The AGM (of the Club Soleil d’Automne) was due to start at 11 o’clock but when we arrived a couple of minutes after that there were only a few people already gathered. We shook hands or kissed those present and then paid our dues – 10 euros each for the annual subscription plus 18 euros a head for the meal.
Eventually people gravitated towards the seats and Bear made for the back row. Other people dribbled in and went round greeting everyone else. It was a bit like having to stand up to let others pass at the cinema as latecomers made their way up and down the rows.
At about 11.30 the president called the meeting to order – at least she tried, but as she had a cold, her croak was not loud enough and several stronger voices were necessary before silence was attained. Being at the back, I couldn’t hear a word and Bear had ‘switched off’ anyway, so I don’t really know exactly what was said.
It appeared she went through the list of last years events, followed by this year’s planning and then people put their hands up.
“What are we voting for?” I asked my neighbour.
“They’re planning a dance for 2009.” he replied.
There were indignant whispers from the ladies in front of us.
“Fancy talking about 2009 now.”
Fortunately the meeting was short and it seemed to come to an end ‘gradually’. No-one announced it but some of the committee members got up and wondered round talking to people and then a few others made for the dining room – a signal for a sedate stampede by everyone.
The tables were attractively set by the caterer – who is the son of the president’s boyfriend. The meal was to be served by four of the male members of the club; a tradition for St. Agathe, and Madame President dressed the four volunteers in white caps and aprons.
The aperitif was champagne and I think we must have got through about 20 bottles between the 43 of us. (No wonder the accounts we had just read showed expenditure of 670 euros for the local wine last year).
The first course was casserole of sweetbreads. That’s something I’d never have the courage to order at a restaurant but I was determined to try it. Even Bear was hungry (tiddly) enough to give it a go and we both found it very tasty.
Then came more alcohol – the Trou Normande – traditionally an apple sorbet with calvados, but this time a delicious pear sorbet generously laced with plum liqueur.
The meal was very relaxed and laid back with our four gallant waiters doing a magnificent job at serving and clearing away while, in between, managing to eat their own lunch. Even Alain, the chef, sat down at the end of a table from time to time to chat or eat while his long-suffering assistant slaved away at the washing up in the kitchen.
The main course was pork fillet with dauphinoise potatoes, green beans wrapped in bacon and stuffed tomato, then we had cheese served with lettuce and, finally the St Agathe Gateaux – three magnificent concoctions of light sponge, fruit and cream – accompanied by yet more champagne.
By this time it was 4.30 and there was still coffee and brioche to come, plus, (if past experience is anything to go by) large helpings of digestifs. But Bear was aching and uncomfortable so we had to call it a day and go home.
It has to be admitted that I had a bit of a hangover.