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Calm before the perfect storm

August 14, 2013

Sod’s law was perfectly illustrated yesterday when, having loaned out the camper van to Tony “I invented the Internet” Coombs for a few days to act as an extra hotel room for visitors attending his forthcoming 30th anniversary bash, our only other serviceable vehicle down here in France is the 4 wheel drive skip, the vehicle belonging to That Nice Lady Decorator which decided to break down, or as Rolls Royce would have put it, “fail to proceed”.

Thus a lot of shenanigans with a garage and a car hire company in Mouans Sartoux ensued which were so stressful that we had to walk to the nearby golf course at St Donat for a restorative beer, where we were collected up by Sprog 1. That is the case for the defence against any charge that we were weak willed about our utter determination to have a day without drink. No one could have foreseen such a disaster and I respectfully submit this as a mitigating defence to any charge of backsliding.

So with the dam breached so to speak, a few beers in the pav were inevitable ahead of the also inevitable opening of the wine once the sun was across the yardarm. It allowed That Nice Lady Decorator the opportunity to vent her anger to the family and a collection of hungry and thirsty Sprog friends about her car, which, with a damaged flywheel and clutch will cost the best part of 3000 euros (about £2500 at today’s very generous Currencies Direct exchange rates) to repair.

Before that disaster befell us, we had been heading to Briconauts, a store where I always feel uncomfortable because it is the French home of DIY. For me it should be a DYD store (Don’t You Dare) given my renowned lack of practical ability. I am not allowed tools ever as it would be dangerous, tantamount to allowing children to play with fireworks. It was on the way back, before the car began making sounds like I imagine Peachy Butterfield might make if he had constipation, that The Nice Lady Decorator finally accepted that her skip was in trouble. That is when the trouble started. Never fully at easy with the French language and even less patient when things go wrong (and here I am very considerably understating the position) the poor garage man was given a roasting and, as the insurance hire car did not turn up as promised last evening, the invective will be turned up to “incinerate” on them this morning.

This evening we are invited to a barbecue with the lovely head of Currencies Direct in France, the sultry gypsy girl, Pippa and her bit of rough husband, the rugby playing Gerald from Blue Square Estate Agents. Pippa is a refined beauty. He is neither refined or beautiful. A wonderful man and a good sport (as long as that sport is rugby, not golf, where he exhibits the most remarkable lack of ability) he has long been the subject of unfair abuse in this column. That he has never complained is a testament to his stoic ability to allow the insults and sleights, my ability to deliver such is justly renowned, to run off like water off a ducks back, and, I suspect, because he does not understand exactly how rude I have been. Moody and magnificent, he exudes an animal charm along the lines one might expect from a caveman, or a second row forward.

I expect wine will be drunk and jokes cracked, the latter mostly going over the head of this charming rough diamond, who has somehow tamed the wild and beautiful Pippa. I say tamed but, as in the case of any majestic wild animal, the control sometimes weakens and then there are sparks. I do hope there are sparks.

Chris France




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