So we cruised up towards the coast.The names of towns had lived their growing signposts of fame, then slipped away behind like rejected talent show hopefuls: Poitiers, Tours, Le Mans. It’s really quite alarming to realise that there actually is a weather line at the River Loire. The temperature steadily reduced by about 8 degrees Centigrade as we neared the coast. About a mile from the port there is a Mcdonalds and I could tell that Gilles was getting a bit excited. You see I have the zeal of the convert and see myself as une Francaise , une maitresse de moules, une femme de fromage. All in all too posh to nosh. Not so my Gallic gourmet -“Zay ave zee Big Tasty.” He told me. The place was crowded. (The French are lovin’it – but don’t tell anyone). We queued behind 4 chavs – baseball hats backwards, bits of bling, a few tattoos. Somewhere in their lives would be a hot hatch with an exaggerated exhaust pipe. I wanted coffee with my Big Tasty meal. “Impossible!” Snapped the serveuse.
“It is not part of the Big Tasty menu.” Mumbled the rude child in an exasperated tone. She was the kind of person who would be rejected by Somali pirates. I ordered 2 Big tasty meals and a separate coffee. I could tell she despised my tactical manoeuvre. We munched – or rather licked and absorbed our soggy baps. I felt like an amoeba slithering my body around the outside of some unspeakable nutrient mass. Gilles pretended to be enjoying himself but I know that deep down he is a flame grilled whopper guy.
We pulled away. In the distance were the lights of the port. Now -have you ever seen a horse galloping in the lead towards the last fence of the Grand National. Suddenly the animal looks at the fence and says “Nah!- I’ve had enough.” Yes- the car saw those lights and stopped – more or less dead. She did not want to leave France. She could read my pain. The thought of driving on the left had stopped her heart. Gilles started to make unrepeatable remarks about having given le garagiste 1,600 Euros. All that cholesterol and anger at his age could be dangerous. We needed some exercise. The push was only about a mile. We huffed and puffed up to the check in and just about let it roll up to the cabin. I was worried that they might not let us in pushing the car. No one noticed. We were directed to follow a Monsieur red vest. We shrugged and looked helpless. We had our boarding cards. We could ask for Asylum.
There were many shrugs, smiles and “C’est la vie”sentiments. A large lorry appeared driven by a cheerful docker. We explained the story of the newly repaired car. The guy shrugged. “In Charentes they only think of beaches and the sun…this is no surprise.”
He towed us on board. He shook our hands. As France slipped away behind us we made for the bar. The beer was French, the tricolore trailed out stiffly behind the ship. I was still a little bit at home.
Emma thinx: Disappointed? But deep down you were right weren’t you.
I suppose Toulouse Lautrec started it all off. There is an idea that France (well, Paris) is the land of ooh la la with Curvy Chicks in Naughty Knicks. From my own sorties into Pigalle I wonder if any of the Ladies are French. Sexy France exists – but it does not exist in anything like the form that Sexy South London exists. Whenever I throw in some remark about “getting enough” or “I do like a big one” in true “Carry On film” tradition, French ladies look at each other uncomfortably, not knowing whether or not to acknowledge the “Double Entendre”. Well it was them who gave us the expression (You Yanks will get this stuff from Benny Hill. See his News Flash here). Of course, they do have sex, probably in very normal quantities but bedroom doors are very firmly closed. However,whilst I grew up in a society of women who would chat over tea, coffee,wine, beer, cider or vodka martini about issues of “personal tastes and behaviour”, I find Gallic ladies to be…..well – ladies. For a while I worked in a bakery making famous brand sliced loaves.(Let’s call it “Father’s Fancy”). The conduct and conversation of the young women was at first astonishing, became profoundly educational and finally deeply human. Maybe this happens in France. I’m clinging on trying to be a writer – but the bread factory beckons. Be sure, I’ll report back if I end up there.
I have a feeling that the French privacy laws probably affect some of the attitudes I have described. In the UK, a headline such as “Lady judge and tennis hunk swap balls in Court” are normal. No such thing happens here. Privacy is enshrined in the French constitution. Only since the European Convention On Human Rights was accepted by the UK government have pop stars, footballers et al taken to Law to ring-fence their lives. This is a tricky one. Much comment surrounds the DSK affair. (Head of IMF and New York hotel behaviour). Seemingly he’s always been known as a right old lover of the female form but all the press kept quiet. Now all my Romance writing career I’ve actually been looking for a role model distinguished world-controlling billionaire. So that’s what you’d end up with! No thanks – I’ll stick with fantasy if that’s the real show.
Emma thinx: Fallen woman – watch the rush to pick her up.