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This morning we headed off on our trip, with everything we needed, including rose wine, cheese, lager, water and bread, in case those things are tricky to find in France. We arrived at the Eurotunnel terminal three hours early. Yes we were a little keen. The train journey was a glimpse into a futuristic dystopia, and a bit on the hot side.

Once on the other side we stopped in the services where we proudly showed off our French, and they promptly replied to us in English. Driving on the right side (or should we say wrong side) of the road went surprisingly smoothly. It all started to go wrong when we arrived in Sacy Le Petit and eventually found the Chateau only to discover it all locked up and nobody home. There was a lot of shouting Bonjour very loudly intermixed with Allo Allo, is anybody there. We did consider scaling the walls. Eventually we rang Hugo back in London to ask him to call Hermine. (She later told us she heard the phone ringing but left it). She only accidentally stumbled across us whilst watering the plants. Not her fault really as we were a tad early.

Hermine greeted us dressed in gardening slacks. She had been mowing the not insignificant lawn for an hour. She took us into her office (where we had to strap dusters to our feet as she had just had the floors polished) and asked us to sign what seemed like an historic document but actually turned out to be a receipt for our bursary money.

She cooked us dinner in her little kitchen (No, the sauce is for ends of the asparagus!) and showed us round the garden, an overgrown wilderness full of the most amazing herbs, vegetables and flowers.

During dinner, at 7 o’clock, the church bells started ringing, and carried on ringing (200 fucking times). Apparently they do so at 7am and at midday too, every day, to call the workers in from the fields. Even though there aren’t any workers in the fields any more. It’s quite a haunting sound, and one for further investigation. However, might have a change of heart at 7am tomorrow morning.

The main topic of conversation during dinner was how much booze we needed to order for the village Petanque competition that we are organising (they weren’t going to hold it this year so we have stepped into the breach to keep the tradition alive and ingratiate ourselves with the locals). Should we order from the wine merchant who do sale or return or get from Lidl who do a rather nice rosé?? Such are the dilemmas here at Chateau de Sacy.


We are back in Blighty now and gradually acclimatising to city life once again. Let us fill you in on how the last day of the residency went, which was of course the day of the big Petanque tournament.

They weren’t going to hold the village petanque in Sacy-le-Petit this year, it seems the game is in a gradual decline all over France. So we took it upon ourselves to organise it for them, since we like a bit of a get-together. Now, we were not sure how this was going to go down, whether anyone would actually show up at all, it was all a bit of a risk. So it was with trepidation that we went over to the village hall early to set up.

We loaded up a trestle table full of the booze and Brucey started to draw up an extremely complicated score chart. Then we sat waiting nervously for players to arrive. The 1.30pm sign up time came and went, and we got the fear and started laying into the Rose Pamplemousse. Then, at about 1.55pm, people began to appear with their boules under their arms. Then more, then more, until we had queues of people and had to add more rows to our score chart. 18 teams! More than last year! Some even came from over 50km away!

And then we were off. The sun was shining, the Petanquers were getting nicely drunk, there was a lot of measuring and ruminating on who’s balls were closest (or something) and things seem to be going well. Then Brucey admitted he might have made a bit of a faux pas with the draws, meaning some teams would end up playing each other again over the 5 games. Much number head-fuckery later, and after consulting various incomprehensible websites, we were back on track. Major crisis averted. Well done Brucey!

The Petanquers were ordering beers and kirs and downing them in one. Some of them started to get VERY sloshed. They were telling us how beautiful we were, and singing to us (that’s how sloshed they were). And they were still playing. In fact, it seemed to go on and on and on. Five games took 5 hours! 5 solid hours of Petanque and hard drinking! We almost ran out of booze. Thankfully we had a bottle of Ricard on hand to give each player a celebratory drink when they finished. Although this did seem to send them over the edge. By the time of the prize-giving they were well and truly plastered. One of them even gave Julie a piggy back! The trophies went down well, including the hand-crafted wooden spoon monstrosity, and it was time for a group photo, to chants of ‘Sacy! Sacy!’ and much cheering and hat throwing. If they haven’t erected a statue to us by the time we are back in July we will be bitterly disappointed.

Back at the Chateau, exhausted but exhilarated, Hermine said she was going to cook us dinner in her kitchen. We say dinner, it was just asparagus. A LOT of asparagus. One supposes you have to make the most of when it’s in season. Hermine sat us all down and flustered around the cooker with everyone assuming the crash position. Then, hysterically flailing, she exclaimed “Get out my way, I’m doing something very dangerous!” and rushed round us with a humongous saucepan with steam erupting from it and upended it in the sink. “Zorry for the fuss, but no one has ever cooked this much asparagus in ‘istory! I am suffering for you!” Then she basically force fed us, laying on a guilt trip if you said you might have had enough. Julie ate the sauce even though she is allergic to eggs. She would rather have a allergic reaction than face a scornful Hermine. Dessert was rhubarb cake, with stewed rhubarb. The stewed rhubarb was rather on the tart side and it was a real effort to force it down while still smiling. Then we were told “That concludes the entertainment for this evening” and we were dismissed. What a fantastic end to a fantastic trip.

The next morning we stuffed everything into the car, including Bruce and Hermine, and headed for Calais. Hermine had brought along 6 fragrant hard boiled eggs for the journey, which we expect Hugo had to eat when she got in. The journey was slightly quiet, as we gradually left the countryside (and the past) behind and headed to the London and the future.

Bruce had been amazing and we think he had enjoyed himself. Well, he said he could dine out on the experience for weeks, which we are sure amounts to the same thing. Indeed we felt the same, packing away our posh clothes that we had brought for an imagined chateau life that didn’t exist. Next time we will know what to pack and what to expect, but we’re sure the culture shock will still be there.

