Saturday, 31 January 2009

Chanson d'amoooour (ratatata) - Part II

Ou étions nous? Ah yes.

So after the Mexican meal of egregious lying, I imagine he dropped me back in my metal box. I don't actually have photographic recall of even these momentous events. I forget to say that when he invited me back to his seventies hovel with Kiss wallpaper, I did - in deference to my mother - consider whether he was likely to be planning to cut me up and put me in bin bags, but concluded that I could totally take him if it came to hand to hand combat. He is fairly short, and had starved himself for months so the army would reject him.

We saw each other on and off, at school and out, for the next week or so in a sort of "better than watching yet another carjacking" fashion. At some point, in another café (which felt tremendously sophisticated. Me, a French man, an espresso! It was everything I'd been dreaming of for the last 5 years in York, brooding over copies of French Elle in my bedroom), he asked me in his atrocious English if I wanted to be ''eees girlfreind'. I was too polite to say no (truly, this is the story of my life) and we had an awkward - really awkward, almighty clashing of teeth - kiss and he dropped me back off at the metal box. I instantly regretted failing to say no properly, and chucked him, equally awkwardly, the next day. I can't imagine what I found to say. It was probably complete rubbish, but he got the message.

He took it tremendously well (he didn't seem terribly wedded to the idea either) and continued chauffering me around and chatting amiably to me over the Aromex and the drug busts and the weeping of the profs. Since he had started talking French to me I had had the chance to realise:

1. He was not an earnest half-wit and had a rather dry sense of humour.

2. Behind his giant eighties glasses he was actually rather fetching, with deliciously long eyelashes.

3. He was IMMENSELY useful. He had a car. He had a house - albeit a disgusting hovel in a tragically boring village - that was not made of metal and situated in a hotspot of social tension. He had found, and plugged in, a TV for me. I was in awe at this feat of practicality. Noone in my family has ever known how to handle a screwdriver. It was rather erotic.

One day, just about this date, actually (I think it was 2nd February. It's the only thing we have that passes for an anniversary and neither of us quite remembers when it was), he asked me if I wanted to go out for choucroute. I couldn't think of many things I would like less than choucroute, but it was a testament to his slow-acting charms that I agreed anyway. The choucroute was as horrible as I expected. Giant slabs of greyish meat and the pervasive smell of vinegar - ideal for a vinegar hating vegetarian (a concept I was forced to abandon, being dependent on the school canteen for sustenance, and the school canteen not being big on vegetarian, or indeed any, options) . Thankfully there was also an enormous quantity of Riesling.

Lots of Riesling, and almost no choucroute later, he suggested we went on to the cinema and I happily agreed. This seems a million miles away, in another life - a FILM at eleven at night? With the man who now gets edgy if he isn't in bed by ten and won't see a film if it's on after 4pm? But then, I remember I spend a long time beautifully putting my make up on back then too. And of course, I had real hair; and eyelashes. And I wore contacts. Ok, he's the one who got the dud. We drove across dark and rainy Rouen to the cinema, only to discover that the only thing we could still get into was Aladdin. We went anyway. We were the only ones in there, and I don't think we got much beyond the trailers before we jumped on each other. We went back to the hovel, and in the immortal words of Mrs Trefusis "his lips came down on hers and there were no more words, only the moonlight, blah blah blah".

I never really left, after that, returning to the metal box only to pick up clothes occasionally. I can't say it was absolutely idyllic - we fought All. The. Time. He got stoned a lot with his cousin Christophe and I sat bored in the corner. He was jealous of every man under the age of seventy five who glanced at me. But in-between fights we managed to have lots of fun. We drank a whole bottle of gin between us and went to a drumming concert in a village hall, and he had to carry me back home after ten minutes. We were extras in a film set in an S&M nightclub. He took me to school on his motorbike and introduced me to tubes of Nestlé Lait Concentré on sponge cake (quatre quarts) as a breakfast food. We had a steamy, erotic holiday on the Brittany coast with an economy pack of turkey thighs, gallons of wine and Alexis de Tocqueville (not in a 9 1/2 Weeks way, the turkey thighs. Or, indeed, Alexis de Tocqueville who was, and remains, a boring bastard and the bane of my first year at Oxford). We stayed in bed all morning on Sundays, then went for lunch at his granny's for our only proper meal of the week. I secretly threw away his Demis Roussos CD and his brown gardener's shoes. He sneaked in to meet me for breakfast in the Pavillon de la Reine (crazily extravagant! A present from the Bearded One who was feeling guilty about something) in Paris when I went to visit my mum and sister, then he took the Space Cadette up the Eiffel Tower. He helped me hide the true, grisly nature of Canteleu from both my parents when they visited, by not letting them anywhere near it at night. Or, indeed, during the day. Or at all.

It was always a holiday romance for me though. I really don't know how, or when, it shifted. The only turning point moment I can think of is perhaps when we were staying in a grisly B&B that summer in the south of Ireland, in the kind of small town where people have vestigial tails and eat their young. With no money and nowhere to go even if we had any, we were sitting in bed one evening in a halo of static from the nylon bedspreads, observed by fifty three bleeding Jesuses, looking out of the window. A tiny light flickered in the fields on the far side of the lake.

