All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Parking out of control

2CV car exhibit at the Cite des Sciences in Paris.Image via Wikipedia
The French run to excess. Either they're totally out of control or they're tiptoeing round like naughty children afraid of stepping on the cracks in the pavement.
I put it down to all the lessons on being a good citizen that they absorb when at primary school, where the state hopes to form obedient casters of votes for the future elites who will despoil them of their money in their own best interest.
Goodness only knows what would happen to society if ordinary people decided how to spend their money.

A couple of years ago, the local council decided to give us yellow plastic boxes into which we were to put - I think - milk cartons and the like...or tins...or something.
Like everyone else, I put it in the shed and used it for storage.
You see a lot of them used for transporting rabbits, too.

Now, when Good Queen Bess, or, more accurately, her Privy Council, wanted to get a message across, they 'tuned the pulpits'....reckoning to hit most of the populace in that era of next to compulsory church attendance.
In France, having separation of church and state, they 'tune' the blackboards, thus the message went out via the children that we were not being good citizens....a good citizen sorts its' rubbish, washes it and delivers it to a recycling centre to the great joy of the 'travelling people'  - who seem to run the place - who then don't have to dirty their hands while sorting out anything of value.
You still see a lot of yellow boxes used for transporting rabbits out here because it's hard to apply collective presssure to people leading fairly isolated lives in the country, but the campaign has had a lot more success in the villages where collective disapproval has force.

I think this 'good citizen' pressure has a great deal to do with the way in which the French drive.
It is as if, once safe from outside influences in their little tin box, they can throw off all inhibition.....can overtake going uphill on a blind corner, can rush up to a 'stop' sign and slam on the brakes at the last minute, can honk and hoot if kept waiting a second after the lights have turned green and can make one fingered gestures to all except the gendarmerie...who take exception.

However solipsist in their cars, they return to good citizen model once back among others, but parking seems to mark an intermediate zone between the two.

I've just come across  a website with tips on how to avoid a parking ticket in France, on which drivers exchange information on where and when to park without attracting the attention of the authorities.
I expect it will be closed down shortly as being unpatriotic by helping people to avoid fines in a period when everyone is supposed to be tightening their belts....except at the French defence ministry where they are congratulating themselves on saving money by not installing an Olympic size swimming pool, but one slightly smaller.
Let no one say that Paris does not share the pain.

Inevitably, the page where readers are invited to leave comments has one chap - a good citizen - grumbling that people should just obey the highway code and there wouldn't be any problems with which the website could be occupying itself....well, up to a point, Lord Copper.

Parking is impossible in the nearest town, except in supermarket car centre workers park all day in the legal spots so thank goodness there is a cheap and cheerful supermarket in the centre where you can park free for an hour, even though when grouping my visits to town to save petrol I usually have to go out and return at least once.
It is also free at the tax offices, probably on the reckoning that charging already aggrieved parties for parking there would invite gratuitous violence. It's a pity it's so far from the shops, or I'd go there.

Market day is sheer hell.
I forget occasionally and make an appointment when the market is on, only to curse myself as I have a devil of a job finding a place in the supermarket car park while the rest of the town centre is double parked, cars blocking garage entrances and every road blocked while some desperate driver tries to manoevre into a space that was always going to be too small.

Inevitably, this is the only day of the week where the town police are in evidence....on any other day they lurk in their offices, guarded by a well trained receptionist who refuses access to anyone ranking lower than the maire, but on market day they are out in force with their little tickets to stick under the wipers.
Not that they walk far, you understand...they come out in their cars and double park like everyone else....

Last year, one hero parked his van in front of the police garage which reduced them to buzzing ineffectively round that all morning instead of dishing out fines to the multitude, but this year they have a tow truck.

A friend of mine parks in the space reserved for the weekly bus - not that it runs on market day - picks up the inevitable parking ticket and takes it to the police offices where it is torn up...but then, she used to be the maire.
I asked her why the police bothered to give her a ticket in the first place as her car was well known to them and the ticket was always torn up and she explained that it would look bad if her car didn't get a ticket like anyone else. So that was all right then....
Yet another example of the classic French dichotomy about equality.....rules are to be obeyed, unless you are part of the caste that makes them.

It's not just round here....take a look at Delana's 'Du Jour' blog post for imaginative  - not to speak of desperate - parking!

