A damp village repas and some sweet pink plonk proved a rather inauspicious start to what has become an enduring and valued friendship. While the meal and the wine are perhaps best forgotten, Jenny has become a firm friend.
Last night, she turned up on our doorstep, suitcase in hand. She’s in England for a few days on business.
We first met her a couple of years ago, at the Bastille Day celebrations in Castillonnès, just south of Bergerac. The sky was thick with cloud and the air was cold. The ground was damp, where it had rained that morning.
The planned village meal had been moved from the central square into the relative warm and dry of the covered marketplace.
My partner and I left the house we were staying in on the central square to join the rather subdued celebrations. We had bought tickets in advance, but in the full knowledge that if we didn’t enjoy ourselves, we could simply turn tail and head back into the house.
The village mayor had set up a stall outside our front door, where he was serving rosé wine and bonhomie in equal measure. The poor weather had taken the edge off both.
As we stood watching the food stalls setting up, a woman with a walking stick made her way over to us.
“Where did you get the wine from?” she asked. We nodded towards the mayor but advised her not to bother – the rosé was far too sweet to be pleasant.
She wrinkled her nose in agreement and began asking us about our stay in the village. Soon we found ourselves sat with her among the locals, tucking into the steak frites provided as part of the ticket price.
We didn’t head back from more free wine from the mayor. Instead, we bought a bottle (OK, or two) from the local winemakers who were promoting their wares.
Since then, Jenny has become a good friend – one that we rely on. Through her, we’ve got to know plenty of people in Castillonnès and the surrounding villages.
And through us, she’s learned that it’s OK to snub the mayor’s cheap plonk.