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I’m lumping this together not just because I’m lazy but because they really aren’t that dramatic and certainly didn’t warrant a post each.

Number 2 – Cooking Jambonneau – ham knuckle.  I’ve often seen these in the supermarket but have never bestirred myself to see how they’re supposed to be cooked.  They were on special a couple of weeks ago so in the spirit of the family can eat something different for once I got one and looked up recipes when I got back home.  I braised it in cider and served it with leeks in white sauce for Sunday lunch and it was nice, not fantastic, but good.  However the pea soup made from the ham and cider stock the next day was delicious.

Number 3– Buying coupons from an internet discount site.  I’m going to Paris soon with my daughter and a friend put me onto a site where you’re offered discounts on hotels, flights, spa treatments, dinner deals etc – what you have to do is buy the coupon entitling you to X amount of nights and then contact the hotel to see if they can fit you in when you want to go.  So it’s a bit scary because paying for three

No room at the hotel...

nights in a hotel in the centre of Paris, even with a 45% discount, is quite a lot of money.  But the hotel is in the shadow of Notre Dame and I knew I’d kick myself if I passed it up so I went ahead and bought the coupons.  Then found the site refused my credit card because it’s English so my husband had to pay with his French one, which is what I suppose you’d call a satisfactory outcome.  For me, anyway.  Now all I have to do is nail the child down and get her to say which dates suit her and then I can have all the fun of seeing if the hotel has any spare rooms.

Number 4 – Taking a man out for lunch.  It’s really strange to think that I’ve never done this before, I’ve shared the bill of course and I was in PR and advertising for some years so I used to entertain clients and journalists but for some reason it was always women.  When I first started going out with my husband I wanted to take him out on his birthday but he refused, saying loftily he’d never allowed a girl to pay for him and he wasn’t about to start now.  His noble attitude was a flipping nuisance as I had a pretty hectic job and would far rather have gone out than have to rush home to whip up a birthday dinner.  A few months later we married and spent the first night of our honeymoon at Claridges on the correct assumption that we’d never be able to afford to go there again. After all the bowing and ‘Congratulations Sir, Congratulations, Madam,’ when we checked in there was the inevitable, ‘And how will you be paying, Sir?’  ‘American Express.’  ‘I’m afraid we don’t take American Express, Sir.’  My brand new husband turned to me, ‘You’ve got your Barclaycard, haven’t you?’ and informed the desk that ‘the wife will pay.’  To be fair he then discovered he had his company petrol card on him so the surprised accountant at the firm he worked for got a bill from a five star hotel rather than the normal local Shell garage in Battersea.

The importance of checking facts: gendarme uniforms have been updated.

So last week for the first time ever I took a man out to lunch, a policeman no less,who is helping me with the research for my book.  I’m not writing a crime novel as such but there is a French detective in it and though I looked stuff up on the net the French policing system is so incredibly complicated that I wasn’t left much wiser.  The only thing I did gather was that the two arms of law enforcement, the gendarmes (military) and police (civilian) don’t always get on very well.  Fortunately my daughter came with us to help with translation for, though his English is quite good and my French is passable, the way crimes are investigated in France is so different to the English system that it’s near impossible to find the words to describe it unless you’re completely bilingual.

It was a good lunch, he’s a nice man and I really enjoyed myself.  What he told me is incredibly useful too.  I’m going to have to re-write a couple of scenes in the book and got one section completely wrong but I was spot-on with one element at least.  There really is a considerable degree of- ahem – rivalry between the gendarmes and the police.