It's not just in towns,either.
Because villages were built before cars, and gardens and productive land were on the outskirts, there was no thought of parking, even for the horse and cart, who lived in the barn on the productive land.
These days, with two car families living in village houses, it can be a struggle to get down the road for a car, let alone for the dairy tankers and feed tankers which pass regularly from farm to depot.
Not to speak of those who rely on GPS and get stuck in the turning by the mairie.
No maire is going to be bold enough to tell voters to park their cars off the road...there is no 'off road' to start with and the only place that I can see where you could park, apart from the little square by the cafe which is full to overflowing as it is at lunchtimes, is the football field at the other end of the village.

So it's no wonder to me that the solipsist doesn't become the good citizen until the moment that he has locked his car and walked away into conformity again.

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Boules to all that

boule de fortImage by | bapt | via Flickr
I used to know when spring had arrived, as the faint click of boule on boule could be heard from Jules' yard as I passed while walking the dogs.
They were nothing lothe to renew acquaintance with his old Breton spaniel and I was nothing loathe to join Jules, his wife and a couple of neighbours in a few rounds of boules followed by a few rounds of drinks in his hospitable kitchen.
Playing and drinking were two separate activities, and probably as well while I was undergoing my apprenticeship in the fine art of boules on a dusty surface where you had to know where the dips were - only to find they had changed by the next time as the Breton spaniel had taken a dust bath on the piste.
It was not competitive, just a way to pass the early evening before locking up the barns for the night and settling down to supper and the television and that was the way I liked it.

As more British moved into the area, more learned the game and it seemed to take them two ways.
Some, like me, just liked the excuse for a natter with the neighbours while others became extremely competitive indeed and started running - British only and by invitation only - competitions...even building boules courts alongside their houses with much use of the spirit level to ensure British fair play.
They also called it petanque. Some of them even wore panama hats and white trousers on competition evenings. Some of them used to practice, too, which I thought completely non-British.
So there was a sort of divide between the casuals - boules - and the professionals - petanque.

Then a chap with a holiday home, who enjoyed playing boules with his neighbour, had an idea of furthering integration with a 'boules day'.
His idea was to invite his British friends while his neighbours invited their French friends, get scratch Anglo-French teams together on the day and have a jolly with a picnic.
All went swimmingly. Too swimmingly. The event began to outgrow his neighbour's yard, and by the week before the due date, his neighbour approached the maire about using the salle de fetes, which had a huge car park, the idea being to mark it out for boules.
The maire was delighted and signed himself and friends up for the event.
The organiser was getting short of British. The casuals were all about signed up, including one lady with a zimmer frame, but the professionals were holding was all a bit, well...casual....and it wasn't petanque.

The maire, a very nice old boy who must have descended from a long line of corkscrews so Machiavellian was his conduct of the commune's affairs, had the answer.
As this was a sort of community event, a step towards integration, the commune would put on the wine for the picnic. Free. The press would be invited.
As he had divined, no professional ever spawned can refuse free drink and publicity.
The ranks of the British were reinforced overnight.

The maire had also offered the salle de fetes' trestle tables and benches for the picnic and had persuaded the farmer with the field behind the car park to move his cattle off in time for the cow pats to dry out before the day, so that the picnic could be al fresco, rather than in the stifling air of the salle, which bore no small resemblance to the Black Hole of Calcutta during wedding receptions in the summer.

The organiser, by now relegated to sub organiser behind the maire, bethought him of food.
Since the French - well, the maire - had been so generous with the wine, perhaps the British should make sure that the picnic buffet tables were well replenished in the food line.
He and his wife undertook basic salads and levied contribution on the British participants for the rest.

I'd volunteered to help his wife with the salads, and as we transported the mounds of lettuce, cucumber and tomato, not to speak of beetroot, spring onions and radish, to the buffet area, it was clear that the tournament was going great guns.
The French and the British were mingling and playing amicably, and, more surprisingly, so were the casuals and the professionals, but this could have been because the maire had decided that communication on a dry throat is never a good idea and had opened the casks early on in proceedings.

The British picnic contributions were arriving, and it was interesting to link contribution with contributor.
Some had been incredibly generous, plates of ham and charcuterie, cold roast chickens, huge bowls of mixed salads, cheeses...some had even sacrificed their emergency food parcels - pork pies and cooked, cold, British sausages! There were commercial and homemade chutneys and even bottles of salad cream with which to astonish the French.
Trifles, summer puddings, fruit salads, treacle tarts, chocolate mousses - we had to ask if we could use the fridge in the salle to keep them from spoiling.

