I was just on my way home and walked past the entrance to a local hotel, just as a white van with a builder’s merchant’s signage on the side pulled in. The driver – a well built, mustachioed chap – got out, nodded a greeting to me and commenced punching in the code on the gate to access the hotel’s courtyard.
I continued walking by and, as I drew level with the rear of the van, saw something scrawled there in the accumulated dirt and dust.
‘J’aime les licornes’ the legend on the back of the Ford transit said (‘I like unicorns’.)
I said something today that I never thought I ever would. Something that you may have read in books, or heard characters say in films and TV shows. It’s such a tricky sentence to say, because the context has to be just right, or you might just find yourself in trouble.
Well I managed to say it.
I even managed to say it in French too.
I work at a local school and – due to Covid 19 – we’ve had a lot of people that work in local government departments and businesses working with us, due to their workplaces being closed down for health reasons.
I recognised one of these ‘redeployees’ today while I was in the playground. She was stood off to one side watching the kids play, all wrapped up against the cold in her thick coat and scarf (and obligatory mask). Her name’s Stephanie, a lovely lady in her fifties who works locally and who myself and my kids have got to know quite well as we see her frequently – under normal circumstances anyway.
I headed over to her, weaving through masses of running kids as I did so, nodded my head at her and said: ‘Hello Stephanie, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on’.
Stephanie – a lifeguard at our local swimming pool – saw the funny side and, thankfully, laughed at this.
I say thankfully because Stephanie also teaches self-defence and judo.
I make my daughter her ‘quatre heure’ – or after-school snack – each day. This involves fruit, a drink and two small slices of toast, one with butter one with organic chocolate spread. I got bored one day and, with the aid of a pair of scissors, cut the pieces into heart shapes for her. She liked that. She liked that so much that she then refused to eat it unless I cut it into heart shapes for her each time.
Then I got bored of cutting heart shapes and tried my hand at other ‘designs’. They won’t win any art prizes, but she likes them and it’s quite fun for both of us. These are all first time efforts as I’m still ‘honing my craft’ but I will upload more photos one day when I think they are worth sharing. So here we have: Heart and the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, Pacman chasing a ghost (I realise for accuracy the ghost should really be blue, but I try not to feed my daughter blue things) and Jaws chasing a school of fish.
OK, so that’s a title and a half for a blog post, but bear with me, I’ll explain.
You see one of the things I love about French people is their frequent absolute refusal to do things in what I see as a logical, straightforward manner.
I should add this is just my opinion, and yours may well differ (he said diplomatically).
As an example of this I will tell you a little story from the other year, when I was working in a local travel and tourism office.
We had a village event coming up, a very popular, well attended event that spanned one entire weekend and happened every year. We had all the posters up advertising the event, but were still waiting for the programmes to arrive, with all the times of the various activities that were planned for that weekend.
The most frequent question we were asked – on the phone, and in person – in the days leading up to the event was: ‘Do you have the programme for the event yet?’.
The day finally came and we were informed that we would be receiving the infamous programmes, and so we could give them out to the locals and allow them to see what was in store.
The programmes arrived. They were delivered to another building, 500 meters away.
I offered to go and get them, and the conversation went a little like this:
Me: The programmes are here, down the road, shall I go and get them?
Colleague: Oh no, they are in a box, and the box is heavy, we will have to wait till we can get them delivered. I will contact the mayor.
Me: But people want them, and they’re not far away – I could take the trolley (indicating a small trolley we use to move heavy items around)
Colleague: Oh, but that will take a long time and the box is heavy.
Me: But that’s what the trolley is for.
Me: Well how about this? I go down, open the box, and bring up enough leaflets to hand out to people, then at least the ones who have asked for them will be happy.
Colleague: (long pause) (lots of blinking) No. No, the box is heavy. We will contact the mayor.
I’ve just repainted the bathroom floor downstairs, I know we are only two days into lockdown MK2, but I just can’t stop myself from painting things. Basically if it stays still for more than five minutes, it’s getting painted.
Thank god we don’t own a dog.
So the floor’s been painted, my son comes ambling up to me and asks me if he can use it. I check it out, it’s OK, but still a bit wet at the sides of the toilet.
I tell him he can use the bathroom, but to be careful of the aforementioned sides.
‘Oh you can trust me’ he replies ‘I don’t go on the sides of the toilet, I just pee on them’.
