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Lockdown In The Morvan

Here in the Morvan we have all been labouring under lockdown, although I have yet to hear of a single case of the virus in our neighbourhood. Last week les pompiers rushed our friend Anne to hospital in Nevers with acute peritonitis. Her surgery went well and she is out of danger, but she is not allowed visitors because of the lockdown.Little by little, however, the government is easing the lockdown. We no longer need a signed and dated attestation (see my May article) to leave the house, and the Mairie no longer posts cheerful weekly bulletins in every mailbox.

It has taken a fine crop of cherries to get the Rabsons socialising again.

Let me explain. Last year a late frost followed by a prolonged drought resulted in a compete absence of fruit in our garden. Not one apple, pear, peach, quince, plum or cherry did we see. This year our big cherry tree is making up for lost time.

You can fill the house with flowers from your garden, but you don’t feel guilty if you don’t pick any. For the ‘Waste not, want not’ generation fruit and vegetables are different; we feel obligated to harvest them. There is, however, a limit to how much of Nature’s Bounty one elderly couple can consume. The French say surabondance; I say glut.

Back in Suffolk, friends, neighbours and the church produce stall received our surplus fruit and veg with apparent gladness. Here in the Morvan everyone has gluts. When we were househunting in summer 2005 we were astonished to see how much ground even the tiniest cottages had. Large plots are the norm here, with fruit trees, soft fruit and a prolific potager for vegetables, often tended by senior citizens – longevity is the norm here. So is gardening, and maybe the two are linked. The house we eventually chose came with Nature’s Bounty as part of the package

Digression – Nature's Bounty

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Cue for a quote, I thought. My search engine suggested numerous advertisements for health-related products (Nature’s Bounty – Give your Immune System a little love) and several poems previously unknown to me and, I suspect, to almost everyone else. Nothing about Nature’s Bounty from the Great Poets, not even an epigram from Oscar Wilde…

However, a glut of cherries is special. Starved of human contact, I had a brainwave. Why not invite friends and neighbours to pick cherries and socialise on our patio with social distancing duly respected? That is what we have been doing. The lovely warm weather has helped, of course.

Clafoutis de cerises (think Yorkshire pud with cherries) is one local speciality. Here is a reliable recipe with mouthwatering pictures. You can stone the fruit or leave them be: the French equivalent of ‘He loves me, he loves me not’ is Il / elle m'aime un peu, beaucoup, passionnément, à la folie, pas du tout.

When we arrived here the previous owners, Georges and Carmela, were downsizing to a tiny bungalow in the Basque country. They left behind a hoard of kilner jars. So last weekend I decided to make brandied cherries. There are plenty of reliable recipes online. Try this one, which is in English.

Then, after a long silence the June issue of Le Criquet, our monthly free magazine, http://www.lecriquet-auxerre.fr/ appeared; and it offers a recipe for Magrets aux Cerises – duck breasts with cherries. Aldi, bless them, have magrets on special offer and I can assure you that the Criquet recipe works a treat.

Luncheon is Served!

Corbigny’s bars and restaurants suffered grievously during the lockdown. I missed them for the unworthiest of reasons. I emailed a friend:

Shopping, preparing, cooking and clearing away a proper meal twice a day is a pleasure, but once a week I do enjoy the cheapo lunch at Le Marode in Corbigny secure in the knowledge that someone else has done all the work. Everything there is fresh and home prepared and their chips with the skin on are beyond praise.

Le Marode’s weekday special always includes those chips, prepared by their chef, Zoltan from Hungary, and served with a little pot of sauce to dip the chips in. Although there is usually a veggie option available, they major in local Charolais beef, and their burgers are legendary.

During the lockdown Le Marode kept going by selling takeaways, notably home cooked pizzas. But on Tuesday June 2 they opened for a proper sit down lunch, and the Rabsons were among the first customers. Their 13 euro (11 pre lockdown, and who can blame them?) set meal consisted of a mixed salad with hard boiled egg and home cured ham, followed by a grilled Charolais steak and chips, and ice cream (any two from a bewildering choice, topped with whipped cream). Our favourite waiter, Sylvain, was delighted to see us and Zoltan brought us an extra helping of chips to take home for supper.

The lockdown has done Combat Stress a great deal of harm. In normal circumstances the summer bookings for Charity Cottage would be trickling in. I hope Expat Focus readers will visit us as soon as the pandemic issue is sorted. See here and enjoy the 5-star reviews.

Rosemary Border Rabson

In 2005 Rosemary Border Rabson and husband John Rabson emigrated to the Morvan in rural Burgundy, where few other Brits have ventured. Their chief preoccupation is Charity Cottage, a holiday home-from-home in their garden at Maré le Bas which they run in aid of Combat Stress (money donations) and Help for Heroes (free accommodation). Since 2012, when Charity Cottage won the Daily Telegraph’s Best British Charity award, the total amount raised for Combat Stress, comprising UK royalties and donations from visitors to Charity Cottage, is nudging £10,000.

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