Monthly Archives: August 2011


I’ve been back in the UK for four months now and, to be honest, I can’t think why I left it so long to relocate from Nice: there’s been torrential rain almost every day, unbelievably chilly temperatures, and much of London – along with large portions of England – erupted for a while into days and nights of anarchy with looting, random arson attacks on shops and homes, and the odd murder – perpetrated by both police and civilians alike.  Almost makes me nostalgic for the miserable Nicoise and their jolly sport of trying to shove you under a passing tram just because…er, well, just because.  (Isn’t that enough of a reason for God’s sake???  Merde!!!)

There’s not been much rowdiness in my arty part of town, however (although someone did brush past me in an upmarket grocery store to grab the last pack of rocket and only said sorry twice, tsk), but it was lovely to take calls from my friends in Nice seeing if I’d managed to find a balaclava that didn’t mess up my hair too much to check on my safety.

Naturally I reassured them, although if truth be told I was actually set upon during the days of the civil unrest by an aggressive youth whilst minding my own business in a card shop.

Cordelia had come for lunch, and after we’d eaten and enjoyed the usual girlie chat – handbags, shoes, the complicity of the upper echelons of the British political elite in maintaining murderous dictators in power – we walked into town to do a little light shopping. Cordelia needed to buy a birthday card and so we stepped into a very small, but perfectly formed, stationery store for a browse.

After a couple of minutes I felt a sharp pain in my side.  I looked down.  There, staring up at me as if to say Get out of my way you stupid bitch was a small child on a scooter, which he had rammed into my body with impressive strength in one so young.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  He wasn’t about to un-ram his scooter from my torso, possibly because the handlebars had become interestingly enmeshed with my clothing. (Two T-shirts, three sweaters and a rainproof jacket that inflates into a 4-seater rubber dingy, if you must know.  It’s summer, OK???)

I – politely – said I think I’ll have my clothing back, thank you.  And I moved to disentangle myself.

At which point his mother suddenly appeared three millimetres from my nose and shouted DON’T YOU TALK TO MY SON LIKE THAT, HE’S ONLY 5!

I calmly tried to explain to her what had happened, but she – and her mother – started shouting over me.  And so I patiently endeavoured to describe the collision again, not to mention point out that I was admirably refraining from wrapping this inappropriate mode of transport in a small shop around his tiny neck.  Once more torrents of abuse spewed forth from their mouths. HE’S ONLY 5!!! YOU CAN’T TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT CHILDREN, WE WORK WITH THEM!!!

Ahh.  Right.

And so, I enquired, at what age DO you teach them about wilfully driving into people with sharp metal objects?

More shouting ensued.

Another customer looked at me with sympathetic incredulity.  We both raised our eyebrows and looked heavenwards.  I then happened to espy a card on a shelf in front of us which proclaimed I DON’T NOT LIKE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE UGLY, IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE A **** (Nothing would induce me here to type the letters  C  U  N  T  so you’ll just have to imagine what the missing word was).  I pointed out the card and asked my new friend if she thought it was too late to purchase it and pop it in the post to somebody not too far away from us.

The age of criminal responsibility in the UK is currently 10 years old.  This child is already 5. I’m wondering during which year of his life his mother will – in a sensitive manner, so as not to hurt his feelings – inform him that ramming hard objects into strangers is not generally considered to be a good idea in a liberal democracy.  (Nope, he definitely did not look like he came from Sirte to me. Although, come to think of it, he was protected by a formidable army of female bodyguards…hmm).

It possibly wasn’t a great idea for me to leave the shop calling out Happy rioting! in a loud voice, but sadly, at the time, I didn’t happen to have with me a large metal object on wheels with which to make my point to the ignorant minders of the tiny thug.  And I’m already worrying about the fact that the prison population is currently stretched to its very limits – do you think there might be room for one more in five years???

Tell you what, forget him, just find a couple of spaces for his relatives.


They say that walls have ears, but who knew that refrigerators do, too?

Regular readers will know that I moved into a new new apartment in June (keep up!), having spent five weeks in a semi-basement flat with ‘a bit of condensation’ (thus spake the entirely condescending landlord about what turned out to be serious rising damp in the property). Lovely place (apart from the asthma-inducing mould, which dictated I move out swiftly), very scary Formula 1 Racing Fridge.

On finding an altogether more beautiful apartment on the river (which is not at all damp, despite its proximity to water), I was ecstatic, the only downside being the tiny refrigerator/freezer, which is so badly designed you have to grovel on the floor to negotiate taking anything out of it (and there are things on the bottom shelf at the back that have been there since October 1963.  Which is a bit of a worry, seeing as the fridge was newly-constructed in January 2011).

