A French Letter
Oh how we laughed. It could been a nightmare day from Hell; only the fact that I live in France saved it.
I was up at seven and spent four hours clearing storm-powered leaves and pine spines from the pool, chopping back a summer’s worth of tall weeds by the converted barn, slicing up plastic liner to put over the weeds and then dumping gravel on top of that to both hide and kill the awfulness that lay beneath.
Having noticed that I had a slow puncture in the offside back tyre of my ageing not entirely babe-magnetic Peugeot 207 saloon, I pumped the bugger up and went off to my local dealer – a chap called Vincent for whom I have the highest regard. The recent storm having also dumped a large branch onto the windscreen, I made a note of the insurance company involved…in the hope that perhaps two things could be done at once.
Vincent had the tyre I required. He informed me that I had a second tyre that also required immediate replacement. “Fine” I said, not feeling fine at all. As to the windscreen, oh-la-la, for this I would need the paperwork showing I own the car, the paperwork showing my full certificate of insurance, and an EU driving licence….as well as the paperwork relating to my English driving licence showing that I am not a homicidal drunk driver asking for nine further offences to be taken into account.
I didn’t have all that stuff, but Vincent said he could do the tyres on the spot….except that it was now five to twelve, and all his mechanics were about to go off for lunch. Could I come back some time after 3 pm?
Now as it happens, there is a restaurant in a town just walking distance from the garage, so I said OK, and set off to work up an appetite. I arrived at the restaurant, and at this point things began to look better. I was knackered and hungry, but the fixed price menu looked pretty damn good.
In fact, it wasn’t pretty damn good: it was amazing. I had a charcuterie salad, followed by Chicken Basquaise and then a beautiful chocolate concoction with home-made vanilla ice cream to finish. Two beers, a glass of wine and a hot chocolate drink were included in a bill that came to just €14 – £12.10 at today’s exchange rate.
Replete and happy, I wobbled off to the local park to sleep it off. I picked up the car at just gone three, and came home renewed to finish the day’s chores.
In all seriousness, there are times when loneliness here coupled with French bureaucracy can lay one low. But a nice meal delightfully served while reading Le Monde is hard to beat.