Sunday 30 August 2009

bite size advice

The French newspapers are running a story about how the Parisian Police tested a new state of the art sonar device, intended to find underwater objects, on the River Seine.

They found twenty cars.

The English newspapers are running a story about a potentially man-eating Piranha found in an English river.

From these two facts are we able to make some sweeping generalizations about the difference between the English and the French?

After 17 years living here (France) and 36 years there (England) I feel I should be able to offer some insights.

(The fact that 17 plus 36 doesn’t add up to my age is worrying me a little, especially since I have no memory of inhabiting another country, but I will push this to one side in the interests of research.)

1.The French eat snails, the English eat Marmite.

So, no difference there – both facts remain unexplainable.

Last night I was invited to a party at Guy’s house; it was a sort of end of/goodbye to summer affair.

Guy works as a Psychiatric nurse in a nearby hospital, an experience that should come in very useful if time and luck transforms him into my teenage son’s father–in-law.

If my son’s infatuation with his daughter (and her’s with him), survives the ravages of intimacy I will look forward to finally having a professional explanation of some of the strangest passages of my life so far.

And some of the weirdest conversations.

At the party I was able to observe some of the differences in French/English behaviour.

2.The English (me) turn up, thinking to be a bit late, at just before 8.

3.The French (them) turn up just after 11, when I was getting ready to leave.

4.The English head straight for the table with drinks and then say hello to anyone standing there, THEY kiss hello to everyone who is everywhere else in the party and THEN come to the table with the drinks and kiss ME.

5.The English arrive hungry.

6.The last French person to arrive brings the main course.

It was delicious – a huge (think of one of those cooking pots in Buster Keaton’s film the Navigator) tub of stewed something with added something else and the most incredible spicy sauce.

I had three helpings. Two of my own and one someone else couldn’t finish.

I also realised at the party that there is a very thin line separating what we might consider to be clinically insane (Guy’s work) and just insane (Guy’s party).

This insight did not arrive during yet another discussion with my son about whether his chin was too fat, his height too tall or his girlfriend too short.

It came when Guy introduced me to Frederick, another guest.

Frederick was wearing shoes that were securely attached to the top of shoe-box size air pumps, connected through a system of interlaced rubber tubes to a set of home- made plumbing-pipe organ pipes strapped to his back.

A separate plastic tube ran from his mouth to a set of air horns hanging around his neck.

This tube made it difficult for him to say Bonjour, and we were unable to shake hands as each was holding a length of bathroom pipe connected to medical fluid cleaning balls that he was operating as C-minor and B-flat.

At the time Guy introduced us he was swaying in balance on the air pump shoes – creating a hypnotic drone that alternated in pitch and resonance and was interwoven with melodic (and non) squeaks from the air horns.

So........we just kissed.

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