Anyway, I must have been complaining about the thing to a friend in the kitchen, with the inevitable outcome that it took offence and stopped working.

Well, when I say stopped working, the light actually came on when you opened the door (so I could still take a bow), but there were no chilled items at home.

To cut a long story short, the store insisted on sending out an engineer to tell me it wasn’t working (erm…), but the first available appointment was in 4 days time.  The engineer duly appeared on the Wednesday, told me it wasn’t working (erm…) and that he’d have to order a new part. Which could take up to two weeks to arrive.

And so I had no refrigerator for two weeks.  That is to say I was in possession of something called a refrigerator, but that its chief function changed to storing those socks you always lose one of in the airing cupboard.  (Poltergeists appear not to be all that effective at stealing things from fridge/freezers for some reason.  Perhaps they’re too chilled out).

(This drama happened to coincide almost exactly with the entire two weeks I had house guests, by-the-way. Comedy gal, comedy life.)

I bet you’re wondering why I’m telling you all this.  (Are you menopausal or something???  Oh no, that’s me.  Ah yes, I remember…)

On a  normal day (and how many of you imagined I’d ever have any of those?) I write begging letters work in the mornings, and step out in the afternoons to reassure myself the rest of the population hasn’t been abducted by aliens.  (Although, there are those I wouldn’t mind suffering that fate, frankly. Will write a list later, in case there are any accommodating aliens looking in).  The day the engineer was due to come in the afternoon to tell me my refrigerator wasn’t working, however (oh no!  What a horrible surprise!) I decided to go out in the morning to get my air.  Needed to anyway, had to buy fresh food each day because my refrigerator wasn’t working (did I mention this at all?)

And so it was that I was returning from the supermarket deli counter – where it’s possible to purchase just one, lonely rasher of bacon – ambling my way back along the river path (which I don’t always take).  I stopped for a minute or two to look at the now large, grey signets (reminds me, must give them a ring sometime), turned around to continue my journey homeward and noticed a woman’s face staring at me from three feet away.  (She was wearing two socks.  Obviously also had a refrigerator problem).  A face I’d initially espied on my very first day at Grammar School when I was 11 years old.



‘What are you doing here?!’ <ENSEMBLE>

Turns out Coco lives not a million miles away. We have, I need to say here, run into each other on the odd occasion since we were 11 – for a time we were both working at the BBC in unrelated departments, and a few years ago we enjoyed a small school reunion.  (It was the reunion which was small.  The school was fairly normal-sized).  But we’d lost touch (again) after that.  Now Coco frequents my neck of the woods to swan about (see what I did there?) and have the occasional lunch.

So I invited her home to share a lavish fare of half a rasher of bacon and a sausage, after which – when the refrigerator engineer had been and gone (‘I’m afraid to tell you your fridge isn’t working’…three and a half seconds, I thank you) – we adjourned to the local hostelry for a glass of chilled (what does that mean???) white.

This type of thing has happened to me before.  No, not talking about having kitchen appliances that hate me, I mean running into people at the oddest times.

When I was 19 I went with my then boyfriend (makes a change from ‘then husband’, now doesn’t it?), Harry, to Paris.  We were music students, though both with a strong interest in art, and needed to experience the galleries of France’s capital for ourselves, not to mention the romance of the place.  One day we were trying to find our way to somewhere via the Metro, and had a (romantic) argument about which line we needed.  Didn’t take long for Harry to win with his rationale (he was physically stronger than me), and he insistently pulled me down a tunnel towards a line I didn’t think was right at all.

Once on the platform we headed straight for the Metro map on the wall.  Standing beside it was a young woman. She looked at me, and I at her.  It was my French penfriend, Cathy – originally from Cambrai, not Paris – we’d last seen each other when we were 15.  (We did an exchange visit – she came over to London, where I treated her to a week of maths lessons at my school and a trip to Madame Tussaud’s, for which, in return, her family took me to Juan les Pins for a month, putting me up in a private villa with a sunbed on a private beach. Fair exchange, obviously).  Much hugging and jumping up and down with delight.

Compare and contrast with my son, then aged around 4, being on holiday with us somewhere in the Med, running into a friend from nursery who happened to be travelling in the same area quite by chance with his own parents.  The kids looked at each other.  ‘Hi’, one of them said coolly, idly waving a hand as if they’d just come across each other in the school toilets. ‘Hi’, the other responded, in much the same way.  (Though they were a little bemused by their parents talking in surprised tones three octaves higher than their normal pitch).

The moral of the story?  The world’s a small place (though not as small as my refrigerator), Chinese-made compressors are sh*t, and be careful what you talk about in your kitchen: fridge/freezers are very sensitive objects, and whilst they may not take much of an interest in keeping your food cold, they are more than happy to demonstrate their powers over synchronicity…

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