Good things about the summer "holiday":
- absence of masonry dust
- unlimited wine
- seeing my amusing, frequently furious nephew who hates animals/farms/farmers/the country
- and my niece, who likes all that stuff, and is a total peach.
- possible trip to the Cotswold Farm Park to have clothing eaten by aggressive escapologist goats
- Can wear the same thing for 7 days and no-one will notice/care
- Access to leaden, stodgy sponge cake offerings from Shipston on Stour
- Rumoured existence of a coffee machine in Shipston on Stour (unconfirmed)
- Children thankfully too old for Bourton on the Water Fundays playbarn.
Bad things about summer "holiday":
- the eery quiet and poor television/mobile phone reception of rural England
- strong likelihood of being very cold
- strong likelihood of being woken very early
- no suitable footwear
- children will get bored and violent after 48 hours and come over all Lord of the Flies
- dog will continue its descent into pathological neurosis, and probably pee on something antique or get savaged by a badger
- large amounts of driving
- many great big fuck off objects to incompetently drive into
- no money
- access to stodgy Shipston on Stour sponge cakes will make me even fatter than I am already
I think on balance, however, being away from the current home environment of dust, financial terror and builder angst is beneficial, but it could go either way. We shall see.
I went to Paris this week, anyway, where I recovered my children from their grandparents. They were happy to see me and pathetically grateful not to be required to fold their pyjamas for the first 24 hours, then reverted to mainly requesting regular cash injections and hitting each other. Lashes, in particular, has grown again over the last 3 weeks and reaches nearly to my nose, and treats me with a sort of kindly condescending manner that is by turn amusing and maddening.
It was a good trip, with some full and frank science park action, and a Lashes-enforced trip up the Eiffel Tower which ended with both he and I queasily clutching each other in the second floor gift shop in the grip of Hereditary Pathetic Vertigo. Fingers, who did not want to go in the first place, waltzed around like a slightly sulky moutain goat, entirely unaffected. Apart from that, I did not have time to buy any tiny choux buns or eat cold udon noodles and tempura in the 2ème, which saddended me. However, I did observe two Paris phenomena:
1. Tourist idiocy
In the - admittedly massive - queue for metro tickets at Gare du Nord, I listened to the following conversation between two - youngish American guys behind me. Not teenagers. Distinctly old enough to know better. I swear I am not exaggerating this conversation. Several times I turned round and openly stared at them, but they were entirely unmoved.
Idiot 1: This place sucks. This would NOT happen back home. This is a disgrace. Man, Paris is a disgrace.
Idiot 2: Yeah! Is it always like this?
Idiot 1 (authoritatively): Yeah. France sucks. They do not give a shit for anyone. Paris is a shithole.
Idiot 2 (reverently): I guess I didn't realise how lucky we are.
Idiot 1 (magnanimously): Yeah, coming from the best place in the world, I suppose everything else is gonna suck. Man, I hate this place. I hate France. I hate Europe.
Idiot 2 (tentatively): London was ok?
Idiot 1: London SUCKED. I hated London. I hate the English. The French hate the English too.
Idiot 2: They do? Why?
Idiot 1: (portentously): It's historical. They always have.
Idiot 2: I shouldn't be wearing this shirt then! (Union Jack polo shirt, very fetching)
Idiot 1: You wouldn't last two hours in London anyway. You can't stand the food! You wanted hamburgers and hotdogs!
Idiot 2 (conciliatorily): Yeah, that's true. But apart from the food, London was ok.
Idiot 1: It's a dirty shithole. Like Paris.
This discussion of the general suckage of Europe continued for a full fifteen minutes until we reached the front of the queue. Welcome, messieurs! May your pockets be picked repeatedly!
2. Senior violence
YET AGAIN, within hours of arriving in Paris, I was beaten by a furious, slightly mad, elderly lady. I did almost nothing to provoke her. I tried to walk across her path in the metro station, but at a sufficient distance ahead that it did not require her to slow down or alter her trajectory. She zoomed towards me like a thing possessed and started thumping me, shouting "Dégage, dégage, dégage" (get out of the way). I swear, once more, that improbable as this sounds, it is absolutely true. I was not even surprised. I am a magnet for Parisian geronto-violence. I remember getting beaten with a walking stick once at the market on rue Poncelet, to my tearful horror. The cultural image of the elderly lady in England is of someone kindly, who is likely to give you a dusty extra strong mint, and possibly tell you your baby needs a hat. This is all wrong in Paris (and according to my Czech colleague, also in the Czech republic, where old ladies are viewed with appropriate fear and caution). This time, at least, I found it irresistably funny, which is evidence of at least some limited degree of personal growth in the last eight years. My laughing just made her more furious, of course. Whilst I do not condone venting your irritation with your fists, I have some respect for this kind of naked display of aggression. Madame will not be dying of an ulcer, at least, will she?
What I would really like to see, obviously, is crazy old hitting lady take on the two tourists. Perhaps with a son et lumière production by Jean Michel Jarre. Make it happen, Paris!
I had better get on. Once more unto the Dunkerque ferry, and so on. I suggest you keep the roads of Belgium free tomorrow morning.