I was in the middle of an international committee a week or so back and, as lunchtime arrived, I chose to let the representatives of the eight countries who were present indulge in their lunch without my participation. We’d all been stuck in a stiflingly hot meeting room for hours and all I wanted to do was to get outside and breathe a little.
It was so nice to be out of that claustrophobic room and, as it was such a beautiful, sunny day, I decided to walk the 15 minutes or so down to the centre of
Obviously, I wasn’t planning on eating in the shopping centre. No, I knew that I had a choice of several park benches in mind. As seems to be the way of things these days, it took me longer to pay than it took me to shop due to only 1 in 3 of the checkouts being in use.
(Why do we put up with this? The only winners are the profiteers who get to employ 33% of the staff they actually need. The staff get more stressed than their wages warrant, the Customers have to wait longer than Customers should ever have to and the biggest insult of all is the advertising angle. They use all manner of enticement to make us come and shop with them and then, when we do, they never seem to have the staff on duty to cater to the successes of their own advertising. These are people who’ll swear blind to you that they’re intelligent… selfish and greedy fuckwits in my opinion).
I digress (as usual!)
I finally got through the checkout and wandered hungrily towards the target benches. Being the solitary creature I seem to have become, I always seek out the bench which is the furthest away from anyone else who happens to be sitting there, with the notable exception that I’d rather be right on the next bench to someone who is clearly pleasant and normal than even within earshot of someone who clearly is not. On this occasion, the park was completely devoid of people. It’s very much an urban type of park. Not grassy. More of a mixture of gravel and leaves with plenty of nice trees, a church at one end and it’s far enough away from the road to avoid too much intrusive traffic noise. It could only have looked more French if there’d been a group of old bods playing pétanque there, as I’m sure must occasionally happen. I settled onto my bench and unwrapped my sandwich. Peace and quiet…. or so I thought.
A few bites in, a local old codger came into view a little way down one of the paths. He looked at least 70 and the only thing about him that made me fix a quick gaze upon him was that he was wearing bright cropped trousers. It just seemed a bit incongruous to see them on an old geezer like that. I returned to my sandwich, giving him no more thought.
A minute or two later, in my peripheral vision, I saw that he’d come to a stop on the path a few yards away from where I sat and my sixth sense knew that he was waiting for me to look up in his direction. I did. He threw me a kindly “Bon appétit”, for which I thanked him with a mouthful of “Merci, Monsieur” and a briefly-raised sandwich. My inner voice was reciting “Don’t you dare stop”. I just wanted a moment or two of tranquillity between meetings. Inevitably, his inner ear didn’t hear my inner voice and, to the sound of my “inner sigh”, over he came and promptly plonked himself on my bench beside me, saying nothing at all as he did so. Why my bench? There were a dozen others.
I’m British and, as such, I have a bloody great “exclusion zone” around me, rather like the
Dad was an undisputed expert at talking to impromptu guests in his life like this. In fact, he actually sought out and encouraged situations like this and, being a rampant Francophile with an unceasing desire to practice speaking in French, he’d have relished the opportunity with which I was currently “blessed”. I, on the other hand, don’t need to seek out chances to speak in French – my life is a never-ending chance to speak French. I have little or no choice in the matter.
In a clearly earthy, Northern French lilt, my guest opened the discourse with “It’s a beautiful day, no?”. “Yes”, said
Suddenly, he took the lead in our conversation. “Did you move to
I said “Yes” as I gathered my things together and calmly stood up. “Better go”, I said…. “All those people from all those countries will be wondering where I am”. I bid him a good afternoon and walked briskly away, feeling very sure that I’d just been given a pretty clear explanation of his bright cropped trousers and his fixed gaze upon me!
Alas, for him, my tastes extend only as far as the female of the species. If I'm going to share my sausage roll with someone, it certainly isn't going to be someone like that. (I ate it later).
Nice to know that I’ve “still got it”, though ;o)