Wednesday, 11 July 2012

In which we are on holiday

Approximately seven people along a spectrum from mildly peeved to solicitous have asked what the fuck is going on with this blog, so here we are. Or rather, here I am, in the dusty basement of Belgian Waffle, half-heartedly poking a limp j-cloth at some suspicious smelling html which seems to have died in the corner. I imagine you have all buggered off to read one of those rather ferociously brilliant new women's websites I keep seeing and admiring.

Right now I am on holiday. Vive les vacances and all that. We are on the Ile de Ré, which is extremely picturesque, to the extent that there is a clearly imposed colour scheme for shutters (Farrow & Ball 'Workhouse Serge' or 'Penicillin' only) and the bins, of which there are exceptionally few, are constructed by Meilleur Artisans de France from dovetailed indigenous hardwoods. The Ile de Ré is notorious as a hang out for prominent French persons such as Oui Oui, Charles Aznavour, Jean Monnet who knitted the European Union out of the finest despair and tedium and Johnny Depp.

Good things about being on holiday:

- The apparent Charente-Maritime preoccupation with adding salted butter/salted caramel to everything. I salute you with buttery fingers, Oh Diabetes Kings of France. Latest sighting of salted caramel liqueur may push me over the edge of the oh-so-fine line between grotesque, gluttonous over-enthusiasm and disgust, but let us not pre-empt matters.

- Striped breton tops available cheaply in every corner shop. Number of striped breton tops I have brought with me: 4. Number I intend to come back with: at least 4 more. Amount I am middle aged and predictable: 400000%.

- Significant population of Poitou Mules in nearby fields. I first met a Poitou Mule at the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris some years ago and assumed it was an elaborate municipal joke, because they look like this:

But no, apparently not, because here, they are actually out IN THE WILD. Not only that, but they wear trousers. No, really they do. "Donkeys in Pants", one website is called. "The trousers keep the flies off in the marshy island climate" lies the website. No, they don't. You just like to make your rasta donkeys look extra ridiculous, don't you. Admit it, there's no shame in it. Well, not much.

- There is a town called Ars en Ré. Hahaha. I can see why they fortified the island against the English and our highly sophisticated sense of humour in the seventeenth century. Keep out the barbarians, eh.

- Admiring my children's greatly superior ability to be on holiday. Fingers spent most of the day lying motionless on a heap of sand he had created and slowly swimming around in circles to no apparent purpose. Lashes spent it half in bed reading, half chasing crabs with a piece of bacon on a string. See? They know how to do this. I could learn a lot from them.

- Having time to finish Graham Robb's Parisians. What a very fine book indeed. I had a proper weep at the end this afternoon at the bits about the transmission and transformation of traditions of solidarity and civil disobedience in Clichy, but that might have been rosé induced (it wasn't. It's beautiful and moving whilst still being scholarly).

Bad things about being on holiday:

- Large numbers of angry Parisians on bicycles, nonnonnonpleasedonothurtme I will just cower in this verge tugging my forelock until you have swished past me with your elegant, stick thin bronzed legs peddling angrily in their Aigle deck shoes, as your carré Hermés dances in the light breeze. I come in peace. We have kept our filthy British invader hands off your island since 1627 and it will remain that way, I promise. I just swerved because I was unwisely admiring a cow, see the next point which is:

- Bicycles, generally, with their inadequate number of wheels and general unpredictability and requirement that one occasionally does frankly suicidal things like TAKE A HAND OFF THE HANDLEBARS TO SIGNAL and LOOK BACKWARDS. This way death lies. Thus spake one who failed her cycling proficiency at the advanced age of 13, falling off into a rose bush during the part where I was supposed to look backwards at the large capital letter Mr Robinson the maths teacher was holding.

- Sand. I have no more to say on this subject, but beaches should be carpeted.

- The worst sunburn since Bali aged 14 when I was young and stupid and probably coated myself in coconut oil and lay out for 12 hours. Here, I barely showed my feeble, SPF50 smeared, Scottish epidermis to some moderate cloud cover and the back of my knees have been reduced to a weeping, Biafine drenched flayed atrocity. My legs looks like an angry, oversized side of ham. I am stuck in trousers for the remainder of this fortnight. This would be more problematic if it were not for:

- Persistent heavy cloud cover and highs of 20°C, making this indistinguishable meteorologically from all my holidays in North Yorkshire/Lake District/Highlands. No, that's an exaggeration. No one has speculated on whether they are suffering from second phase hypothermia yet, as my brother once did halfway up Whernside (a big, boggy fuck off hill) in July.