Others would arrive with much aplomb, all straw hat and garden party dress, and deposit their offering of a small bowl of pasta salad - where the pasta element had beaten the other ingredients by a country mile - in pride of place in the centre of the buffet, smiling sweetly at those working behind the tables before turning sharply to the wine cask area and the serious business of the day, tracking down the press photographer.

The tournament had been a great success...I have no idea whch team won, if indeed any did...but now for the moment of truth as the crowd approached the buffet.
How would the French get on with the British idea of a picnic?
We had filled bottles from the casks and distributed them around the tables, but now it was every man for himself.
The maire plunged in and, reassured, his flock followed.....
The sausages and salad cream were the great lady had to go home to round up some more of the latter.
Chutneys intrigued, especially with pork pies, while the puddings roused the maire to send out for supplies of the local dessert wine straight from the cellars of one of the players.

Clearly, a success, and so it has proved down the years.
I moved away a long time ago, but friends in the area say it is still going strong although with more and more difficulty getting generous donations from the British element, it has for a few years' now been a mechoui - a spit roast lamb - affair with a professional caterer and a small admission fee.
Still, it was a super idea, founded on the amiable idea of having a few friends round for a quiet game and a few drinks.
And that, to me, was boules.

I was wrong. There was a lot more to it than that.

In August, Madeleine's cousin used to hold open house on sundays for those who had not gone off for the holidays.
The wine was cooling in a bucket in the well, we would all bring something to eat and the afternoon would pass with a game of boules, gossiping in the shade or a quiet nap, depending on circumstances.
However, occasionally the mood would take the cousin to be up and doing and he had the entree everywhere...nowhere was a closed door to him, or not for long...he knew who held the keys.

I had been playing boules with the guys when the cousin came up on us.
'Let's show her a real game!'
I thought he was going to take a part himself and up the standard, but it was nothing of the sort.
He disappeared into the house, then emerged, beaming,.
'Everyone in the cars!'

We headed for the silent, baking town, and into the alleys of the medieval quarter, where we drew up before an ancient building with an iron grill in the wooden door.
He shouted, the door was opened, and we found ourselves in a large, cool club room, where a number of elderly gentlemen were having a quiet drink.
There was a lot of joshing around, to the effect of what was he doing, bringing women in here....this was a men's club...was nothing sacred?....but we were supplied with cold, dry white wine all the same and the cousin explained.
He had brought his friends to show the foreigner - me - how a proper game of boules was played.

La boule de fort.

His friend the club president issued us with slippers and flung open double doors to reveal what looked like an enormous gutter running the length of a vast room, seven metres wide by twenty long.
He presented me with something heavy that resembled a squashed pear...not round, one side was less so than the other, which was weighted down by a lead plug on the bottom. A metal ring, adjustable, encircled the thing and it weighed a ton.
No mere boule this, but a boule de fort.

The idea of the game was similar to that of all games of get nearest the jack, but when some of the gentlemen demonstrated, it was apparent that this was a far more sophisticated game.
The slippers were to protect the gutter in which the game was played, and the teams had two sorts of players....the first would select their spot and gently roll the boule as near as they could to the jack.
The second were the artillery..they would roll the boules down at speed to clear opponents' boules from the track. The noise was unbelievable.
I could see that it would take a lot longer to learn this game than that as practised in Jules' yard on a spring evening.

Back in the club room, the president explained that these clubs were, like the old 'amicales', the refuge of men, and very precious too in the days when, unless you could afford to marry, you didn't, so respectable bachelors needed a place to foregather and talk dirty.
The vocabulary could be a bit 'special' - nothing these days when filth spews from every television set - but mostly double entendres and very daring in their day, of which the one which has lasted longest is the invitation to 'partager une fillette' - to share a young lady.

Before anyone gets all PC, it would be as well to know that a 'fillette' is a half bottle of wine, and I've shared a few fillettes in my time without any moral damage.
The most important duty of the president was to choose the wine to fill the fillettes.....and make sure he got a good price so that the members paid about half the price of the same stuff in a regular bar.

However, as always, the best was saved for last.
The president explained that after a game, a player who had made no score at all was obliged to pay a forfeit.
Yes, a round of drinks, the losing team would pay that, but for the man with no points to his name, a special forfeit was in store.
He had to  'embrasser Fanny' - to kiss Fanny.
What? I thought this was a men's club...for respectable bachelors! Where was this woman tucked away?

With a sly smile, the president moved to a cupboard on the wall, which opened out rather like a tryptich to reveal a painting of the luxuriant bare backside of a woman.

This was Fanny!

I wonder what the panama hat and petanque brigade would make of her.

