In the UK, I’d always had trouble getting my husband to go to the supermarket with me.
A man of guile and means, he was quick to garner a stock of plausible excuses to fend off my weekly requests for him to join me. I used to tough it out alone, and the best ever got was a hand carrying the shopping bags down our rickety steps into the house.
Things changed when we moved to France, and at first I couldn’t understand why.
We bought a house in an area where our holiday home was located, so we knew the area quite well, and the local supermarkets were well fixed on our radar.
We decided to make our first supermarket trip early on a Saturday morning , just after dropping off our daughter for her music lesson, getting to the shops just before nine, not long after they’d opened their doors.
Ever the gallant, my husband suggested that he get the “heavy stuff” – water, milk, beer, soft drinks, and of course the wine, so he found us two trolleys and we agreed to meet up after the checkout when our respective shopping runs were done.
He reckoned on finishing before me,and said he’d get a café au lait in for both of us when he saw me arrive at the checkout, opposite the bar inside the shopping centre.
All very civilized I hear you say.
Indeed it was, but when I approached the table I saw that in addition to the coffees for each of us, there was a small glass holding a decent shot of cognac next to his.
Within a split second, I saw right through his gallant offers to come and help shop.
When I asked him why he’d bought a cognac before 10 am in the morning he replied:
– Because I’m in France, and I can. –
I sat down and realised that post checkout in the UK, we would stuff the shopping into the car, and drive off, on to our next frenetic assignment, with no chance to come up for air.
Like so many people we lived busy lives, and time was a luxury we did not have back there.
Even our daughter’s music teacher had entreated us not to rush back, as she felt the students benefitted from hearing each other play, so we had been ordered to “Prenez votre temps”, and it seemed that my husband did not need any encouragement.
After a civilizing half an hour, and an excellent morning drink (or two) we repaired to the car, ready to face the next tasks of the day.
I would of course drive home, but felt it was the smallest price to pay to make a drudge such as shopping into a pleasant morning out.
France was to offer us more and more delights like this, and we were quick to lap them up , changing our lifestyle forever.