Send for the Ark
It’s now eleven days of rain and counting. Steve performed his daily ritual of looking out of the window to check on his bike, then checking on the weather.
“Pissing down.” he said. He didn’t need to say anything else. There’s an unspoken phrase that now follows all of the statements we make about the weather that ‘it’s not like this in France’. Faunters groans every time there’s a mention of France, but he seemed quite chirpy when I mentioned a reconnaissance trip at half term, only asking how many days it was until the holidays. He’s only been back at school for one day, bless him. School time passes slowly.
Another added reason to get him out over there is the influence of more appropriate friends. He has a motley crew of five to twelve-year olds on the street, some of whom are already promising to be rogues of the highest order. One little boy goes crying to his dad every time Jake plays with him, and the dad invariably ends up yelling at Jake – last night Steve got involved in an almighty hoo-hah out on the street over the simplest of things. As soon as I got there, a gloom had settled over the house.
“Faunters have a good day, did he?” I asked. And then the tale began.
Like all tales of episodes on our street, it is long, convoluted, meandering and often unending. Getting to the bottom of who did what to whom is often impossible. Suffice to say we are quite sure the general French population don’t go out on the street swearing at nine-year-olds, shouting the odds and cursing like navvies. The most resistance we’ve had so far was a surly look from the elderly gentleman across from my dad’s place. And, as far as I could tell, that’s his general demeanour and has been since he was born. His dog is exactly the same. Come to think of it, so is his wife.
But Jake played quite happily during the holidays – finding a couple of neighbourhood children to play with. That said, it is more difficult entirely to insult people when you don’t know the language, and if La Maman of one of the neighbourhood children decided to swear vociferously at Jake, he’d be totally oblivious. In the time-old tradition of children on holiday, Jake managed to find three friends on the last day. Such is life. One of the smallest ones looked most forlorn as we packed up Jake’s scooter and departed. Surely it doesn’t all devolve into ‘such and such did so-and-so’ like it does here?
The in-fighting on the street is somewhat comical to an outsider. Some children aren’t allowed to play with others over long-held grudges. Other children fall prey to the resident scally chav, a.k.a M.C. Little Man who fancies himself as the new member of N Dubz or some such grime/rap ensemble. MC Little Man managed to convince one girl up the street to lend him her bicycle for a day in return for a biscuit. I wouldn’t have minded but it was only a pink wafer, and when she got the bike back, he’d kindly slashed the back tyre. MC Little Man and I have a running grudge – he threatened to smash the dog with a hammer. The Molly Dog is a cross-Rhodesian ridgeback/bull terrier, so she’d make short work of him, but still, it was entertaining. I turned around with the Molly Dog and said “Come on, then!” and MC Little Man ran away and hid. I like getting threatened by thirteen-year-olds. Not entirely sure what the Molly Dog would do to MC Little Man other than drown him in saliva and lick him to death, but she’s much like me. Feisty and ferocious-looking with a hugely soft centre, completely crazy to boot.
Still, she’s good at keeping the less desirable elements away from you when you’re on a walk. One mother on the street is worried about all the ‘Peter-files’ who might live in the area. There’s a lot of discussion at the top end of the street about who’s a Peter-file and who’s not. Accusations fly thick and fast about various matters, but it’s the fear of child molesters that keeps gossip going.
So between the five-year olds with swearing parents, the Peter-files, the resident scally chav and several other ne’er-do-wells, it’s a running battle that needs a permanent umpire or referee. And it’s a long way from leaving Jakey to fish on the river or play football with les enfants of the village. Les Enfants Terribles are definitely on this side of the channel in this case.
Plus, when you’re a nine-year-old with a scooter and new French friends, you only need two words: “Attendez!” and “Maintenant!”
It’s hard work justifying uprooting a nine-year-old who isn’t particularly keen on going, but the street gives us enough reasons to make it a valid decision.
Also, the reality has set in. I’ve got a bit of work to do on my house before I’d consider it sellable. I seem to have neglected several essential plumbing matters. Thus, you can get cold water from the bath, hot water from the sink (and a trickle from the bath) but the shower head doesn’t work and neither does the cold tap. The water and radiator heating went on the blink some time ago and I don’t use the downstairs toilet as it leaks terribly. On the negative side, these will all need fixing and will all cost money, but on the positive side, at least I’m used to functioning without proper water supplies. It bodes well.
However, I’ve got a snagging list to do of all the other things that will need doing here before I’d feel happy selling it, and some of them are going to be a pain. New stair carpets, new tiles. Despite this, though, a lick of paint here and there and it will be good to go. If I get it done before Christmas, we’ll be able to put it on the market after Christmas. Here’s hoping for a strengthening pound, a diminishing euro and a buoyant housing market. Somehow, in the midst of recession and credit crunches, I doubt it. I find myself looking at our current Government and wondering how it all went so wrong. I wonder if the French hold Sarkozy in such contempt. As an outsider, I kind of like the man. He’s flamboyant in a charismatic kind of way. I don’t know his views or policies, or whether France holds him in regard or not, but all I know is that even the misanthropic English pundits can’t find much to say about him other than commenting unfavourably on how Gordon Brown compares.
Time to start reading French newspapers and getting the low-down. I do wonder, however, whether that will leave me just as cynical with French life as it does with English? Le Monde, here I come.