If you would like to learn more about the boule de fort, there is a super website here which can tell you a lot more than I can.
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Friday, 14 May 2010

Unlicensed gambling

Spin the wheelImage by Adam Tinworth via Flickr
So, Sarkozy has saved the day.
According to the Spanish prime minister, Germany was only won over to the Greek rescue package by Sarkozy threatening to withdraw France from the eurozone.
I bet a few mattresses round here can lie easy, then. No chance of being ripped up for the bounty in pre General de Gaulle old francs just yet.

Considering the financial chicanery which allowed Greece into the eurozone in the first place, I can't say I'm altogether surprised that it got into trouble, even though its' downfall seems to have more to do with Goldman Sachs than just the usual financial incompetence we expect from European governments.
Somehow I doubt that the European Commission's call for the right to review EU member states' budgets would have had any beneficial effect if it had been in place at the time - just look at how many times France has put up two fingers after being called to order about its' budget deficits.

So, we've had sub prime and sovereign debt so far....and our governments have been raiding the till to make sure that those responsible for the disaster can survive to go on and do it again.
This is not what I call a sound policy.
Unless you are bank, of course, in which case you just rub your hands and look for another mug to shaft, secure in the knowledge that you are too big to be taken out by any mere national government.

Political parties claim to worry about the democratic deficit, in the sense that they need the legitimacy that comes from votes cast at elections.
Perhaps it might occur to them that people would have more confidence in them if they were not seen as being hand in glove with confidence tricksters who, whatever the mess, walk away unscathed.

In France, you can't hold your own share certificates for fear that you might do a runner with them to somewhere outside French jurisdiction, so regulated are we, but, having had dealings with the local branch of Credit Agricole it comes as no surprise to learn that they are under investigation in the U.S.A. for overstating their assets. They probably had my shares in that little bundle somewhere.
Americans living abroad are having trouble maintaining their home bank accounts thanks to the operation of the Patriot Act, but the banks roll on unhindered, transferring funds from country to country at will.

Transferring money for mere mortals has become a pain in the neck. Ten thousand euros or dollars or pounds is not a lot of money these days - and getting less before our eyes - and I cannot see why I have to justify its' source while the big banks are busy knowingly operating scams in the interests of their major customers with no requirement to justify anything at all.
After all, even if they're threatened with a civil suit, they can always bribe their way out of it, as Goldman Sachs with the SEC in the States, and there's no risk at all of a criminal suit being filed.
The law is a well trained watchdog and never bites its' masters.

What has brought about this access of bile?

The triumphalism surrounding the Greek rescue package, where all of us will be paying to rescue - not Greece or the Greeks, but the banks who were caught with Greek government bonds when the solids hit the fan.

If you want to run a casino, you need a licence.

If you want to set up a bank, you need a licence.

But if you want to run your bank like a casino with a crooked roulette wheel, far from having the gendarmerie on the doorstep, you'll have democratically elected governments showering you with money that should be spent on the decencies of, education and pensions.

The answer to where power lies in the modern state was discovered years ago by the IRA.
Attempts on Heathrow, pub bombings, an attack on a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street - all were unavailing in bringing about serious talks.
One hit on the City of London and they'd won.

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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Good Life in the Fast Lane

Making dinnerImage by kostika via Flickr
I have long been sceptical about the French claims to superiority in matters of food.
Any nation that can produce and eat the andouillette has something terribly wrong with its psyche, while the claim that snails are better than fillet steak says an awful lot about the quality of fillet steak in France.
Proof positive is the absence of that most delicate of vegetables, the purple sprouting broccoli, queen of the vegetable garden in  spring and worthy rival of the much vaunted asparagus.

In my time in France, the vegetable garden has been disappearing under patios, lawns and garden furniture, but even in its' heyday rare were the gardeners who aimed at quality, despite the religious observance of sowing by the cycles of the moon and buying a special calendar for the purpose.
The garden would be judged by how neat it was, how well its' rows were aligned and by the absence of any living thing other than the plants sown..... weedkiller and insecticide well in evidence because everything was judged by the eye of the neighbour rather than by the tastebuds of the gardener.

Bulk food was the idea.....hordes of green beans for bottling, cabbages all splitting at the same time, lettuces bolting in unison....with some honourable exceptions, of course, like  Madeleine's husband who was all too willing to produce whatever was necessary whenever necessary to enable her to produce her wonders day after day all round the year.

