It happened on Sunday 9th September – my faithful old Macbook pro just decided to give up. Monday morning, off it went to a savvy local Mac technician for a spot of major surgery and now after a heart and brain transplant, the Mac is back – all this to explain why this post is over two weeks late and perhaps has little or no relevance, but I enjoyed writing it, so here is 11/9 (European date configuration)
Sunday September 11th 2016
Thank God for normality. The boring grind of a slow Sunday. The weekly trip to the supermarket, filling up the trolley in the same old systematic, Stepford wives way – I spare little thought for what we’re going to eat, I just sling the stuff I always buy in the trolley because I know exactly where it is in the aisles, and if I try anything new or different, I will be forced to leave my well worn supermarket circuit and embark on a voyage of discovery. This is Sunday! I don’t want an adventure because Sunday is not an adventure kind of day. (and what if I get lost?)
Please, nothing too adventurous or physical on this, a day of rest. I don’t want t have to have to reach up or bend down to find new products, that are probably exactly like the ones I take already, which are nicely set in the middle of the shelf, so I can just reach out and grab them with a minimum of effort. No, I sure don’t want to make any efort, it will take time I haven’t got and besides, by taking those packets, tins and boxes arranged at mid-height, I spare the poor underpaid supermarket shelf filler. If I take too low down or high up, then the wheezy old arthritic lady (well past retirement age) who stacks the shelves, will be obliged to reach up or bend down – My unimaginative shopping ritual is saving her aching joints. String at the contents of my trolley as I pass through the check out, I’m not sure if there’s actuallu anything in my shopping that might make a decent «square» meal.
So, back home to corrections and lesson preparation – the fate that befalls all teachers, Sunday is already Monday.
Thank God …. not quite the right turn of phrase when I consider those terrorist acts perpetrated in France over the summer,in the name of a God or a religion. Let us say thank goodness (if there is any of that still left), thank goodness for normality as the first rays of sun penetrate through the shutters and I lazily turn over and let fly an enormous Sunday morning fart, then shake the duvet to air the bed and allow the onion gas from the night before to escape. Never have onions for dinner, bad breath, stomach acid and flatulence, that is all they are good for.
Oh what a rude awakening, but I have been awake for some time, raised from my slumber by the gentle sound of gunfire – shotguns popping off in the local woods. No, this is not some Daesh offshoot shooting off – this is the first day of the hunting season and all game is fair game (though there are strict quotas). Our local woods are bristling with bristly boar. As hunger pangs begin to gnaw, I begin to hanker after a slice of roast boar. The good old hunting season, I hope the morning news will be full of hunting stories, those good old perennials. Every year, prominent members of the pro-hunting lobby pop up on prime time news to slog it out with those who defend animal rights – hunting is cruel. Oh please let us have a good old hunting debate rather than the summer long, tawdry, fastidious, burqa-burkini row or the wall-to-wall coverage of the war on terrorism. Let us have a day off. No chance though, Sure this is Sunday September 11th, but the world is gearing up for a week of rememberance, this is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. What were you doing on 9/11? asks the sombre-voiced journalist on the morning news – «ring in and tell us where you were on September 11th 2001» – I guess we all remember where we were, but I can’t imagine that anyone would have thought that we would be where we are now.
After breakfast, a trip down to the mail box; no postal delivery on a Sunday, but it is stuffed to overflowing with junk ads from local supermarkets, car dealerships and clothing retailers. It is that time in the retail season when not much is going on. The kids are back at school and have all been kitted out already, so those who want to sell us stuff that we don’t want, have to come up with new exciting shopping «events».
New Year is not until January, yet, September in France has beome the unofficial new year, back to work and back to school after the long summer break.
New year, new car – local dealerships are offering unbeatable deals on new models, and this Sunday they are open for viewing and test drives – not so exceptional in other countries, but this is France where national trading laws are such, that everything is closed on a Sunday, and for years an unholy alliance of clergy and labour unions have fought to keep it that way – no one works on a Sunday, save teachers and those who man the tills in the increasing number of supermarkets that are now open on Sunday mornings, because they sell «perishables»
I don’t need a new car, but the glossy little «magazine» from the local supermarket reminds me that their annual wine fair revs up in three days – I even have a voucher for a 5 Euro cash back when I spend over 30 Euros on wine. Better still, next week, (like the hundreds of other people who have had the sale junk thrust through their letter box) I have a personal invitation to the local supermarket’s inaugural wine fair evening. I went to one of these a few years ago – we all squeezed into the wine section of the supermarket for a glass of cheap red plonk and a slice of pâté. We were entertaiend by a local folk group, plying drunken versions of traditional tunes and jigs and suchlike. A memorable evening. Most of the musicians had been on the wince well before. The singer kept slurring his words, the fiddle player could kept missing the fiddle with his bow, and three members of the accompanying dance troop were so drunk that they fell over. A good time was had by all.
The supermarket wine fair – they’ve been around for twenty years or – a commercial initiative to cash in on the grape harvest. From Bordeaux to Beaujolais, the noble fruit of the vine is being harvested by nimble fingered students, eastern European immigrants and retirees trying to augment their meagre pensions. So, this is the time across the land when supermarkets stock up crates of wine from floor to ceiling and the customers pour in for cheap deals on quality vino to stock up their cellars. I am an adept of the wine fair, but nothing ever stays long stocked in my cellar – wine is for drinking now. can’t see the point of keeping bottles for ten or twenty years for someone to drink when I’m dead.
The normality of those everyday French things – hunting, wine, and as I head into the supermarket, I see that the local goatman has set up stall in the entrance – and is selling cheese that is literally fresh out the goat.
Normality – back home to unload the shopping before sitting down to prepare new lessons. Every week I attempt to imagine inspiring and beguiling ways to impart the Queen’s English to my students – and before you know it, it is that time on early Sunday evening when you think about cooking dinner, or doing the ironing or having a bath and contemplate the evening’s TV viewing. Which US police show will I watch tonight? What tired old films are the TV schedulers offering up tonight? I would like a comedy, however old, however unfunny, however many times I have seen it before. I just want something that might raise a feeble smile because at the moment there isn’t much to smile about.