"What do you think that is?" I asked him idly.

"Quelqu'un en train d'enterrer son fils" (someone burying their son) he said, deadpan.

It made me laugh a lot.


pinklea said...

Ah, a man with a sense of humour, the great aphrodisiac! That was definitely one of the reasons I fell for Porsche Guy (the others were that he talked, he listened, and he had a Porsche).

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Love blossoming over time - a wonderful tale, JW - You write so intelligently and with such humour - I am running out of superlatives - Just know you are fabulous and we love your stories.

If I had never asked my OH up to dance at a Uni Ceilidh, where we first met, he might never have known I existed - Ah, if only...

Mrs Trefusis said...

Ah, Mme Jaywalker. I absolutely love this. Just too fabulous for words. Love, Mrs T
PS: Charles Aznavour or Manhattan Transfer?

Cynthia said...

Hi Jaywalker, It's my first visit to your life-in-blog. I love autobiographical tellings...thanks for sharing yours. I also write in a similar vein but as an outsider/insider of Puerto Rico...your blog is lovely.

katyboo1 said...

It is fabulous. Very gritty. I can imagine a severe French black and white film about this. Something like La Haine, but with more kissing and radishes.

justme said...

Part three please!
Am enjoyng this....and I do need cheering up!

Pochyemu said...

Ommmggg I can imagine your evenings togethervas being full of the driest humor and the most cutting sarcasm. And I bet it sounds really good in French. Can I come watch you guys be snarky about stuff? I just love that!

Completely Alienne said...

This is excellent, I am so enjoying. Bring on part 3.

Red Rum said...

Rest assured, absolutely nothing like the curse of St Valium's day. I think that the CFO sounds really brilliant! Hurrah for the CFO. Good humour

Z said...

This is enchanting. Both awfully French and frightfully English, in the best of ways.

Iheartfashion said...

What a great love story.
Mine's far less romantic that that, although we did jump out of an airplane on our first date.

Leslie said...

Ah, I love it. And am curious to hear how the man who took a bunch of drugs and starved himself flowered into the CFO you now write of

Liberty London Girl said...

And of such are dreams made... LLGxx

Lisa said...

I just knew there had to be a turning point. I laughed so hard at your last paragraph that my abdominal muscles (perhaps it would be more accurate to say, where once I had abdominal muscles) hurt.

Mya said...

What a love story. You seem to have triumphed despite the choucroute, Demis Roussos, nylon bedpsreads etc. - it was so meant to be! Beautifully told, as always.

Mya x

emily said...

so beautifully told - and such a frenchly/english love story! Very Truffaut - imagine a nouvelle film of your life?! xx

Ali said...

*Swoon*, truly, the way you write it my dear, you could be describing taking a dump in a ditch and we would all be enthralled and carried away with the romance of it all!

More than a Mother said...

Cherie, it is such a joli story d'amour (but could you try to get more radishes into the next episode?)

Elsie said...

Very delightful, and as always the judicious use of key details (oh dear, my apologies for the stuffiness, there is Great Professors of All Time Lecture-type CD playing in my husband's office at top volume) - the puffa jacket, the Kiss wallpaper, the motorbike, the gardener’s shoes, and the drumming concert.

Juci said...

I am so glad I asked. I knew there was a great story behind that half-sentence. I never get tired of your alleged oversharing.
Oh, and try 'uncho' (WV) as an ingredient instead of fond de boeuf. It will give it a Mexican twist.

Jaywalker said...

Pinklea - yes. It makes all the difference. Some clichés exist because they are true..

Goodness Woman, thank you. You are far too kind. No good can come of scottish dancing as Oscar Wilde should have said.

Mrs Trefusis - I think perhaps a combination of the two.

Cynthia - hello! I'll drop by and take a look..

Katyboo - associating France and vegetables is challenging. I am proud.

Justme - part III is pretty depressing, but at least it's distracting perhaps..

Pochyemu - ah, maybe once. But now it only comes out when faced with some particular crime against humanity perpetrated by French tv on a Saturday night..

CA - on way, if they ever let go of my legs/computer

RR - yes, he has his moments, thank you darling.

Z - thank you! I'm a bit puzzled by its appeal. But who am I to argue.

Iheart - but that's a GREAT story!

Leslie - I think this will remain an enduring mystery, however many parts I write...

LLG - It would be too obvious to say nightmares, right? Oh, never mind I said it anyway.

Lisa - yay! Sort of. I think. Lots of turning points probably but that was definitely one..

Mya - thank you darling. Have you ever heard Demis Roussos in his satanic phase? That CD could not be allowed to survive.

Emily - goodness, a nouvelle vague film of my life would be the kind of weep-inducingly dull French film I used to love aged 16 where there are lots of meaningful looks and meaningless sex and precious little dialogue.. (without the sex though)

Ali - now there's a wonderful compliment. I'll be calling you for a quote if I ever write the Great Belgian Novel..

More than a Mother - I don't remember many radishes in Part III - the Oxford years, but there was a horrible Boots detox drink week. That was nasty.

Elsie - oh, thank you. What on earth is your husband listening to? It sounds like the sort of thing Prog Rock would record carefully..

Juci - You've set me off on something here.. Let's hope we don't all live to regret it!

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