Well, not grand, but at least it got us out of the house.
My mate K and I have been feeling antsy lately. Something to do with the long winter, I think, and being so shuttered up. Everyone's so sick of it now, the endless lugging-in of wood, refilling paraffin stoves, exchanging gas bottles, donning thermals first thing, not being able to go out for the fog or the cold or the snow.
We're now into the first week of April and the frost is still thick on the ground every morning, with daytime temperatures around 9 degrees. So K and I decided to take a quick shopping trip to Mayenne. Nothing spectacular, you understand, just the sort of thing that normal people, who don't live in the arse-end of nowhere, probably do every day. But here in the boonies, where even posting a letter means a 5km round trip, a trip to the discount store means a 50km journey and some logistical planning, especially the soothing of husbands who might have to - horrors - get their own lunch.
K dropped her car at our house to save me going out of my way, and off we set into a glacially cold but beautifully sunny day. The return of the sun made us feel more optimistic as we headed first for lunch at a routiers restaurant (all-you-can-eat buffet) and then for Noz, where consumer goods go to die.
Noz, which I assume from the name is a Breton company (it means 'night'), is a chain of gigantic warehouses filled to the brim with crap. My DH can't stand the smell of plastic and despair and usually sits in the car playing Angry Birds, while K's husband runs out of patience in about five minutes and starts plucking her sleeve, so it was nice for both of us for once to womble about at our own pace, picking up tablemats, ceramic gew-gaws, hairbands, end-of-line yarn and God knows what else like blackbirds searching under leaves for a tasty morsel.
Admittedly, especially in mid-winter, the clientele are of the poorer sort - people who can't afford things at full price, so wander around looking for out-of-date chocolates for Christmas presents, etc, all of which is pretty depressing. But most people are like us, just out to see what bargains they can pick out of the assorted tat.
I was really in search of the herbal extracts I'd found last time, which in France still come in those glass vials that you break at either end and add to water. But sadly they were all sold out. I did, however, load up on chocolates and caramel-au-beurre-salé biscuits to take to my monthly book club meeting, incense sticks, whisper-thin Indian silk scarves like the kind we all wore in the 70s, and things for the kitchen such as ginger juice (invaluable, this), pickled root ginger, dandelion tea and masses of tins of sardines, as I'm now trying to eat two a week against osteoporosis.
I'm not sure what K got, but it definitely included herb teas and a washing-up bowl, along with the Nidra hydrating bath stuff I'd recommended on Cosmetopica. Oh, and a ladybird house made of bamboo, because everyone needs one of those...
You never know what you'll find at Noz: garden furniture, coffee makers, mirrors, shoes, tee-shirts, rag rugs and children's toys. Last time I picked up tinned cherry apples, which the DH thought were disgusting and I ended up putting out for the birds to eat. But I do pretty well with scarves, and even sometimes with clothes - my favourite cotton hoodies with double-lined hoods are from Noz, along with the dress I wear to go swimming in summer - heavy cotton jersey with spandex.
Just a simple change of scenery, rather than staring at four walls, was most welcome. Only slightly marred by a lorry flicking a pebble onto my windscreen on the way home, which entailed a quick trip to the garage for a resin fill (60-odd euros, which made the trip a tad expensive). Still, the repair is near-enough invisible and it gave K and I a chance to go and have a coffee in a local caff, surrounded by cooing black-collared doves, before finishing up with the supermarket shop and then home to our loving spouses.
Oh well, back to work...