Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
160Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
The body is a funny thing - mine can not recall ever having being cold and is now struggling to accommodate the heat.
The sun is blazing, it is hot!
I suppose it's the same as with pain; you remember you suffered a bad pain but you can't call it up again. Which is just as well, cos no woman in her right mind would ever consider having another baby if she could go back for a moment and check what it felt like.
But I can see the advantages of conjuring up a cool sensation when stuck in a sweltering hot car, like I was yesterday. Kind of caught me off guard. Not only me, but poor Sheppie too, who, before I even start searching for the keys, by some miracle of body-language, looks at me and makes for the car, willing me to open the door, he then quickly jumps in
He is obsessed with me leaving without him. And though he is a complete loss as far as any desired dog-behavior goes, this never fails to endear me.
However, it came at a price for him yesterday, as I made a final attempt to get my little Asus to work with me. (And yes - I am now sitting in the garden, tapping away in the shade, counting my blessings.)
Well, off I drove, hot-headed, to Brive, to the Orange France shop, to see if maybe sign language would do the trick.. And, to be honest, needing some space, to be alone with my thoughts and calm down. Sheppie didn't count as an intrusion, there is a lot to be said about that dog but he can't possibly be a mind-reader. Having said that, then how come he knows when I pick up the scissors, whether I am going to open a packet or intend to cut his fur?
He knows, cos he scarpers when it's the latter, same as when I reach for the tweezers, inconspicuously, could just as soon be wanting to remove my splinter instead of his tick, but he's off like a shot.
Ah, I am getting distracted. Back to my trip to Brive and the realization it was not my boiling temper, nor hot flushes or an overheated engine - it was the sun that was burning me up.
How did that suddenly happen, how do you go from freezing cold one moment to tropical heat the next? I must have missed something in between, something didn't register, but I guess my prayers had been answered.
Be careful what you ask for, they say - well, I got it
I stopped at a shopping mall on the way back, wanting to get home quickly now, thirsty and dying to show how clever I was, getting things sorted. Just needed to grab a chicken and some coffee, but this shopping center was amazing.
Does that word have anything to do with a 'maze' cos that would be spot on. You could spend days wandering around there, wondering where it was all going to end up, how much stuff can a human being possibly need?
Anyway, I saw a mobile phone section and remembered my damaged sim card. Lucky me to bump into it now, for my little village supports no such modern frivolities.
Quick, quick, go get one cos I left Sheppie panting in the backseat of the car, his tongue hanging out - not a spot of shade in sight. Sorry, Shep, back in a sec.
But I wasn't.
I promised Hisham, a charming French-Moroccan, who exists in the surreal world of Carré Four, I would give him a mention because we shared some memorable time together.
I had to suppress a smile when he solemnly asked if he could be of any assistance.
This couldn't be too hard, I just wanted to buy a sim card.
He stood back from his counter, folding his arms. 'Why?' he wanted to know.
Huh? I explained mine was 'en panne', not bothering to hide my smile now, but he was not having it. 'Show me your mobile, your portable.'
I hadn't got it on me, what would be the point as it wasn't working.
I was paying attention now, was this a trick question, because I had, illegally, I guess, had it unlocked. Which was the next question after I stammered: 'Orange, I think.'
'And it is sim-lock free?'
Well, it was now.
Having got passed the preliminaries Hisham seemed ready to get down to business. He leaned over the counter and asked for some identification.
What's his game? In Holland it's just handed to you, no questions asked. But this is France, the country that perfected the art of bureaucracy, so I just play along, fumbling for my drivers license, throwing in my Dutch visa for good measure - god knows why I still need that after spending most of my life there.
'Passport?' he asks.
Ok, he'll let that one slip. After carefully studying the documents he gives me a quizzical look, as if giving me the opportunity to speak now or forever hold my peace, then slowly he delicately pronounces my name, ending in a question mark: 'Lapthorn?'
For whatever reason he opted for my maiden name and I was not about to discuss that for I have never heard it spoken quite so beautifully.
I was pulled back from my brief reverie for the interrogation was by no means over yet.
Names, date of birth, place of residence, on and on it went. It was worse than the France Telecom. But by now I was laughing out right, and for a moment I thought I was caught on candid camera.
My assistant was warming up to me though, loosening up, telling me about Morocco, making fun of the French ways, we were understood.
He apologized for the to-do and I told him not to worry, I was actually quite amused by now, and he answered: 'Good because I must now ask you to fill in this form and sign these three papers.'
Cross my heart, that's what happened.
Much as I liked my new friend, I was worried about Shep and wanted to get it over with; hand over the 9.90 euro and see if the dog was still breathing.
'Ah, no, I can not accept your money,' Hisham held up his hand in refusal, shaking his head, as if I were about to bribe him. 'No no, you must first take this form, and the three you just signed, pay the cashier and bring me back the receipt, then I may hand you your sim card.'
I walked half a mile to the cashiers, all of them had long lines of chagrined people clutching overflowing shopping carts, and said a quick prayer for Shep, my loyal dog, the one I love to mock.
When it was finally my turn the lady at the till looked at my papers as if she'd never seen the likes and to the annoyance of those behind me, called her colleagues over to marvel with her.
Fortunately one of them had a brainwave and told me I must pay this particular bill at the jeweler's.
Don't ask me why, it makes absolutely no sense at all.
The jewelry department was a glittering island, built in a circle with in the middle a haughty lady sitting on a stool, inspecting her perfectly varnished nails. She raised her eyebrows and sighed before stepping down to reluctantly take my papers and money.
Baffled, I made my way back to Hisham and handed him the receipt. Unconvincingly he protested he had informed me about the deviation, but I was too busy wondering, calculating the amount of time, people, and handling this simple transaction had involved, and came to the conclusion it must be the government's solution to the unemployment situation.
Once you understand these things, they become more bearable, there is a point, and if you think about it, you are partaking in helping this nation overcome the economic crisis - Viva La France!
Sometimes it's hard to explain why I am so charmed by this country, but I can tell you this, it will take more than a sorry dog to make me give up on it.
Je maintiendrai, and besides, Shep loves it here....... I suddenly remember his breeder, hoping I would take this odd-looking pup off his hands, telling me:
I think his mother was a French sheepdog, though he is, of course, a bastard.
But I had already fallen in love with him, the mongrel, that is - I always fall for the bastards