| Running a Bed and Breakfast in the rural area of France like Limousin, where tourist flows are limited to the warm summer months, has proven to be somewhat difficult out of season. There are no holiday makers and, since the global crisis, not many house hunters either. Luckily, this year, we are pretty busy for spring time. School holidays in the UK have started and many families that have a holiday home in France use the two-week break to relax in the Limousin. Recently, some of our friends came over for a “cuppa” (a cup of tea to the non British reader). It was just after Easter and the festive “chocolate bunnies hunt” spirit was still in the air. As all our friends were coming with their kids, eight in total, none over the age of eleven. This presented a serious dilemma: the adults were coming to catch up and would be happy to lounge around, drink, snack and talk, but what about thekids?Then, I remembered something. Last year we went to Australia to visit our family there. One of the most memorable days of our visit was a Family gathering at Derek’s and Helen’s (my husband’s brother and his wife’s) house. Years ago Derek built a wood-fired bread oven, which was the top attraction on the day of our gathering: we were going to bake proper, home-made pizza! Everyone made their own, to their taste, out of the prepared ingredients and, believe me, there was plenty of choice…Remembering how much fun it was, my decision was made easy: I knew what I was going to do with the kids while Peter (my husband) entertained the parents. I prepared plenty of dough and got a few ingredients for toppings, cut the most fiddly ones, like onions and olives, myself and voila, I was ready – bring it on!
The first guests arrived. As soon as the children realized what we were going to do, their little faces lit up with ear to ear smiles, whilst their eyes sparkled with excitement! “Mummy, mummy, we are going to make pizza!”
It is amazing how resourceful one can be with a little bit of thought: we improvised pinnies from kitchen towels and they did the trick, the older kids were cutting the rest of the meats and vegetables while the smaller ones happily got mucky by using their hands to break up pieces of mushroom (which also meant that the parents were not worried about them cutting themselves on sharp knives). In the end, everyone wanted to do something, everyone wanted to make pizza!
When all vegetables and meats were prepared and put into bowls, we lined them up on one long table and started preparing the bases. What fun this was: some of the youngsters were so proud and excited that they were working with a rolling pin for the very first time that they became very-very serious about it! Of course, I did not have enough rolling pins, so learning how to stretch the dough by hand became even more fun and a source of proud achievement for the older kids.
We “painted” the bases with tomato sauce and then lined them up. Then came to most artistic part of pizza creation: topping the pizza – I left it to the kids and their imaginations.
After all 12 (yes, 12!) pizzas were ready to go to the oven, the kids had one other very important mission to accomplish: the local french “Bunnie” just went through our garden and left a message that there were still lots of chocolate eggs to find in the garden, so the children went Easter egg hunting while the pizzas were baking in the oven.
Peter appeared in the kitchen from time to time to fill up the adults’ glasses and to make the odd comment of “You are really enjoying yourself, aren’t you!”. Of course I was enjoying myself – I loved, loved, loved it!
I guess it reminded me of my old days working in a school in Russia, where to be a teacher was never a profession, it was a life style. The teachers, the kids, the parents, all and everyone were part of one big family called school.
There was always a special connection between us: there were lots of things we did together even after school hours: concerts, fetes, competitions, pantomimes, various trips, barbeques, summer camps, you name it – we did it. And how rewarding it was when one day the parents of one of the classes asked me to be a form tutor for their children and even went to the headmaster with a signed petition! Taking that on was enormous responsibility and very tiring and difficult at times (my door was open to the kids 24/7 if needed). But more than anything else it was so much fun, inspiring daily joy and life-long satisfaction. To be appreciated and respected by kids and their parents is probably one of the best feelings for a teacher of any description.
And here I am, 17 years later, in rural France, running bed and breakfast, but feeling just like when I was teaching in school – feeling great: excited, energetic, creative and buzzing! The Easter egg hunt finished and all the kids returned with handfuls of chocolate eggs and bunnies, proud of their findings and excited about the Pizza party! The table in the dining room was ready and all 12 pizzas all shapes and to all tastes arrived: WOW!
“This is my pizza!”
“And this is mine!”
“No, these are our pizzas, we all made an effort and we will all share as we shared our work together”
Everyone was happy and proud! What a great experience!