods again to collect some mistletoe for seasonal decoration and to size up our heating supply for this winter. There is a huge fallen oak in the wood which looks as if it’s been down for years and is therefore well-seasoned (dry enough to burn) and needs just to be cut up into logs and carried home to feed our wood stove, which we hope will be installed this coming week. The problem with this particular tree is that it has fallen on top of some other trees which haven’t dropped completely, so it is hanging and therefore highly dangerous to try to bring to the ground and definitely a job for an expert. Lots of mushrooms were growing on this dead wood and we cut some off with my ever-present Opinel pocket knife and bought it home for identification. Worried of some painful death from liver and kidney failure (poisonous mushrooms are very bad news) and even after we’d positively identified them as oyster mushrooms, I spent several hours poring over Roger Phillips book, Mushrooms to make sure there were no poisonous ones that we could possibly have confused them with. Wild mushroom collecting is a national pastime here but, for me, it was a big step to take to cook and eat a wild mushroom. We had some as a starter last night, fried up with a mix of butter (for taste) and olive oil (to prevent the butter burning) garlic, salt and pepper … and they were delicious. We’ve just done the same this evening, adding parsley and white wine!

I’d asked round locally and had been recommended to someone living conveniently close to the wood, who is an expert wood cutter. We went to his house yesterday and met him as he was just driving out in his “sans permis”. Sans permis means “without licence” and describes the car one is confined to driving if one gets banned from driving: a 600cc diesel two-seater that is restricted to about 30 mph. They are often associated with men who like their drink as one can drive them after being banned from driving! Apparently one can ultimately get banned from driving a sans permis!! It is a small car and our expert tree feller is a huge man. He was on his way out to deal with some dangerous poplars but he had time to make an appointment for midday the following day (today).

I waited until half and hour after our agreed rendezvous and went to his house. There I found his micro car parked up and could see the TV on thought the glass door. Repeated knocking and ringing brought no response before I noticed a foot hanging over the edge of the sofa. The mystery thickened. Louder banging and more doorbell ringing got not so much as a twitch and I plucked up the courage to enter and possibly encounter a huge Frenchman the worse for wear from drinking too much Pastis (an aniseed-based aperitif) but it was locked. Should I call the police and ambulance? The foot hadn’t yet one blue so I decided to return home and try again after lunch. Once home, I found his name in the phone book and called him, finally rousing him. He had flu, apparently, and made a new appointment for the following Saturday. I’ll let you know how we get on.