Not for the French the quaint Anglo-Saxon habit of neighbouring towns staggering their half-days—or even taking half-days in the first place.
On Monday, the whole of France is as dead as that chap they poisoned on St Helena. You know the one. In fact, I think he was responsible for it. And of course, the reason is quite fair; all the shops are open on Saturday so that the people who don’t work in shops can do their shopping, and why should the commercants and their staff not enjoy a proper two-day weekend?
“No,” I cried, and summoned up the best of my then limited French, “Cas d’urgence!”
But this made no impression on the battle-axe, who shook her head again, pointed to her watch and mouthed “Quattors heures et demi.” Whatever my emergency was, it would have to wait another 150 minutes.
Aghast as she began to turn away again, and now completely at a loss for words, I was once again reminded of the sheer brilliance of my wife in situations like this. Knowing that she could not hope to plead her case in French, she had slipped over to the car, unstrapped Calum, and now appeared with him in her arms; when she knew she had the dame’s attention, she lowered the towel wrapped around him to show the lad’s bare bottom, and just said one of the few French words she knew by heart, because she needed it so often. “Couches!”
One thing the guidebooks never bother to tell you about France is also one of the most important of all that you should know. In fact this piece of information is so important that my imparting it to you, as I am about to do, is worth the price of the book of all this. So perhaps, if you’ve borrowed this from a friend, you should skip to the next chapter right now. (I jest.)
So what is this invaluable knowledge that no-one should travel in France without first having assimilated? Just this:
Everything Shuts At Twelve. For Two Hours. At Least.
That’s it. Outside of the major metropolitan cities like Paris and Lyon, and maybe even Marseilles these days, if you ain’t got whatever it is you were looking for by the time the midi rings, you can forget getting it until two o’clock at the earliest.
Believe me, you will not be in France long before you realise how much this immutable chronology affects life.
Manila is huge. Apart from Manila itself, the conurbation of Metro Manila includes other cities that would themselves be enormous by any other measure: Makati, Pasig, Quezon, Cavite, and others. So transport is a major part of Manila life. But this is Asia, and unlike Europe, there is no organised public transport. There are no service buses, no trams or metro systems oganised by local government. Everything is run privately, and the sheer amount of private transport provision is staggering.
Given that I have not yet see anyone carrying a passenger on his shoulders, and horse-and-cart solutions are reserved for the tourist area of Intramuros, the old part of Manila, the most basic, though not always the cheapest, means of transport is the gloriously named ‘pedicab’. This is a bicycle with a side-car.
The main problem with this solution, leaving aside the thorny moral issue of whether it can be right for a 14-stone Scotsman and an admittedly much lighter Filipina to be push-biked around by a sweating 9-stone Pinoy, is the complete lack of suspension on these contraptions. Since the roads in Manila resemble the Somme after a barrage, this means a bone-jarring ride that risks lumbar impaction.
I’m going to become a Hedonist. No really, I am. Seriously. I am going to join the Church of Hedonism. Yup. Before this happens to me.
Of course, no such church actually exists, and most religions seem to be mainly concerned with stopping people having fun. But anyway. If there isn’t one, I think it’s time we started one.
I am rapidly approaching that watershed in life, the dawn of my seventh decade. I don’t have that much time to waste any more. I quick demographic of my parents’ families suggests that if I remain a non-smoker, keep the drink to a moderate level and eat reasonably healthy food, I have maybe another fifteen years of active life, and another five or so of winding down, before parting the mortal coil and becoming one with the Earth again.
That is not an awful lot of time. And I am beginning to resent every moment of it that is not spent, basically, having fun.
Life certainly has an interesting tapestry here in P’tit Moulin. This morning I was awakened at some ungodly hour—well, just before ten actually, but I am semi-nocturnal—by an excessively enthusiastic clangour (good word that) of my front door bell, of which more later.
Well, I threw on a pair of jeans and a T and went to see who had disturbed the peace in this manner, and there on my doorstep was a rather scruffy individual, definitely of the traditional French horny-handed persuasion. Behind him was a truck that looked, to my bleary and unaided vision, even older and more dilapidated than my Isuzu, and that’s saying something.
He must have recognised my absence of recognition. ‘Sir,’ he said (in French of course, I’m just trying to make it easy for you. Do keep up.) ‘Sir, the last time I passed you said you had some scrap.’
A long time ago, when I was a young lad, I had the acquaintance of a dog called Seumus.
Now Seumus was of, shall we say, indeterminate lineage. There seemed to be a fair bit of black Labrador in there, but it was mixed with some distinctly non-pedigree characteristics, including a tail that curled over his back. When Seumus was feeling full of himself, he carried this high and showed to the world his anal sphincter. I’m sure that’s not in the Labrador breed book. Continue reading Seumus the dog: a tale of three pies and a pint→
Well, it’s been a fucker of a week, folks. I split up with my girlfriend. That train had already signalled its impending departure though. Also in the Philippines, the Half-Wit Prince has announced his intention to emulate Hitler and murder three million citizens. Hilary Clinton looks likely to be the next President of the Land of Fuckwit, which means we’ll probably celebrate the turn of the decade from a nuclear shelter. In the UK, Auntie Tess is now showing that she couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. In France, full denial has broken out as, after all, one must never offend the Islamic rapists and child-shaggers — in case they take the huff and murder another 100 or so innocent people. And in the latest US-inspired human tragedy, Syria, the body count rises. So I thought I’d do a piece about cursing and swearing.
Scientists all over the world are turning their attention to Scotland in the wake of a shock discovery that ‘archaic’ humans may be alive and well and living there.
The discovery came when one of them was filmed saying that they ‘were not evolved to make political decisions’.
Professor of Anthropology Farquhar Mc Farquharson of the University of Aberdeen explained: ‘All modern humans – Homo sapiens – have evolved highly sophisticated social behaviour including the ability to arrive at complex decisions within a formal political framework. The discovery of a population that lacks this ability, apparently living alongside more developed hominids, is very exciting.’ Continue reading Archaic Humans Discovered in Scotland→
Now my brother was a bit of a character. I’m not talking about my wee brother, here, or the big one I suddenly discovered I had in 2004 that no bugger ever told me about before (aye, we’ll get to that.) I mean my other big brother Sandy, AKA Sye.
Now Sandy did things his own way. He ran a car breaking yard—and trust me, there is no more joyous place to spend your school hols than in a place like that—and he lived in a wee cottage in Arbroath, one of those sandstone ones. Sandy’s wife was called Toos and she was Dutch.