Of Corners, Cooking and Carnage
Aspects of Normandy by John Spinks
Not for them the pleasures that we take so much for granted. They came here for a very different purpose at a very different time, and so very many of them are still there. They had a very different outlook from that same hilltop from which we looked over the tranquil and green valley; the very hilltop from which, it might be said, they, the Poles, got their own back on the Germans. And not for most of us, until we visited the memorial museum built into the very hilltop and dedicated to their heroism, the appreciation of the enormity of the conflict, the suffering of soldiers, civilians and animals alike, the carnage in the corridor of death that was this small corner of Normandy that lifetime ago.
Through those tranquil lanes we arrived from the St Pois rendezvous with our hosts, John and Jeanette Eggleton. The overnight ferry to St Malo is not the most favoured route to Chez Eggleton, near Falaise, but to my mind it gives an extra full day of doing what we had gone to do; motorcycle and drink. Drink the atmosphere of rural France that has such flavour that it can almost be tasted, and become intoxicated with the rhythmic sweeps and bends of the roads that had been chosen for us by our hosts as carefully as had the table wine that was to follow. To have to have the “hair-of-the-dog” need of more of the same the next day to alleviate the metaphorical hang-over.
John and Jen are both IAM members and John is an Observer, so they are our kind of motorcyclists. Now in their second season they are used to a varied clientele ranging from relative beginners to the out-and-out knee-slider brigade and are well able to hold their own, and have clearly developed a strategy for assessing the group quickly and tailoring the ride accordingly. John's introductory talk about the French road signage is known to those to whom he gave it at Clubnight earlier in the year, and was repeated in the pleasant sunshine setting of a pavement café in St Pois. With a leader who knows the road and has honed the knack of keeping just that bit ahead as to draw the most from each and every one of those lovely, gorgeous, seductive curves (and is equally at home on the road!) we could not fail to spend the whole weekend wearing the kind of grin known only to satiated motorcyclists; the car brigade can't come even close to it.
The success of the weekend lies in the mixture, which leads very conveniently to the other ingredient of the trip; the cooking. You don't go to France to eat naff food, and Jen does not do naff food. These two do the cooking as they do the riding; together and very well. They have honed the catering as they have the riding and the route planning, using those vital aspects of quality and timing. They know what goes down well and what can be prepared by them, and only them, in the limited time available, and it does go down very well indeed.
Where did we go? I couldn't start to tell you, for we were clearly criss-crossing through the same area to get maximum enjoyment from the roads and, to a certain extent, the scenery of the area without thrashing along miles and miles of motorways to get there. And therein lies another of their cunning secrets; they knew what they were going out there to do and they researched the area from the motorcycling perspective before they bought the property rather than the other way around. This part of France abounds with roads that cry out to be enjoyed in whatever is your style, and we mostly pass it by en-route to more exotic climes. It is well suited to the weekend away.
It is easy to take such enjoyment for granted, but nowhere else is there so poignant a reminder of the cost of this freedom. Memorials sit side-by-side with the rural France that is so suited to our particular pleasure and occupy a suitable and respectful proportion of the weekend. John and Jen mix the two well according to taste to produce a weekend that is informative, memorable, companionable and above all, enjoyable. Our thanks to them both, and we hope to revisit them before long, do we not?