- Inability to switch off/relax despite the fact that chasteningly few (indeed, let's be honest, no) people are desperately pleading with me to return/offering me work/requiring my urgent services. There are indeed few things in life more chastening than returning to your phone after a half day of twitchy abstinence and sweatily prodding the buttons only to discover that the only emails you have received number seven Groupon offers for fondue sets and electrolysis, and a picture of a coatimundi in a Santa hat your friend B has photoshopped for you (it was a great coatimundi, B. Thank you. I am not knocking the coatimundi).

- The desperate, derelict, deserted amusement arcade across the street which is straight out of Scooby Doo Spooky Arcade central casting.  I keep expecting one of the toothless scarecrows of indeterminate gender who sit in the semi-darkness of the table hockey hut to rip off their latex face and reveal themselves to be the evil, yet superficially jovial, property developer trying to build a hotel on the site. Yesterday we tried to go on the dodgems, but a woman lurched out from behind the David Hasselhof era Baywatch slot machine and told us it was "shut. They've gone for dinner" then turned out all the lights. I don't know, this might be a positive. I will report back further with photographs when I have stopped, well, twitching. Usually this happens the day before we are due to return home. There is still a while to go.

There are not many negatives really. It is rather lovely. All is well. The fiery furnace behind my knees will die down eventually, I imagine.

How are you at holidays?


ganching said...

Welcome back - you have been missed. (Although the very moving article in the Guardian made up for your absence here.)

Ellie said...

Oh! So glad to see you back, even if briefly. I am awful at holidays. Tomorrow we embark on a week in Florida with my in-laws, a yearly tradition which I spend in a state of barely-concealed terror that my husband will be eaten by a Bull Shark. This is no idle fear, as any FL resident will tell you with great relish about The Time One Got This Nine Year Old Girl ("tore her limbs right off before we could even get out to her!") or Remember That One That Ate That Lady's Dog and Hung Around For A Week, Bob? Additionally, my husband surfed over a Bull Shark two years ago, failing to understand why we were all on the sand making muted gesticulations (so as not to cause panic). He is offensively proud of this fact.

Bull shark facts: They have the most testosterone of any animal alive, which makes them evil-tempered and aggressive. They are nine feet long, generally. Also, they can survive fresh water and often swim up rivers from the Gulf, and then take up residence in lakes in LA, FL and TX, where they eat unsuspecting swimmers, though if you're stupid enough to swim in a lake in Louisiana, well, God speed.

The thing I liked about Normandy was the total lack of Parisians. Everybody looked like me: lumpy, red, dishevelled (where a Parisian would have been merely windblown), zipped to the nose, and doggedly eating ice cream in the chilly rain. I hope you enjoy the remaining time on your holidays and if you catch a crab with bacon please take photos.

Ellie said...

Oh God sorry for the blog-length comment.

Betty M said...

So good to see you back in the Waffle spot even though it's been good to see the paid writing gigs too which I know should take priority.

I am rubbish at holidays. On Friday we leave for a camping trip. It is grey and miserable and pouring with rain and has been like this for weeks. The children will go through 8 changes of clothes a day and I will sulk. Happy times.

hairyfarmerfamily said...

Hurrah! You're back!
The sea meets the land in a very poorly thought-out fashion. Carpet will do pro tem; when I am Emperor, I will have the whole of Europe's beaches properly decked. And I will have a huge herd of Poitou mules, coz they is ace.

And I am now strangely nervous of Bull Sharks. Eeep.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you're back blogging! I love your perspective on life and have been anxiously awaiting your return. How do I find your Guardian article???

Anne said...

Oh God, I'm in the mildly peeved category. See this is ALL about me. I'm glad you are writing in your blog again. I missed it.

BDM said...

Thank Gawd she returns, I am weeping with relief. Even if it involves purported donkeys that were some pervert's idea of crossing hairy Highland cattle with something else suspicious. Viva Waffle! Pls do not leave us so long again. IMO holiday (from real life) = finding a good camel to ride. Far away from Toronto and anything smacking of family.

Barbara said...

Yay! You return, along with sunburned knee backs! I really am the worst traveller in the universe. Anyone who offers to go on a vacation with me needs to seek psychiatric intervenion. I get lost every two minutes, tend to panic and run around in circles and keep looking at the calender hoping the days pass more quickly so i can just.go.home. Otherwise I'm charming. But that said, your holiday seems actually.....appealing. Thought of seeing a dreadlocked donkey in pants enough to maybe be worth the travelling anguish.

Jane said...

You return Waffle. How wonderful. I was concerned for your welfare.

Mary H said...

Hooray! You're back! Thank you!! (Any more exclamation marks and I might pop!)
Please don't leave those of us stuck in small towns, with kids off school, without a waffle fix!!

frau antje said...

