The Sunday after I arrived Monsieur (Papa) took us kids – Babette, Dominique, Edouard and me to visit his brother Didier.
Oncle Didier lived in Paris in a very swish apartment block. He wore a red silk smoking jacket, curl toed slippers and smoked from a cigarette holder. He was incredibly handsome and charismatic and utterly bonkers (in my diary I wrote “Had a good day – met a strange man”). It was all a very long time ago but I clearly remember being quite besotted with him and thinking he was like Noel Coward… or at least what a 14 year old thought Noel Coward would be like. If he’d had a monocle I think it would have been perfect, but alas he didn’t.
He did however have a butler. An old man who made us all coffee – served in bowls just as at my newly adopted family’s home. We were sent to the patisserie to buy cakes – I was in cake heaven. Of course Babette and Dominique feigned indifference but they certainly scoffed their cakes as well as the rest of us.
Afterwards we drove home and sat quietly as Monsieur screamed and raged at other drivers. He had the most appalling French road rage and I learned a lot of excellent and useful words whilst in the car with him. We were almost chez nous when suddenly he screeched to a halt, jumped out of the car and ran onto an area of grass and what looked like someone’s garden. I will never forget him returning to the car holding… a rabbit. He put it in the boot of the car and we went home.
That afternoon we had a long leisurely family lunch with several guests – it went on for hours and was wonderful. I was absolutely enthralled with my Paris life – the food was amazing, there was loud passionate conversation, I was allowed wine … and thought how kind Monsieur Papa had been to rescue a rabbit.
I thought I would ask Monsieur and Madame to adopt me.
A couple of days later, after school (which is another story) we were sitting having dinner at home. It was a delicious stew served with French bread. Everyone as usual looked expectantly at me for my approval I was very enthusiastic – always!
In my best French I said “Ce ragoût de poulet est délicieuse” (this chicken stew is delicious).
Babette fixed me with her beady eyes and deadpan look and said in her best English “This chicken stew is… bunny rabbit”.A bientôt Janine