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’.)
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…
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’.
My next-door neighbour thinks her neighbour at the back and to the right set her garden on fire.
It was her neighbour at the the back and to the left. It’s his holiday home and he was cutting the grass and decided to burn it – as you do – to get at the weeds. It got out of hand, he set my neighbour’s grass on fire, and then promptly packed up his car and legged it back to Brittany with his wife.
The neighbour at the back and to the right didn’t burn her grass.
What he did do was cut a hole in her fence in order to cut down a plant on her land that he said was toxic.
My next-door-neighbour is not happy with the neighbours at the back.
I know all this because for the last three days it’s been like world war 3 in the gardens around us with accusations flying left and right.
There was an attempt to bring me into this as the neighbour at the back – the fence-cutter – alleged that I had had enough of my neighbour too. ‘The Englishman is going to explode at you as well’ was the exact phrase used.
I was quick to assure my neighbour that I wanted no part in this, was not on the verge of exploding, and would prefer to remain ‘Switzerland’ if I could help it.
It’s been great for my French – I know so many more gros mots than I did.
We have now reached the point where the neighbour at the back and to the right is erecting a much higher fence, in order to avoid talking to my neighbour.
And she is now selling off a large number of her chickens as she fears they will be killed by the neighbour at the back (and to the right).
As for the neighbours that fled to Brittany? They have yet to return.
Hey, it’s not all sunshine and roses here in France.
I sometimes listen to crap songs late at night on YouTube.
I have, over the past couple of months, begun to draw a correlation between the amount of ads I am forced to view and the level of the Corona virus. As an example of this a few weeks ago – when the virus was arguably at its peak – I could go through almost the entire back-catalogue of Steps, and be forced to watch just one 5 second ad.
Ditto for Genesis.
Last night I’d only listened to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop) by Scatman John, and the masterpiece that is Blue by Eiffel 65, and I’d already endured a 15 second promo for a rapper I’d never heard of, and been encouraged to buy an Apple watch that cost more than my first car.
However it was when Flat Beat by Mr Oizo was interrupted mid-song that I knew we may be turning a corner, and that things seemed to be back to normal.
I am currently testing this hypothesis by playing Barbie Girl by Aqua, on a ten hour loop and monitoring the ad breaks and I will report back with my findings from this at a later date.
Like me you may own a gazebo with a material roof. Like me you may also have areas where the water may gather from time to time, following a heavy night’s rain, causing slight bulges in the material. Like me you may prod these bulges from underneath in order to displace the water.
Do not be like me.
Please check the other side of the gazebo, before you prod the underside to make sure that the bulge is in fact caused by water.
Because that bulge that you think contains water may in fact be a bulge containing a cat.
And let me tell you, cats do not like to be prodded from underneath. Especially if they happen to be sleeping at the time. And cats have claws. And my gazebo roof is made of material. And, well…
So let me introduce you all to my gazebo version 2.0, now with added cat-made skylight…(if you squint you can just make out the claw marks in one of the photos).
There was a lot of noise coming from a distant corner of the neighbourhood last night. A group of people getting together and partying till the wee small hours. Lots of shouting and chanting and general rowdiness – just a normal, youthful party.
It didn’t bother me too much, but where the noise was coming from is quite a built up area, so I thought the gendarmes might have been called, or at least they would have quietened it down a bit out of respect for their neighbours.
I heard from another neighbour that they were at it till gone 4 a.m. ‘Oh well we were all that young once’ I said to him, before adding ‘They were probably just enjoying deconfinement’ he agreed with me, but rolled his eyes.
I happened to have a stroll past there just now. The music is starting to crank back up.
They were all there, in the garden, a dozen or so of them sat around a table full of bottles, getting warmed up for round two tonight.
Youthful? No. Young at heart? definitely
Not one of them looked under seventy.
I also now know why the neighbours didn’t complain – because they’re all there.