Apparently there are four distinct phases to culture shock: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and mastery. We think we had only got to the adjustment stage, so maybe when we return in July we can get to be masters of Chateau de Sacy.

We are now experiencing reverse culture shock (we can’t stand the telly, and miss the garden) which we have read can be even harder to get over. Wish us luck adapting back to our lives in the modern world.

We will be back with the blog in July. In the meantime, keep in touch on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. www.henrybragg.com

PS Rose Pamplemousse tastes awful in England.


Wow what a day! The Pertonk was a MASSIVE success and we were loved, loved, loved! Thanks Brucey for stepping into the breach! There will be a big blog post to follow in a few days as we are having to pack all our things up. The adventure is over – for now.

(PS We must also tell you about Hermine’s hilarious farewell dinner in her kitchen, Julie nearly combusted trying not to laugh. HERMINE WE LOVE YOU!)

Au revoir France, until July!


We didn’t quite realise the importance of the task when we took it upon ourselves to organise the village Petanque. The stress levels have been gradually rising and reached fever pitch today when Hermine discovered we hadn’t yet made the score chart and had a bit of an episode. Julie was visibly shaken afterwards. We escaped across to the village hall to set up, only to set off the alarm which was extraordinarily loud and alerted the whole village to our whereabouts. Mind you, they seem to know where we are at all times anyway. We have stuffed the 3 large fridges with the booze (surely they can’t drink all that white wine, its insane!) and put up our posters everywhere. Just one more trip to LeClerc (corkscrew, Hermine couldn’t possibly let hers out of the house in case it gets mislaid and then what would she do?) and we are ready for the big day tomorrow!

Here are the trophies, what beauties. We are slightly less confident about our wooden spoon prize now that we know a journalist is coming from a local magazine. Not sure they will get it and we don’t have the language skills to explain that our painting is intentionally in a naive style. Honest.

We picked up the larger than life Brucey from the station, in his straw hat and flip flops. When we got back Hermine had started the bonfire which was threatening to take the whole place down. Seems a tad on the large size for a few bangers.

The evening was a hoot. Hermine ran around the table swapping napkins making sure we had the grubby ones and the guests of honour had new ones. The drinks consisted of: sparkling Rose Pamplemousse to start, followed by homemade Sangria brought by Didier (Hermine’s elusive builder), then vin rouge with the sausages and a special Rose wine to have with the dessert (strawberries with ‘fresh cream’ which is creme fraiche with icing sugar). Conversation at dinner turned to what Brucey did for a living. “But you’re a newsagent!” Hermine exclaimed horrified. “Oh, I’ve never met one of those before!” After the meat and huge barbequed onions, Hermine and Didier kept throwing wood and foliage onto the fire, then running about getting whatever they could lay their hands on to feed the flames, by now 30ft high and lapping at the barn. Our exhibition venue was looking increasingly in jeopardy. Hermine then appeared with a pot of sage tea and announced no more wine as there was work to do tomorrow, much to Bruce’s dismay. She reluctantly brought out a bottle of vin rouge and the party continued. (Side note: we taught Julie how to say vin as in the ‘van’ a builder drives, and the Frenchies were in hysterics “Not quite so aggressive Joo-lee!”

We have left the party in full swing, hopefully someone is keeping one eye on the bonfire.


So sorry we failed to blog yesterday. We did lots of stuff, we were just so tired from our exploits in Paris the day before, we didn’t have the energy to tell you about it!

So here is a quick recap. Yesterday we visited Senlis, which is a medieval walled city with a mahoosive cathedral. We had a very posh lunch at a restaurant called Scaramouche (will you do the fandango!) and then set off into the woods surrounding the city. The forest is called La Halatte and stretches for miles. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, apart from the several motorways that cut through it and that you seem to be able to hear wherever you are. We filmed some lovely pine trees waving in the breeze until the heavens opened and we headed for home. Back at the Chateau we filmed more stuff in the garden in the drizzle, including some comedy attempts to film an owl and a bead of water on a leaf. Until the heavens opened and we headed inside. You get the idea.

Today has mostly been about booze. We got a rather hefty delivery from the wine merchant. He kept going back to his van with a trolley to get more, it was almost embarrassing. The delivery included 10 cases of bottled beer and 6 cases of vin blanc. But it seems this was not enough, so we ventured out to LeClerc for more. There we got 3 boxes of Rose Pamplemousse, which we have developed a penchant for, a bottle of Ricard, several bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape and a nice Chablis. But it seems this was not enough, so we returned to LeClerc in the afternoon to get 2 bottles of sparkling Rose Pamplemousse (what a discovery!) and 2 bottles of Bordeaux. Christ. Now, let us explain, this is not all for us. We are setting up a bar for the good people of Sacy-le-Petit at the Petanque on Saturday and it appears they like a few.

Yes, it all eyes on the Petanque from now on. We were in charge of making the ‘wooden spoon’ prize for the team with the fewest points. We have taken this very seriously and so far have painted sad faces on 5 wooden spoons and aren’t really happy with any of them. Is it racist to paint them in a beret with a stripey jumper and a tache?

We have enlisted the help of Bruce from the London Petanque Club to help us with our Petanque. He arrives by Eurostar tomorrow evening and Hermine is terribly excited and busily mowing the lawns and preparing a giant bonfire which apparently is going to be a barbeque. She has ordered the local speciality sausage from the boucher and invited the neighbours. We emailed Brucey some tips on Chateau living, such as don’t forget your slippers, and he replied: “The only necessity I have is a hat, albeit a straw one! For slippers I will bring a clean pair of flip flops. Do not worry. I am pretty hardy!”

You just wait, Brucey, you just wait….