It is my second morning waking in the house of the blue shutters and I am up at cockcrow.
I didn’t sleep too well as I feel there is a nightly presence in the house whom I have disturbed.
But no time for that now.
I don’t bother with the view.
I know the boats will be slumbering in their usual fashion. I am up earlier than yesterday and high tide will be about an hour later so nothing can have changed that much.
But as I rush out the gate and around the corner and lean the yellow bicycle against the wall of the not yet opened boulangerie, I feel a pang of shame that my fear of being too late for a pastry is making me presume my morning view will be the same as yesterday!
What if this is the morning a viking boat sails into the bay?
Or four Galleons.
On the morning of August 13th in the year 1548 the people of Roscoff, on the opposite side of the bay, woke to see such a sight.
Four French Galleons dropping anchor.
One of these was the ‘Royal Galleon’ belonging to the King of France and it was carrying a very important person.
At only five and a half years of age Mary Stuart was already Queen of Scotland and was now engaged to be married to the heir apparent to the french throne, The Dauphin, Francois II.
The Galleon had carried her from her home in Dumbarton near Glasgow and, avoiding the English fleet, landed safely after an apparent rough crossing.
The next morning the people of Roscoff gathered again to watch as the small boat containing their future queen, her four handmaidens (all also called Mary and all also only five and a half years of age) , their housekeeper and their nanny, pulled up at the slipway from where they proceeded to the church to give thanks for a safe crossing.
The sound of the boulangerie door being unlocked brings me back to the present. I may have missed some excitement in the bay but nothing as exciting as being first in the queue.
As Madam pops the still warm pain au raisin into a bag, she looks back over her shoulder to regard me, one eyebrow raised, hand still hovering over the heap of cinnamon smelling pastries and enquires ‘Deux?’
There are more than two hills on the island. At least four I would think, and I remember my calculation!
Two hills = one french pastry!
I feel the now gathering queue shifting restlessly behind me.
‘Hold on! I’m not delaying things with idle chat like you lot did yesterday’ but of course I don’t say this out loud (I wouldn’t have enough knowledge of french to anyway)
So I nod.
‘Deux pain au raisin s’il vous plaît’
My accent is improving
‘Et une baguette’ I add (remembering that ‘Baguette’ is feminine)
‘Une seulement’? she calls back over her shoulder as she plucks one baguette from the basket in which the deliciously crispy breads stand upright. She remains poised.
Again the queue shifts
‘Qui…. une.’ I nod.
‘C’est tout?’ Madam enquires, She is back at the till, holding my order in one hand whilst the fingers of the other hover over the keys. She senses my weakness and is still not convinced I am finished.
My eyes scan the delicious treats in the glass case in front of me.
Brioche a téte, Pain au chocolate, Clafoutis aux cerises, Chausson aux pommes, Tarte Breton, Tartes aux fraises, Tarte Tatin, Tarte au citron, Far Breton. Laid out neatly in mouthwatering rows
Oh and look! a plate of Pet de Nonne (literally translated as ‘the nun’s fart’) a sort of small chocolate covered profiterole which I adore.
But my oncologist is also there looming in the impatient queue, his fictional presence more powerful than her real one.
I drag my eyes away.
‘Oui….c’est tout’ I reply firmly.
So Day two of my day on the Island and I’m once again pushing the yellow bicycle up the steep hill though not as far this time.
This time I have managed to cycle about one quarter way up to the supermarket before the hill proves to steep and I have to dismount.
Once more I am on my way to buy my filling for my picnic baguette.
Did I really eat all the Camembert yesterday AND finish the whole bottle of sancerre? (Four hills equals one Camembert. 12 kilometres equals a bottle of white wine)
I am well within the perimeters and breath easily.
This time I buy some brie instead and a piéce de saucisse and a bottle of Chablis.
Then with my shopping complete I take a different route, no map needed.
I always dreamed of living the rest of my life in a small cottage by the sea where I would spend my days writing, painting and tending the garden.
I always imagined it would be in the west of Ireland but I actually found it here on Ile de Batz.
At the end of a small gravel road which heads north west from the village, I come on a small blue shuttered cottage. The sea in front of it, a sheltering hill behind, It is built in a place of complete perfection.
I would willingly give up one years supply of pet de nonnes for it
Unfortunately someone has found it before me and I know that even if they loved these small profiteroles as much as I did they would not part with it.
I sigh sadly but then I see something that cheers me up!
A small sandy track leading on passed the house. Immediately my sense of exploration takes over and without further ado I’m off again, pushing my bicycle along it as it winds up and around a rocky headland. I am now approaching the ‘wild’ end of the island.
And I find the perfect place to sit and have my picnic.
And its while having this picnic that I meet Regine (I could have used her real name as she will hardly read my blog for when we talked about computers her face took on such a look of disdain it led me to presume she is not in favor of using them. Instead she pulls out a small note book from her pocket which is filled with the neatest painstakingly tiny writing and proceeds to slowly add the name Stephanie and a description of the yellow bike using, I note, the older bicyclette rather than the newer word Velo.)
It is hard to tell her age but I would imagine she is about 65.
She has dyed blond sholder lenght hair and bright blue mascara and is wearing a frock. An ancient Pentax camera hangs round her neck and she has a small faded rugsack on her back. She is here for two weeks, walking and taking numerous photos with her vintage camera. Her sentences are filled with such words as incroyable, formidable, fantasique, fabuleux which she pronounces slowly emphasising each syllable
She is intrigued and delighted with the yellow bicycle
‘Is it your mothers?’ she asks excitedly
I tell her its not and go on to explain that though it looks rusty it is actually not that old, just has spent too much time at the sea.
She looks so disappointed that wished I had lied to her.
‘Are you sure it isn’t your mothers’? she is circling it reverently as she points her camera this way and that at it.
She stops to run her hand along the rim of the basket.
‘Incroyable’ She exclaims.
The day is wearing on. we talk some more and then I make my excuses. I still have a swim to fit in and I had passed a well on the small beach with stone steps leading down to it, which I wanted to go back and get a better look at.
She waves goodbye
‘A toutes alore’
As a cloud passes over the sun, I pass a group of old men playing boules in the middle of the road.
A woman whizzes down towards them on an old moped, face wrinkled by the sun and hair dyed bright auburn, helmet-less, a cigarette hanging from her lower lip which is a slash of bright red. Leaving behind a trail of petrol fumes mixed with the smell of Gauloise’s .
I pass the now familiar windows as I head home to my blue shuttered house.
I am beginning to feel part of the island.
To be continued…….