Bad at holidays, but what do you expect after trying to cram in one more city by taking a night train to Berlin, seeing the sights for 18 hours and taking a double booked night train back? I have a (mocking?) teenage thumbs up photograph from the Einstein Tower to prove it.

Also apparently bad at reading Graham Robb, though the bits of The Discovery of France my attention deficit (in HD) allowed were fascinating. The 19th century queers in Strangers never even got the chance to pull me in. Though I'm guessing they didn't run around saying it gets better, perhaps they said, "Hell no, you end up living next to morons, and then the economy collapses."

Nimble said...

It's terrible to try to have a good vacation when before that you have mostly been waiting for something to happen. I remember this from my days as a miserable excuse for a university student. I thought it would be nice to be away but then realized that being on vacation wasn't much different from holing up in my dorm room and refusing to do any schoolwork. There is no vacation from guilt.

Nowadays I am employed full time at a job that uses a few of my faculties. So I feel much more justified in vacationing as much as possible. At the moment I am arguing with my 10 y.o. about not wanting to go camping. I'm losing and have agreed to go in Sept when it will be cooler. Oy.

Nimble said...

I liked your comment Ellie! You've put the fear of bull sharks into all of us now.

Patience_Crabstick said...

I have missed your blog! I am glad you are spending the summer with donkeys in pants. May they trample the Parisians on bicycles.

Wee Birdy said...

You must ask me one day to tell you about our Fijian honeymoon which involved midnight calls to the Australian embassy; endangering my husband's life on a bridge made of rope; and an airport with a goat on the runway. It was brilliant. Just brilliant.

Victoria said...

On an island with donkeys in trousers and stick thin uptight Parisians, Bliss!

I'm off to Paris and Isle of Wight in August. Hoping all the Parisians have left Paris by then, The Isle og Wight bit I'm just hoping for a couple of hours per day WITHOUT rain, if possible.

Crab sarnies, beach rambles, stumbling back from summer pub evenings, Toast swimwear, drinking before midday THAT is the hope, but we all know how our British holidays usually turn out and I'm fully prepared. Just not for the hostile Parisians, I shall be hiding in my trench (Breton underneath) and shades.

So glad you have blogged, know you are busy writing elsewhere for money so good on you and once again, loved the Guardian article!!

irretrievably broken said...

Here's the thing I feel compelled to brag about: My father and my grandfather were BOTH bitten by sharks.


Check ça, man, as they say in Montreal: if you drive fast, you can be with Monkeymother and Monkeyfather in 90 minutes (for they live in Charente-Maritime). There are copious amounts of Old Lady Gin (available in most Euromarchés), all of Arthur Ransome and a VHS of a film mysteriously labelled as "Goodfellows".

Accidental Londoner said...

Hurrah for you being back and hurrah for the rasta donkeys. As my formative years were spent being rained on/stung by jellyfish and bitten by midges on the ever-soggy West Coast of Scotland I have to say, your trip to Ars de Re (tee hee) sounds rather lovely...enjoy!

Waffle said...

Accidental Londoner - OH GOD ME TOO. Ardnamurchan. The island of Eigg. Traumatic times.

HFF - You are right, decking is the actual answer. When does your term as Emperor start? Soon, I hope.

BDM - You are right, it is basically a hornless highland cow. I thought as much myself.

NWM - AMAZING. Time for a visit to Super U to check out the Old Lady Gin.

Anon - the Guardian article is the first linked article on my 'About' page at the top..

Ellie is my very own cephalopod correspondent, everyone, as well as being a shark expert. *Preens*.

Anonymous said...

Like all these other people, I am also glad to see you back! I read your recent Guardian story without realizing it was you! Now that I know it's you, I like it even more.

- a big fan in Brussels

Nicky said...

As a teenager I burnt the backs of my legs snorkelling in Jamaica. I walked with slightly bent legs for the rest of the holiday, like a wizened little old lady. Goodness it's lovely to have you back.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for returning to us, the Waffle-deprived, although
I found some great stuff in the archives I had either missed or quite likely not understood fully the first time around.
Vacation (yes, at the beach --- hot, crowded Maryland beaches with truly impressive displays of the latest in American obesity)can be vexing, but the extra time to read is always lapped up greedily.

Xtreme English said...

Holidays? What are those? Is that when you, Ms. B. Waffle, pick up your fingers and start typing again so we can read your posts? Love those. But I never get any breaks otherwise. Oh, silly me....Two weeks ago a friend took me to the Frozen Yogurt place in Silver Spring and bought me a sundae of sorts. Yum. Then the lights were out for about a week. Now they're back again. Whee. Hope your sunburn heals fast.

ijackofalli said...

They are scary!

Xtreme English said...

More posts, please!!