Monday 27 June 2011

The Other Side of le Coin

You always know the houses of the English, even if they transmit that practised French aura of noble dilapidation. The give away is the shutters. On hot or cold days the English open their shutters. If you have motored around France you will be sure to have rolled through many closed up villages with no one in sight. The English house is the one with music coming out of opened shutters. Often there will be a large imposing 4X4 and a balding man wearing boy scout shorts, a stomach overbite T shirt and sandals with socks. In the heat of the day Les Français will be lunching quietly in a crepuscular cool. Only the English mad dogs will be visible. The French mad dogs need a siesta.

There is an expression in France. It is "du coin". Literally this means "from the corner" and translates as "local". At a social gathering I'm given to asking folk if they are "du coin". I do this for two reasons 1) It's easy and 2) I think it makes me sound cool and kinda savoir faire française.  However, the answers are sometimes unexpected. "Are you from round here?" Long pause with an expression of horror. "Non! not at all - I am from the next village - nearly 2 kilometres away!" Well, that told me didn't it. At a party I asked a lady if she was from the corner. "Non - absolument pas! I am from the North - La Rochelle." Must have been at least 50 kilometres. I just tell people I'm from London. It is another coin of the universe.

We do not have piped gas. This has created a massive bottled gas industry. Caravan types will know all about this. In St Savinien I get my gas from the Intermarché. The vendor is the same guy who operates the petrol pump forecourt. He is a man of absolute sang froid, calm and helpfulness. If ever I am on a plane where the pilots have died and a calm passenger is needed to take over, he will be the man.  He is a Gallic shrug on legs. I admire him tremendously. He is a Buddha of Butane, a Priest of Propane. Intermarché fuel is popular and there is often a queue at the pumps. Once you have mortgaged the house and sold one of the children you can fill up and drive to the payment hut. At the same time a customer arrives wanting a new gas bottle or to exchange his empty one. My hero nods in accord, locks the hut and proceeds to the display of gas cylinders. Drivers wait. No question is too difficult and no answer is too long. One may discuss gas regulators and rubber tubing, the various current offers and the pros and cons of the entire gas business. Now, this is not the road raged streets of London. Petrol pumping ceases without anger (I think England is a very angry place these days) and Madame gets herself re-gassed. He goes back to the hut, smiles a little and the great hydrocarbon wheel rolls on towards extinction.

Emma thinx: Don't wait to live. Live while you're waiting.

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Thanks so much for stopping by. Always so happy to get your feedback. Emma x