So said Eric Sykes, who died today, at the age of 89.
Eric has been, it seems, ever-present figure in my life. I first became aware of him from The Goon Show on the radio. Then from the many TV shows in which he has been involved including Sykes and a… , Sykes and a Big Big Show and last but not least Sykes.
The last of those shows was broadcast in the 1970’s but that was not the last of Eric’s screen career.
Although his first movie appearance was in the 1950’s he was still appearing right up until 2010 and what more appropriate than an Agatha Christie Poirot story, Hallowe’en Party.
And in the middle of that illustrious list is what, I believe, to be one of the funniest films ever made.
The Plank, written and produced by Sykes in 1967. Just look at the cast he managed to pull together. Eric himself, Tommy Cooper, Jimmy Edwards, Roy Castle, Jimmy Tarbuck, Anna Carteret, John Junkin, Bill Oddie, Stratford Johns, Jim Dale, Hattie Jacques, Libby Morris, Johnny Speight & Kenny Lynch. The cream of British comedy.
Lets not forget the books that he wrote too. I’m sad to say that I have personally only dipped into the large Milligan book pool, starting with the glorious Puckoon. Followed by Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, “Rommel?” “Gunner Who?” and Silly Verse for Kids.
Eric is quoted as saying “I tend to live in the wonderful world of my head, where every day the sun shines”.
In response I would say, Thank you Eric. Thank you for letting us join you in that world and letting us bask in that sunshine.
Just over two weeks ago I set off to France on vacation.
Every time I go away I make several promises to myself. I’m not going to overeat, I’m going to eat lots of salads, I’m going to lay off the bread and I’m going to get some exercise.
Of course I jettison most of those within about two nano-seconds of arrival. Salads are easy and I’ll always eat plenty of salad stuff, box number one ticked. The exercise one is sort of easy too since we are going sight-seeing and maybe swimming so that’s tick number two in the boxes. So that leaves the overeating and the bread.
As it happens I find that I actually pick less, no meals between meals if you see what I mean and when I am sightseeing i.e. busy then I don’t get hungry. So the overeating box is lightly ticked as I will go for the full three courses at the main meal and of course I’ve probably had some kind of breakfast.
Which leads us neatly to box number four.
How can one go to France and not eat bread ?
Every morning the ritual was to get up and head down to the nearest boulangerie, just three kilometers. The joy of walking into that shop with the fresh loaves displayed behind the counter and the smell, Wow !!
Getting the still warm loaf back to the gite, cup of tea or coffee and then slicing through that crust unleashing more fresh aromas. Slapping on the local charentaise butter and taste buds all jumping for joy.
I can taste it now.
Now, I failed this promise in a big way. Bread (toast) for breakfast, bread before and during meals. So many different styles of bread. Many times I started of the day full of bread. Full but never bloated.
So why is it that after just two slices of Hovis, I feel both full and bloated ?
I know the style of the bread is different and this Hovis stuff is effectively production line, factory bread. What do they put in it that has this bloating effect.
I am seriously thinking that I must take up bread making again even if I have to do it by hand. No Kenwood Chef and Dough Hook, No Kenwood Bread Maker.
Another day with an itinerary planned. Since we are in the Cognac region we felt it would be rude to ignore such a significant subject. So our task for the day was to visit the significant towns of the region, Cognac, Jarnac, Segonzac, Chateauneuf sur Charente & Rouillac.
So off we set, sun shining, for Cognac.
However, our entry to the town was a little hectic. Noisy roads and difficulty finding a route to the historic areas had soured our moods a bit so we decided not to stay.
You know what it is like when you don’t like the feel of a place. Can’t put your finger on quite what it is but you know you can’t stay. Perhaps if we had entered on a quieter road we would have stayed.
I know that we are doing Cognac a huge disservice and have probably missed a huge amount, which is why it has not been struck of our list of places to visit. Just not on this trip. So we headed out to the next place itemised on our personal itinerary, Jarnac.
The feel and pace of Jarnac is entirely different and we rapidly found a place to park, free, on the Quai Orangerie, near the Hine buildings. As it happens we were also very close to the Courvoisier buildings too.
Jarnac is equally proud to be the birthplace of François Mitterrand, one of France’s more recent presidents.