The larder of any self respecting rural Frenchwoman would be filled with Kilner jars full of the year's produce - mostly fruit and green beans but also carrots, courgettes, and, according to one astonished but reliable source, lettuce!
The freezer has always been suspect to the bottling generation, who carry on bottling from the garden while the freezer generation buy it all from the supermarkets ready packed - or from the travelling freezer vans which traverse the countryside to deliver the orders taken over the telephone.

At a country fete years ago there was a group of men at the bar who all worked for the same frozen goods delivery company and they were discussing the best way to arrange their rounds.
Not, as you might think, in terms of saving petrol and time, but in terms of when certain lady customers would be free.
As they worked for a local firm, I thought it best to deliver the round of drinks quickly to my table and then go back to tune in over a glass of rose.

There used to be a song
'Never on a Sunday'...well, in their case it was 'never on a Wednesday'...the dreaded day when all the kids were off school and no married lady was available.
I drank my wine slowly and became more closely acquainted with what goes on behind the shutters in rural France.
This could be one reason why bottling went out of fashion.

Nowadays, even the women who stay at home to look after the children don't seem to have time to cook, while their husbands certainly don't have time for a vegetable garden, so 'fast food' has taken over, at home and increasingly in cafes, where the buffet items are bought in from the supermarket and the main meals ready packed and portioned from a wholesaler.
I've never found such items to be very fast by the time you've read the instructions, found that you need to preheat the oven, and then have to prise the item from its' packaging, so I stick to fast food country style, as follows:

Breakfast at asparagus time is a doddle.
Let the hens and ducks out and collect eggs.
Put two pans of water on to boil.
Go down to the garden and pick asparagus.
Soft boil eggs, cook asparagus and put on table with some salt and butter.
Better than soldiers any day.

Once the asparagus is over, it will be
Slice tomatoes into olive oil, cook gently.
Let  hens and ducks out and collect eggs.
Snip off some young lovage shoots on the way back to the house.
Bread in toaster.
Break eggs into the softened tomatoes, chop lovage and sprinkle over.
Bread out of toaster, eggs etc. on toast.
Easy peasy and wonderful flavour.

Lunch is no more difficult.
Cook linguine.
Cook asparagus.
Mix egg yolks and creme fraiche.
Toss linguine and asparagus in butter, add egg mix, allow to thicken and serve.

Fry slices of cold potato.
Poach eggs.
Cook sprouting broccoli.
Potato on plate, egg on top, broccoli over that and break the yolks.

pork pate with a salad of just cooked and cooled sprouting broccoli in a hazelnut oil vinaigrette.

What could be faster?

Keeping poultry is fun - all your hens and ducks have different characters - while growing purple sprouting broccoli is a no trouble at all. People get very worried about growing asparagus, but it is a weed if you treat it properly, so nothing about this style of fast food is a problem, and it leaves you time to get on with life, rather than trailing round the supermarket looking dolefully at packets showing pastry cases rising like hot air balloons.

Out by the asparagus beds last Friday, the day after the election in the U.K., the sight of the myriad spires rising from the bare earth reminded me of the song
'There lived a king' from 'The Gondoliers', when

'Prime Ministers and such as they
Grew like asparagus in May'

Now, long gone are the days when Gilbert and Sullivan held sway over the mind of the British people - nowadays it's more likely to be Gilbert and George - but with the current in'fighting in Westminster, the old pair must have been prophetic.

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Saturday, 8 May 2010

I must get out more often....

French train system's warning to youImage by Ped-X-Ing via Flickr
Life, such as it is in deepest France where it seems to move with all the elan of treacle on emery board, is passing me by.

I realised this when taking a local trip lately, going into the town to take the train. Things have changed radically since my last encounters with the railway system when crossing France and when making my escape from the hexagon.
Neither event was all that long ago, either, so what winds of change are blowing across the local landscape?

First, on pulling into the carpark, I noticed the absence of a dear friend.
The portacabin, in which the harassed ticket clerk has been operating for at least a year despite it nearly being blown away in the great storm in March.
The storm which blew roofs off  houses, uprooted trees and had electricity supplies cut for days.
The day after, the clerk struggled into work, taking detours to avoid roads blocked by fallen timber, only to find an indignant lady on the doorstep of his bijou workplace.

Where had he been? He should have been open some time ago? Was this what he called public service?
He apologised.
Had madame been worried that she would be unable to travel? The first train - for which read bus service - did not leave for another ten minutes in which time  he could issue her a ticket.

No. But as there were power cuts and her television wasn't working she thought it would be a good time to drop into the portacabin and check the logistics for the family journey to a wedding in the south of France later that year.

