It has to be said, I am a bit of a scrounger. Food off L’s plate? Yup. Hand-me-downs from K? Yup. Those little pens from Argos? Oh yes. I think it comes from my mother, who can be found every Sunday at the bakery aisle in Tesco, snapping up the reduced pastries faster than the Tescee can put them on the shelf.
So when the party had finished and I’d done my time serving Sangria and punch on the lawn and fluttering around with champagne flutes – while avoiding E’s second-cousin-once-removed’s drunken calls to sing “Danny Boy” again – I decided I deserved some left-overs.
As the expats and the villagers mingled by the wine table, E and I snuck out the back, laden with crates of fruit juice, a bag of baguettes, and a bottle of two of sweet champagne. On my third trip to the gîte, just over the lane from the village hall, with two bottles of rosé under my arm, a group of party-goers disturbed my escape. “Where are you off to with those bottles?” one called, good-naturedly.
I paused. E’s thrifty relatives were on the prowl, and I needed a swift retreat.
“Monsieur?” I replied, “ Parlez-vous français?”
As I had hoped, the man hesitated, and then waved his arms. “Sorry!” he shouted, louder than was necessary, “My mistake! Goodbye!”
But, it wasn’t until I was on my final assault, weighed down with a plate of assorted cakes and a tub of homemade ice cream, that my harmless scrounging took a less-than-legal turn.
“Madamoiselle! Il y a un problème avec votre robe!”
“Moi?” I looked down.
“Oui! Il y a une étiquette de sécurité sur la jupe. Avez-vous elle volé?!”
Aah crap. The till girl had indeed left the security tag on my dress. And now I was caught, red-handed with stolen goods from the freezer. This was going to be hard to explain…