We walked alongside the river, past the boats moored with myriads of fish darting around just below the surface. We crossed the road towards the Courvoisier building before crossing the bridge and heading further along the river to a park.
Given the days temperature it was nice to get under the shade of the trees. A group of school children were enjoying some team sports while on the grass, while over in river shallows a group of lads were lobbing a ball around. They were joined by a lady and her dog who was soon lunging after the ball. A little further down on a small island two lads were fishing although I don’t think they really expected to catch anything with all the thrashing around in the water.
Alongside the park there are weirs and channels set up for kayak slalom racing.
The park itself is on an island and the paths around its perimeter give one a direct view into to some lovely gardens some of which have their own moorings or pergolas and barbecues.
After a delightful time in the park we headed back into Jarnac to get ourselves a drink. We sat and people watched while we had a couple of beers and nibbles at L’Alambic, Place Du Chateau. It was quite entertaining as opposite the bar there is a small car park with a Tabac off to one side. The comings and goings, the double and sometimes treble parking was exposing the dark side of some of the drivers who were dashing into the Tabac, we presumed, to get their lottery tickets.
After, we meandered through the streets window shopping, and made our way back to the car, passing the church and numerous architectural features some of which I have attached below…..
Once back at the car we rested in the shade and topped up with water. This was one of the hottest days of our holiday so far. Given the time, nearly 17:00, we had to replan our itinerary. Obviously we were not going to be able to visit and tour all the places on our list. So we decided to move on to Segonzac with a view to seeing what we could and maybe getting a meal.
Segonzac was only a short drive away and we were soon parked up a short way from the town square.
We would have been parked closer but a stupid woman, stopped her car directly in front of me in the entrance to the car park. Got out of her car and crossed the street. Leaving her car blocking the entrance to the car park.
The Hotel de Ville was very prettily decked out with many flower baskets.
The church was huge but nice and cool inside giving us some respite from the heat and the brightness of the sun.
We were beginning to realise that we were still too early for a meal in a restaurant and nothing else being available we decided to head on to Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.
Only a short journey and we were soon parked up and walking the streets hunting down a place to eat.
Unfortunately the only places open were doing fast food. The evening menu still an hour or two off. So, we headed back to the car having decided to aim back to the gite going via Rouillac which was on our original list of places to visit. I had also spotted a couple of signs indicating the existence of restaurants on the road out of town.
So we followed the signs and visited the restaurants…..you guessed it. Closed.
On to Rouillac and a quick motor round the streets which showed no sign of open eateries. We were getting concerned about the time. If we just headed home to the gite it would be too late to think about cooking. At our age late eating can play havoc with the digestive system and I wasn’t prepared to go without a proper meal. Snacks are OK but not really fulfilling.
Then I had a brilliant idea. Why don’t we use the SatNav to identify restaurants in the area. Sure enough it started to identify the ones that we had already visited and determined that they were closed. So we decided to hedge our bets a bit.
On previous visits to France and during our journey down to Barbezieres we had seen instances of a food chain “Buffalo Grill”. Usually near to other eateries such as Macdonald’s and close to retail parks. We thought they would probably serve food all day and almost be guaranteed to be open
So we asked TomTom to find us the nearest Buffalo Grill. It did what it was asked and we duly plumbed in the route and set off to the restaurant which was located in Chateaubernard just two miles from Cognac.
We had in fact passed through Chateaubernard on our way to Jarnac after we had jettisoned Cognac earlier in the day. Well what the hey.
We sat outside on the deck and had a nice meal courtesy of Buffalo Grill. I had a burger, medium rare, and my wife had a Rump Steak also medium rare. Very well presented and filling.
So we had circled Cognac and what seemed like most of the towns in the Cognac region. We had a great day even though it looked like France was determined to starve us out.
The gite was finally illuminated in our headlights around 22:30 after a lonely drive through the French countryside. I nearly squashed the lettuce, gifted by Didier, left by our front door some time earlier in the day. Of course I had to wash that straight away since we didn’t know what creepy crawlies had decided it was their birthday. We added it to the two other lettuces we had in the fridge, also courtesy of Didier.
So a cup of tea while we gentle ceased circling and thence to bed.