16 April, 1914, St Omer de Blain
Three days worth: Sat drove to Blain, expecting shortest drive; apparent holiday traffic made slow going near Rambouillet. Still arrived Nantes with plenty of time (we were in Nantes because S didn’t tell me to turn before). (There have been a few navigator/pilot comm problems recently). S wanted to stop at Carrefour for groceries; on leaving commercial centre, police detoured us in a circle back to it; finally got back on road. We didn’t have any address for proprietor except ‘pont pietin’, so looked around a bit, found gite & waited from 1600-1615. Decided to try an ambiguous mark on Michelin map & found ‘pont pietin’, looked sort of like a resort. Gatekeeper was absolutely no help when shown our gite description with owners name & address. Returned to gite & then to pay phone; phone # seemed to be out of service. Returned to gite. When I called booking service from Paris, they had said they would call prop. & tell him we would be there between 4-5 pm, but it was ambiguous whether we would be at gite or prop. Decided to try neighbors. First one was a farmhouse, with door open. Stopped & called ‘Bonjour’. Woman saw Briand name & pointed, smiling, to gite. When we signalled he was not there, she looked at phone number & tried to call it. When that didn’t work, she tried to look it up in phone book, to no avail. Shortly the farmer walked up, and we all shook hands (very popular in France). He & S tried to figure out situation, & he decided the next door farmer might know the #. So we all walked over there. He (& his dog) was just leading about 4 cows from one field to another, but he left them to go on their own & went into his house (they seemed to know the way). He found 2 #’s, one the same as ours. Neither worked. Finally our farmer decided he should ride with me to Pont Pietin, leaving S & C with his wife (since the car was too full for all of us). I convinced S to ride in back, & we left C with the farmer’s wife. C was quite happy about this, even saying she didn’t want her book. When we got to Pont Pietin, the farmer took the same paper to the woman in the gatehouse, and she immediately phoned Briand, who was there within ~5 minutes. She also referred to him as ‘Docteur’. He apparently lives on the premises. The farmer got in Briand’s car & we followed back to gite. (By the way it was ~1655 when we got to P.P. 2nd time). The farmer got out & we thanked him, while C got in car. He went way beyond the call of duty, especially as he couldn’t speak E, and could easily have just shrugged the whole thing off as not his problem. (He even changed his coat before getting in our car). Briand showed us around & left, declining the 500F security deposit, declaring he had confidence in us. He had clearly been called by the booking agent, but what the message was we’ll never know. This gite is the largest of the 5 we’ve had, and the most comfortable. There is a leak from the ceiling near the front door, & in Sat nite’s rain we had to put a bucket under it. C didn’t sleep well, so none of us did Sat nite. Very windy.
16 April, 1914, St Omer de Blain
The adventure of getting into this gite was the most complex of all. When Chrissy was left behind by herself with the farmer’s wife, both Susan and I wondered how she was going to react; she apparently loved it, as high adventure. I have never found out whether she tried to talk to her, but she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. These people were so friendly and willing to help that it almost shames me to think how far I would have gone in a similar situation.
We ended up deciding that Pont Pietin was an asylum, and Docteur Briand the chief shrink, although we really had no basis for that. The behavior of the woman in the gatehouse was certainly peculiar, and the fact of a gate (and a very sturdy fence) gave a slightly sinister air to the place.
One feature of all of the gites which we really enjoyed was the shutters. The French still use shutters to augment security of houses, not as decoration. Every window and door has a functional shutter, with latches worked from the inside; door shutters have locks. So the ritual of going to bed is augmented by the ritual of shuttering the windows and doors. This gite had very thick walls, which made for a natural window-seat in Chrissy’s room. She could sit in the open window and read. This gite also had a swing set, which Chrissy used just about every day, and a garage. We didn’t park the car inside, because it was difficult to maneuver in the driveway, but we used clotheslines in it to hang laundry. It also had a soccer table game, with the players moved by rods. Chrissy and I played several times a day. (1991-07-03)
Saturday started the same as always. I am now ahead of Daddy. Got there, no one was around. Went to a (we didn’t know at the time) maniac mental hospital. Didn’t understand, (they didn’t) we left.