Gently, he explained that as there were power cuts, his computer would not be working either, but he offered to look up all the options on his printed timetables if she did not mind it taking a little more time.

She bridled.
No, that would not do at all.
She wanted up to date information, so it was no use trying to fob her off with that old fashioned stuff.
What sort of an idiot did he take her for?

Being in the (semi) public service he decided it was best not to give  a transparent response to this particular customer request and she took herself off to join the vast queue at the one local baker who still cooked  in a wood fired oven and who wasn't too grand to make his bread by hand, while the clerk assumed tranquil possession of his domain.

Not only had the portacabin gone but the station had been repainted, while the swinging doors that always made me feel like John Wayne entering the saloon every time I went to buy a ticket had been replaced by sliding doors that opened on my approach.
Very sinister. French railways is watching you.
The plastic bucket type seating had been replaced by rather natty metal benches....clearly it has been considered that with all the improvements the public will not be minded to use them as offensive weapons when queueing behind the ladies who are seeking alternative thrills when their televisions don't work.

More to the point, our  push me pull you train, which was great once you had sorted out your ice axe and crampons in order to climb up into it, has been replaced by a modern push me pull you, which might well look as if a TGV has given birth to a midget but which has access at platform level.
If you have never travelled on a French train, you have no idea of the relief this change of access has accorded me.
No more flying trapeze work to load your luggage, no more ruptured tights....except once you glide aboard you discover that the French mania for complication has been too strong for common sense and that the whole thing is divided by steps into different levels and that, while there are two racks for bicycles, there are no luggage storage areas, so if you want to keep an eye on your baggage, you have to sit on a pull down seat by the door to protect it from the attentions of the third person to board with a bicycle who inevitably thinks his machine more worthy than your luggage of  the place lodged behind the toilets where it won't fall over.

There were already people waiting on the natty new benches.
Long experience has taught people to get their ticket early in case they end up behind the sensation seekers who want to book their summer holiday train in March at the precise moment that the one of the three trains a day is about to depart.
Among the travellers, three black men.
I have no idea of what PC term is currently in favour, so cannot use it. Not that I would if I did, to be fair.

Now, in that town, I was aware of only one black to find three black men in the waiting room was quite a surprise.
The social leaven must at last have reached deepest France.
North African doctors have become a commonplace at the local hospital, though not in the population at large, but black faces still draw attention.

With none of the modern qualms about whether or not to mention their presence the clerk explained to me that they were part of the consultancy engaged by the local council at vast expense to reorganise the diabolic mini roundabout system which has endangered life and limb in the town for the last three years, ever since it had been spawned by a previous administration with nothing better to do and European Union money within reach of its' sticky fingers.

Clearly the leaven has only a temporary shelf life.

The push me pull you drew in and disgorged its' passengers, among whom was a gentleman whose ruddy complexion glowed undaunted between a jaunty tyrolean hat complete with feather and sidewhiskers which had decided that 'side' was not enough and had thus extended their empire over the whole lower face.

Eyeing the passengers on the benches he stopped dead and delivered himself of a diatribe to the effect that he, long time inhabitant of Ste. Felicite en Terre, had never thought to see the day when not only foreigners but black foreigners would be infecting the fair land of France.
He, his father, grandfather and ancestors had fought to preserve a country and its values against adulteration by outside influence and cross breeding with outsiders.
He did not pay taxes to support foreigners in idleness while good decent French people worked their fingers to the bone just to scratch a living.
The country was going to the dogs.
France for the French!
Vive Le Pen!

And with this endorsement of the leader of the far right National Front he stepped boldly out into the car park.

As the doors closed behind him, we all looked at each other and without comment began to board the train as the inevitable last minute client approached the ticket office.
He wanted to check the trains for a place near Lyon - or about one hundred kilometres from Lyon - that he had read about in the local rag's weekend holiday supplement, but whose name he could not remember.

The doors opened again to reveal Monsieur Le Pen's loyal supporter.
He, long time inhabitant of Ste.Felicite en Terre, had somehow overlooked the fact that his home town was one stop up the line and that he had missed it. He needed to get back on the train which was about to leave.
But the would be holidaymaker had come up with several likely suggestions for the clerk to investigate and, in true French fashion, was giving place to no one....

As I say, I need to get out more often and see a bit of life.

Acknowledgement.  I am sure that I have dredged up the name of Ste. Felicite en Terre from a novel I read about Brittany, but I cannot remember the name of the author. Thanks to him, though, whoever he is.
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