So, in case anyone is wondering why I repainted the floor, there’s your answer…
Check your food levels in the pantry. Put all your plans to one side. Stock up on toilet rolls and pasta. Make sure you’ve got enough ink in the printer for the attestation forms. Buy some extra baggy pants to slob about in.
And most importantly – buy lots and lots and lots of alcohol.
Yes folks, the day that we dreaded, the day that we hoped and prayed would not come, has arrived. With all the inevitability of a clock striking midnight, France has gone into (almost) total lockdown again.
Who’s to blame? The young? The old? The BLM protesters? The illuminati? I don’t know, personally I think people are equally to blame for this situation. Because people cannot stop touching each other, and seeing each other, and breaking the rules. Because people are like that. We aren’t – despite what many people on social media would have you believe – sheep. So we can’t be herded and ordered about – EVEN WHEN IT’S IN OUR OWN BEST INTERESTS.
And we love to touch each other. Oh how we love to touch each other! It’s OK if I just nip over the road to drop this off with my friend, that’s not contagious. It’s OK if I just touch this parcel and accept it from this delivery man, it can’t spread like that. It’s OK if I wear a mask, meet a group of friends, take off my mask, exchange a kiss and then put the mask back on – the mask is back on, I’m safe now, see?
This whole situation, as I’ve watched it unfold from my small town in France, has very much reminded me of someone trying to stop a dam from bursting it’s banks. Once you got the first hole filled with your finger, another hole appears, so you fill that with you finger – then another hole appears and so on. Every plan that the government puts in place to stop it is immediately cancelled out by the actions of the many, many idiots in our neighbourhoods. The ones who don’t move out of your way, the ones who stand too close to you in the supermarket, the ones who laugh and refuse to wear a mask because ‘It’s all part of some big government plan’.
Governments – as a rule – can not find their arse in the dark with both hands and a torch (See Brexit), so quite how they would go about coordinating a global-pandemic is beyond me.
It’s like Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park ‘Life finds a way’. Yes, it does find a way. A way to fuck the world up with its stupidity – because we are our own worst enemy, and Corona’s best friend.
So that’s my rant over with, now it’s off for four weeks (at the minimum) of playing games, watching films, keeping my kids entertained, and trying to find something to paint that I didn’t already paint twice during the last lockdown.
But hey, there is a brightside to this: the kids are still able to go to school.
We have plenty of alcohol and toilet rolls in the house.
Took the kids swimming yesterday. When we’d finished, and got out to get changed, I went and retrieved our clothing from the locker. The nice reception lady was in there, cleaning the floors. I had so many items of clothing I had to put my glasses in my mouth.
‘The locker’s so full it’s going to explode’ I mumbled with a mouthful of spectacles ‘Like a suitcase before you go on holiday’ I added. She laughed and agreed with me. Then I took my glasses out of my mouth and said ‘I think I speak better French with them in my mouth’.
‘Do you want to see my whopper?’ my neighbour Hervé asked me the other day with a cheeky glint in his eye. ‘It’s very big’ he added. I giggled nervously as I asked ‘How big is it?’. ‘Come and look at it’ he replied ‘I’ll show it to you now if you like, in my garden’. So I followed Hervé as he led me into his garden, and it was there in the shade of his cherry tree that he exposed his whopper to me.
My eyes went very big.
Herve must have noticed; ‘Have you ever seen one that size?’ he asked me. ‘No. no, never’ I stammered ‘Can I touch it?’. Hervé nodded his assent and smiled appreciatively as I bent forward to gently stroke it.
‘It’s so big and hard’ I said.
He sighed quietly and replied: ‘There’s none bigger in this town, or harder’. He nodded his head again and gave a grunt of pleasure as I asked him if I could take a photo. ‘Of course you can, but be quick, the ladies from the Bridge club are coming round soon, and they can’t wait to get their hands on it’.
So here you are, a picture of Hervé and his pride and joy. He’s going to expose it to the general public at a specialist show soon, where people will be charged to look at it, but you lucky people get to feast your eyes on his lovingly cultivated monster for free.
Incident: Travelling along road in usual vehicle at a slower than normal speed due to weather and time of night, what seemed to be a bush was observed and noted to be shaking oddly at the side of the road. It rapidly became apparent that this was not in fact a ‘bush’ after said ‘bush’ looked over its shoulder at oncoming vehicle and headed into the middle of the road. ‘Bush’ was then identified as a large wild boar and evasive manoeuvres (and screaming) were initiated.
Wild boar = undamaged
Vehicle = undamaged
Trousers and underpants = no longer fit for purpose.