La belle France December 21, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Those who work in advertising in France have made it law that a female orgasm must feature in every TV ad. Regardless of whether toothpaste, wallpaper, cat-food or something more pertinently sexy is being hard-sold, the ad must have a woman nearing ecstasy. “A-oh-a-oh-a-chet-ez ce pa-ah-oh-ah-oh-aah-pier (ah, oui, c’est tellement bien) peint.” Dunno if it works. But France seems like a happy enough place.
I once went to a wedding near Paris and travelled with a woman who happens to live a life of relative luxury in London and, while she usually seems a pretty regular type of person, apart from being minted, you are only given an insight into her ivory tower when you and she are unleashed on the French provinces together.
For France still seems to do province. More than the UK, or, rather, and this is perhaps simply a matter of space, it is still easier to find relatively cut-off province in the environs of Paris than it is near London. We heroically made our way to a station not a million miles from Paris. From there, we would have the adventure of getting on a smaller line and arriving at a village station where we would be the only people getting on or off and the poplars would look brilliant in the French summer sun and our host would pick us up in a DS (actually, I think it was a Renault 5, but still…) and we’d probably all be dressed in white linen and it would all be bucolic and perfect and French and wonderful. We wandered off to find the ticket office for the tiny trains. Explained to the bonhomme where we’d like to go only to be told that the last train had gone. It was not yet noon.
We resourcefully found a phone box. It worked only intermittently. Almost impossible to get through to a taxi rank. It was Saturday and the province had closed. We waited hours for a carriage. So long, in fact, that we’d made friends with other people at the station. My rich companion confided in me that transport and telephones, indeed, everything in France appeared not to work. This was a woman with a very different experience of London from my own.
And it’s been nice being in France, even if the mountains do make the most of my very many imperfections. Both for the day-to-day, the getting stuck at provincial, empty, deserted railway-stations, but which are still staffed and, after so long, you are bound to become friends with the SNCFer, and the passion of articulation, not just in the ads, but on TV in general, with pundits of whatever hue currently going through Sarkozy’s love-life with a fine toothcomb and then bollocking themselves for this ‘showbization de la politique’. And the hanging on, here and there, to old routines. It’s been almost a pleasure to be turned away from restaurants for wanting to eat at an irregular hour, and then to be served by a nice, inbred waitress in a homely, unfussy way on simple plates and given simple knives and forks when the time is right.
I am far from Paris, in every sense. Village life appears, just, to be surviving. The village I am in must have been tiny twenty years ago. A nice little circle of a village. The church in the middle and peeking out over the top. The remains of a castle. Some old stone houses. Insane old country dogs with one eye and three legs which chase cars. The monument in front of the mairie to those from the village who died in the two World Wars. And the odd ancient local as the surviving relics of times past. Onto the village have been added nine billion chalets and other residences. There’s a crap new restaurant or two. A smart one selling unsimple food on unsimple plates with unsimple knives and forks. The permanent population, so the story goes, is 600. It increases to 18,000 when the tourists come. And yet I’ve got a feeling this is an out-of-the-way resort as resorts go. It’s not near the railway line. And even the new bit of the town is deserted on a weekday when night falls and the skiers must put off perfection for another day.
And it’s all fantastically beautiful. The village itself is pretty enough. But, and as inimical as they are for an utterly impractical city homo, you can’t go too far wrong on the beauty stakes with mountains, forests, lakes, sunshine and snow. “Just like Komi Repaablik, Raasha,” the Russian says proudly and as a softener for if we should ever, and so perish this thought, have to move back to Russia by some extremely cruel twist of fate.
And the mountain air. It really is knocking us out. As is the vin chaud.