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A singing chicken, a party and a beer tour in France!

Bright yellow 2CV in a cobbled street in Lille, northern France

I’m sending you today’s newsletter from lovely Lille, the capital of the region I live in (Hauts-de-France), where I am researching the heritage of the beer industry in the north of France. I have to say I truly do love my job, even though I am not a fan of beer! Of course, as usual, I’ll also be looking for the best cake shops and taking photos of the pretty cobbled streets and wonderful architecture in this mini Paris-like city!

I did not drink beer on Thursday when I had a little party in our garage, instead we drank Champagne to celebrate my new book Toujours la France being published. Claudette, my 90 year-old neighbour, insisted that we mark the occasion with a little get together.

At 4 o’clock she arrived with her daughter Bernadette and son-in-law Jean-Claude, closely followed by Mr & Mrs Pepperpot. Thierry parked his tractor (thankfully without its usual load of dung) outside our gate and hopped in for a quick glass of beer and a slice of Claudette’s strawberry cake. Bread Man parked his little van outside and brought in a box of Speculoos and salted crème éclairs. Madame Bernadette arrived with friends Constance and Guillaume and they brought Opera and mille-feuille cakes and perfect little macarons. I’d expected just a few people to turn up but in the end there were 26 of us, as neighbours passed by on their way from home work and stopped to say hello, and there were several tractors lined up in our little road!

It was one of those times when everything feels just right. Birds were singing, the sky was blue and the blossom from the trees scented the air. At the bottom of the garden, the chickens watched and clucked, keen to join in the fun. “Zut alors” said Bread Man as Barbara Streisand, a long feathered and rather belligerant bird, belted out her usual shriek, “that one sounds like it’s singing Je Suis Une Femme Amoreuse” (I am a woman in love) and he hummed happily. This prompted Mark to play an Edith Piaf CD, and a bit of a sing song ensued as everyone sang “La Vie en Rose”. I ignored how many calories there were in all those cakes, and simply enjoyed the moment and being a part of this lovely community I now call home…

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream  and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France (April 2022) all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online.

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