Let's do lunch - music to my ears

LUNCH is an all important event here in France, as you might expect.

James Marston

LUNCH is an all important event here in France, as you might expect.

For example, I recently asked for a dental appointment at 1pm. Really, I should have known better.

"But no, monsieur, we will be at lunch. This is France." Point taken.

Indeed, the mere idea of quick sandwich at the desk is enough to give a Frenchman a gastronomic crisis.

As I lunched with a colleague Sophie, she's the one who's a descendant of one of the three musketeers, I noticed that she had fixed herself what appeared to be the student fodder of a pot noodle and a bag of crisps.

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I was shocked I can tell you.

"Hardly the lunch of a French", I said in French.

"No, James, that is true, that is to say, therefore, however, that I can't eat Cassoulet or Camembert everyday," Sophie replied.

I asked her what the noodle of the pot was like.

"Deg." she said, the translation for which is "disgusting.", before moving on to a chocolate mousse, obviously to refresh her palate.

But lunch isn't only the reserve of the French and I found myself lunching in Essex this weekend during a flying visit to the land of my birth.

I jetted in late on Friday night with a plane load of half termers who had been on the pistes.

It was, I must admit, rather nice to see the rolling countryside of Suffolk and Essex even if it was just for a day and a night.

We had gammon and I lingered over a cheeseboard while chatting to a lady called Doreen who had made a spectacular chocolate pudding for the occasion.

Now I blame the fact that I haven't really been used to strong gin and tonics for some time - well since I moved to France - but, dear readers, I am ashamed to say by the end of the afternoon I was somewhat "over-refreshed" as we journalists like to say, and I started repeating myself.

My sister Claire, who got the unenvious job of driving me home, understandably wasn't too impressed. Indeed, I might have seen some more of the countryside had I not been quite so "tired and emotional" and rested my eyes.

On Sunday I popped to the ancient Church of St James in the west Suffolk village of Icklingham with my friend Beverley, she's the one who plays tennis, for morning service.

A lovely time and not a Pot Noodle in sight.

Britain is, it seems, haughtily ignoring the latest Argentinean sabre rattling over the Falkland Islands

And quite right too.

This time the rows about shipping and oil and territorial waters.

The first settlers on the Falkland islands were French way back in 1764 and two years later the British built their own settlement. That was before Argentina even existed.

Let us not forget that the Falkland Islands have been British since 1833 and nearly two centuries later the inhabitants have expressed no wish to transfer sovereignty to Argentina or anyone else.

I have had my first experience of the French state health service and I have to say I have been rather impressed.

The other week I had to go for an X-Ray in a clinic here in Toulouse - this is due to teeth problems, the details of which I shan't bore you.

Walking in and being seen to within an hour with an appointment made in that morning was impressive. And the medical profession took time to explain things to me - the English man - with noticeable patience.

I even noticed, in the waiting room a sign in English which brought a smile to my face. "The pregnant women or likely to be it must imperatively announce their state."

Sunday afternoon is always a funny time wherever you are in the world I always think don't you? Here in France, as a Suffolk Man abroad, I have followed the custom of cinema going that everyone else seems to do. Almost without fail the cinemas are packed on a Sunday. Recently I watched Sherlock Holmes, the local screen very kindly puts on some films in English, and enjoyed it very much. Clues, action, fighting and a love interest - it has all the hallmarks of fun.

I was interested to learn that tentative plans have been mentioned to turn Bury St Edmunds Corn Exchange into a pub. I don't really know what to think about this but in a strange way I rather like the idea don't you?

I hear from my plain speaking photographer friend Lucy that the Ipswich most operatic and decidedly Dramatic Society, a group of which I was once an enthusiastic member and regularly played large boy at the back, is rehearsing hard for its next production The Full Monty. To the relief of many I have never stripped on stage, the part has never demanded it, but you can't help but admire those who have the nerve to do so. Anyway Lucy tells me it should be a good show so do make sure you get your tickets.

So The Evening Star is celebrating 125 years of history this year.

This is something I know all of us who have worked and work at the newspaper are proud of and an achievement that those in the news room will enjoy celebrating. Reporting on the community in which you live is an honour for any journalist and one of the most rewarding jobs there is. Here's to the next 125 years.

Send your memories of the Star throughout the years to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Has there really been more snow in Suffolk?

It must seem like winter is never ending. Here in France the weather hasnt been exactly scorching but the nights are beginning to get lighter, darkness falls at about 6.30pm now.

I am told that by the middle of March Spring really feels like it has arrived and everyone starts sitting outside in the caf�s and Toulouse comes alive again. I can't wait, and I bet you can't wait to say goodbye to this winter either.

Dear Readers,

I do enjoy and email, letter or message so I was pleased to hear this week from a fan called Mary Meredith. She's a theatrical type I know from the Ipswich most Operatic and Dramatic Society. She wrote about the subject of letter writing.

James

Dear James,

I loved your article today (as per usual). Although I must admit it got me thinking and soul searching.

My conclusion is that I totally agree with you about 'putting pen to paper' and writing to people. I do it all the time, although must admit e.mail, text and Facebook have taken over from putting pen to paper. However, as anyone who has received these epics from me will tell you - my e.mails, texts and Facebook postings tend to be more than the few words you mentioned in your article. After all, why write one sentence when you can say the same in twenty or more has always been my motto. As for texts, my normal text takes three texts when sending. A little note comes up when I press the send button which tells me I will be charged for three or more messages and asks me whether I wish to proceed (I always do).

I suspect I'm exactly the same when talking to people, which is perhaps why I love writing so much - after all - I cannot then see the dazed expression gradually appearing in their eyes when I'm trying to explain something.

So hurray for the written word, even if it's by e-mail, text or Facebook.

Love from Mary