Allez Allez Vélo!

I arose this morning to find there were no chairs on the ground floor of the house. Only the couch in the lounge remained.

Confident that I had heard no-one enter the house illegally through the night, I opened the back door and looked into the garden. It was the same outside.No seating remained.

A quick reflection led me to ascertain where the household items had gone.

My daughter Evelyn celebrated her 18th birthday with her friends in the local Salle de Fêtes last night, and was holding an open air breakfast for her guests in our adjoining field.

I knew they were eating as the fridge was pretty much stripped bare and there was a lingering smell of burned sausages permeating the house. Two wrappings adorned with “Sainsbury’s Best” were also tossed casually onto the kitchen table.

I decided to retreat to the lounge and have my first warm drink of the day.

As I sat there I realised that this recent evening’s revels were in fact the fourth in a line of celebrations for Eve’s 18th birthday.We had eaten lunch at the local Restaurant du Lac at Easter en famille and held a house party on Easter Sunday as most of our friends were over at the time.

On the day itself, (15th May) we had a proper tea party with a fantastic cup-cake tower made by my mother, with all the attendant party trimmings – sandwiches, pineapple and cheese on sticks, balloons and lemonade (plus one or two bottles of Laurent Perrier)

Never a girl to do things by halves, she rounded off the month with a party for her friends, laced with cocktails of dubious provenance, excessive decibel output and the odd slice of limp pizza to mop up the alcohol.

After the chairs were returned to the house, she dutifully cleaned up with her cohort of pals after being warned to “lick the floor clean” so as to avoid a surplus cleaning fee from the Mairie.

However, just a half an hour ago, she ran in , cutting me short from a telephone call, saying I had to go down to the Salle “urgently”

Fearing that it had caught fire or that some retaining wall had been shaken down from the noise, I hurried as best I could behind her. Actually, I drove the 100 or so yards in the Land Rover, but this is not a tale of my inherent lazy streak.

On entering I noticed that the kids had done a sterling job of cleaning up, but they were unable to switch off the range cooker, which looked like it was in serious over-heat mode.

After a bit of fiddling around, I noticed that the cooker dial had a bit of play in it, due to age, and when it was turned to the “off ” position, it was in fact on “grill”.

Panic over, we returned home to wade through the very generous pile of birthday gifts she received.

Money is not in great supply amongst the families of her friends, but it was heart-warming to see the genuine thought that had been put into the joint gift they had created:

As she recently won a fancy dress competition at Lyceé dressed as a panda, they had made some cushions adorned with pandas, which they had all drawn themselves. They were also signed by them all as a momento of the occasion.

I was also taken by the picture drawn by her friend, Chloe. (picture above)

Its slogan Allez Allez Vélo was a poignant reminder of when they first met seven years ago. Chloe was Eve’s first friend in France, and has remained with her steadfastly over that time. The slogan is one of the few expressions Eve mustered in those early days to communicate to her new friend.

She has come a long way since that, since gaining a Mention Bien for her Brevet and is now studying hard for her BAC.

She has obtained a provisional acceptance from the University of La Rochelle to read English and Chinese Studies, so no doubt the panda, as such a iconic symbol of China, will follow her throughout her studies too.

Well done Eve!