In many ways, last Saturday night was destined to be a failure from the off. My last night in France before travelling home, and leaving Mrs Emu and all the little Emus for a further week, and we decide to have a dinner party. Why on earth we should do this in France, when we’d never contemplate having people to eat dinner with us at home (where, incidentally, we actually have a kitchen that works), remains a mystery to me.
Anyway, it seemed a good idea at the time, and food was suitably prepared for our five guests, who, gentle reader, I would like to introduce.
Dinner Party Guest 1 – Mrs Emu’s mother, a splendid woman who can speak better French than many natives, and who had prepared for the feast by preparing two desserts, one of which was a massive trifle, a desert apparently unknown to French residents. This was going to be The Evening’s Big Treat.
DPG2 – A good friend who has been kind enough to look after us many times during our various crises in France (and there have been many). Knows everyone in the area, is local mayor for a neighbouring village, and is as impassive a man as I’ve ever met. I think he may think that we’re complete idiots, but he’d never let on.
DPG3 – DPG2’s wife, equally impassive and just as charming.
DPG4 – the lovely, ebullient and lively daughter of DPG2 and DPG3, just returned home that day from doing very good work overseas, bringing with her…
DPG5 – the new boyfriend, who DPG2 and DPG3 had never met before
So, to a certain extent, there was a fair bit to go wrong before we mixed in the following challenging ingredients:
-neither of us were much into cooking, let alone on a broken calor gas cooker…
-so we enlisted the kids to help…
-who don’t have a great track record on personal hygiene or any culinary talent. And finally…
-alcohol was always going to be a factor of the evening, and this is not a substance to be treated lightly where Mrs Emu or her mother are involved. We had a similar event last year which was going swimmingly until DPG1 declared herself to be ‘in her cups’, and lost all grasp of the French (and a fair bit of the English) language. As she had served as the interpreter all evening, this was a distinct disadvantage, and our guests fortunately took this as a sign that the evening was over and left without saying very much more.
So, a fair bit more to go wrong. So it was surprising that we made it through a couple of hours without any sort of a domestic incident. As the drink flowed (rather worryingly, a dizzy combination of Pastis, Amaretto, Port and Wine), and the conversation got livelier, all looked good, and Mrs E was despatched to the far reaches of the house to pick up The Evening’s Big Treat. Suddenly a blood-curdling scream cut through the night. I turned to face the kitchen, and to my surprise, saw what remained of the trifle spread out over the kitchen floor. There was, interestingly, no sign of my wife. Now, I know what I’d do if I dropped a bloody great big trifle on the floor, showering all comers with a mixture of custard and glass. I’d make straight for the outside garden to cover my embarrassment, possibly stopping to pick up some tobacco and papers en route. And I assumed that this is what had happened here, and we all waited for Mrs Emu to come back looking slightly abashed, with a ready apology and possibly a ‘Tsk’ or a ‘Butterfingers’ at the ready.
So we waited. And after a couple of minutes, DPG2, who had been sat facing the kitchen, let go his guard of passivity. As we asked if he’d seen what had happened. “Yes”, he said, ” she fell really badly and cracked her head against the wall”. Which she had indeed done, and I’m not entirely sure why DPG2 hadn’t thought to mention it earlier. Some little while later, I found my injured wife who was indeed in the garden, but only because she didn’t want to scream in front of the guests. She had, apparently actually started her fall in a different room entirely, and had carried the bowl horizontally for several yards before her head met the wall and the trifle came into view on the floor. And, dear reader, that’s where this all ends. She’s got a horrible bump on her head, a massive black eye, a shredded left arm, and a 10 hour drive ahead of her on Friday. She sent me this picture today which makes me feel even more like a guilty husband who’s just skipped the country.