Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh B***er it's raining again!

"Oh b***er, it's raining again".

Thus started my day in the Sunny Southwest of France. Still Southwest but definitely not sunny.

"Don't swear, Mum" shout DS and DD in unison from their place under the stairs where I have decided to keep them until puberty passes. It's for the best, you know! When I had my two little darlings rather closer together than planned (or not, as was the case) I thought that at least I'd get the nappy stage out of the way quickly. Of course I completely forgot that they would, later in life, hit puberty at the same time.

DD seems to have been suffering from PMT for the past year - I dread her getting her little hands on a firearm - and DS has his own personal little black cloud that follows him everywhere.

It was one of those 'organised chaos' days which are becoming more and more a feature of my life these days and which isn't helped by, well, living in France.

"Quick, we've overslept, get dressed" I shout to DS.

"What's for breakfast?"


"There's no milk"

"B***er" (again). "Toast"

"There's no bread"

B***er and thrice b***er. Now I remember what I forgot to do yesterday. Go shopping.

"We'll get a croissant from the shop".

We jump in the car and charge down the hill, safe in the knowledge that Ma Chere Voisine is in Burgundy so it's safe to travel at more than snail's pace for fear of meeting her charging up the hill à toute vitesse. She's always running as late as me but about 10 minutes before, leading to many near misses, accompanied by smiles and waving, as we screech past each other on our single track lane.

We arrive at the village. B***er yet again, we've missed the bus. This is not an unfamiliar scenario as I am, by nature, pathologically late. I dash into the shop. B***er, the boulanger hasn't arrived yet.

I grab a packet of chocolate biscuits and throw a few Euros at Gilles, the owner, who mimics driving a racing car at me. He's a regular witness to what is now affectionately known as the St Amans Dash - A hare-raising drive to the next village to try and catch the bus, with no regard for the safety of myself, DS or small animals. There used to be one stop before the next village but the family moved thus depriving me of a few more precious seconds in which to catch the bus. Selfish, selfish people.

I spy the bus in the distance, looks like we're in luck. I screech to a halt, offload DS who's still complaining that chocolate biscuits do not in any way form part of a balanced diet, and nearly run the poor boy over in my haste to get back to take DD to school.

I see the white van of the boulanger outside the shop. I grab a croissant for DD as we pass, not forgetting to give M. le Boulanger my best 'you're supposed to be here at 7.30am' look.

DD duly fed and watered, we set off for her school. We pull up outside and it looks suspiciously quiet. No cars, no teacher, no children. DD reaches for her school diary. "MUUuuuuummMMM", she cries, "It's a vaqué, there's no school today". B***er, b***er, b***er!

France has this bizarre system where some children go to school for 4 days a week, others do an additional Wednesday morning. To even it up, the ones that do the extra Wednesday morning, don't have school one Wednesday a month. Are you with me? Do you see why my life has the capacity to be so complicated? Why, oh why, can't they all go to school at the same time?

"OK, well I have to go shopping so you'll have to come with me". Shopping with DD is always an expensive experience and one I try to avoid at all costs. We drive the half hour to the nearest metropolis and pull up in the car park. I grab my bags and run... straight into the automatic doors, which fail to open up and let me in. Bemused onlookers stare. I notice the shop opening hours. It doesn't open for another half hour. Well what are they all doing here then? The fug of cigarette smoke should be a clue. It's the staff having a last fag before work.

For heaven's sake. What sort of country is this that the supermarkets don't open till 9.30am? No wonder it's nearly bankrupt. How come 'entrepreneur' is a French word but they don't have an iota of entrepreneurial spirit? There are two cafes in the complex. Think of all the money they could make if they opened up before people went to work, instead of an hour after!

I don't have half and hour to wait so we head across town to a different one. Now, this supermarket recently put together a panel of English/Dutch residents to advise them on how to improve the supermarket. I don't know if that's why this one opens an hour before the other one.

We buy our shopping then pop into Lidl for some gourmet peppers and a few other bits that I need. Bizarrely Lidl is the only place where I can find pumpkin seeds around here.

I pick up the regional newspaper to read about a young boy stabbed to death by his father. As the checkout lady goes to scan it, she stops to read the headline. Much ooh, laa, laa-ing (yes they do say it but here it's more oh, lor, lor with a rounded mouth like you are blowing out a candle). Then the lady behind me in the queue joins in. She hadn't heard the story so she wants the details. The checkout lady duly obliges and flicks through the (or should I say MY) paper to find the story. Meanwhile, I stand there politely, surreptitiously checking my watch as I have to pick DS up from school at 11.30am. (8.30am-11.30am! Hardly worth getting up!). By now a few more people have crowded round to read, discuss and otherwise comment on the story along with a few choice suggestions about what to do with the father.

I stand there.... politely.... the smile on my face becoming a little bit more 'fixed'.

Eventually, the discussion draws to a close, my now well-thumbed newspaper is scanned and handed to me and I have 10 minutes to get across town and pick up DS.

If there's one thing that I've learnt about life in France, it's the art of being patient!


Jaywalker said...

Bonjour VLiF,

Do you think you are maybe being a bit too polite? I know, being British, it is a hard habit to break. But my conjoint repeatedly assures me rudeness commands respect, and a bit of passive aggressive British huffing and ostentatiously looking at your watch doesn't really cut it.

In Belgium, the 'journée pédagogique' is my recurring nightmare. Teachers head off on some spurious training day, I have to make packed lunch. God, I hate packed lunch. Mmmm, delicious Nutella and fossilised pitta bread again, lesonfon.

Il pleut comme vache qui pisse here too. Enough, already!

(Very) Lost in France said...

That's it then, Jaywalker.From now on, I'll be brash and rude and demand to be respected (maybe!!) Seriously though, conjoint is probably right but I just can't be rude to people when I'm a foreigner in their country. Ambassador for the English,that sort of thing. Note to self: must try harder! VLiF