Phew! Here's a less dangerous subject. To grunt, shake hands or kiss, that is the question.
Here is Mrs F (poor bloggers' spouses seem to be displayed all over the place) caught in a rather pursed-lips pose (the 'our' of Bonjour?) just about to grab the hand of Mme Montier. Mme lives in an even more remote house than our gite, and further up the hill. It is so steep that it makes the St James' cycle path look pathetic.
Click and enlarge the picture to see that in this wet weather attire Mme bears a striking resemblance to the recently honoured Sylvia Sims.
PS I've just realised that this isn't Mme Montier, but Mme Marie-with-the-husband. Silly me. Madame Montier looks like this:
Anyway, despite having known our Norman friends for several years we only shake hands with them. Mme Marie (see earlier) would like to, and blows them at us madly when we go. The hint comes in the form of a handshake which attempts to tug you towards her, but so far we have remained restrained.
The only former neighbour who has succeeded, now widowed and living in a nice flat in Aunay-sur-Odon, is Mme Cosnard. She decided last year that we should kiss, and you can see how close she gets to Mrs F in this picture.
The difficulty for us is knowing exactly when you know somebody well enough to kiss them. Being naturally reserved English people we don't want to be too forward. The French can be very reserved as well, so its a bit of a guessing and waiting game.
Our younger and middle class friends (well, our age - and there's no getting away from the class differentiation, which may be relevant) decided to take the kissing plunge a few years ago. So its kiss twice on first meeting them any day and again on parting (three times is pas de rigueur for some, though you do occasionally see four) .
It's all a rather nice change from the promiscuous adoption of this greeting by the English.
1.05 pm PS: just remembered that both Ruby and 21st C Mummy graciously offered their hands when we met (separately) recently.
5.50 pm PPS: and this is before we get on to tutoiement!