Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ce n'est pas gravé

I am home from France. It is cold here in Ireland. I am covered in mosquito bites including one on my eyelid prompting swelling that threatened the sight in my right eye there for a while. Also threatened: my startling good looks. Do you think anyone gave a shit? Not on your life. 'Oh, look at my eye, I am like that Hey you guys dude from the Goonies! Or maybe Paris Hilton, I don't know how bad it's gonna get.' Blank stares is all I got. Not an iota of sympathy, despite the fact that I now could not attempt to seduce the pool man, generally agreed to be the most handsome man in all France and evidently the richest if he can charge that much for 15 minutes work.

I was mislead about my holiday; I thought it was your typical French getaway, occasional swims and forays into local villages the only things to punctuate long spells of sunbathing, reading and lazing in hammocks. In fact it was a working holiday, and I was regularly spun from my book-reading, hammock-snoozing daze to sweep, dust, weed the garden and skim the pool.

I need hardly tell you that I would have thought twice on going on this free holiday if I'd known there would be any work involved. My excessive sleeping habits were commented on at least twice in the last six days, my ability to eat everything around me mocked at least once. And that's not the half of it: suspicious rumblings went round like warm cake when I was found to be hiding in the pool whenever something heavy wanted lifting down stairs.

'Good God, I cannot take these constant attacks!' I screamed but no one was around to hear me because I was in a seven bedroom villa in the South-West of France. 'How am I supposed to live in these conditions?' I asked of my only true friend, but he couldn't reply as he was only an empty champagne bottle, so I tossed him into a shrub and opened another. 'What is there left to enjoy of a persecuted life?' I wept miserably to the fields of sunflowers that rolled over the horizon.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The dashboard melted but we still had the radio

My sister asks so many questions. She staggers through life in a fug, startled frequently by unfamiliar words and concepts that leap on her like beggars in the dark. A typical half hour spent in her vicinity can yield such eccentric requests for information as: 'What's 'velocity'?'; 'Who's this McCain guy?'; 'What's a 'Republican'? Do they make everyone get a gun or what?' ; 'What's this 'vulva' thing I hear so much about on the telly? Is it catching?'; 'How do you spell 'hymen'?'

On most occasions I launch into a lengthy explanation: 'Well, it's not that simple to explain. You see the vulva is...' and ten minutes later she goes 'Oh. Right. Well why didn't you just say so. You do go on a bit, don't you.' I am a futile professor with an inattentive class.

Most recently these questions have veered off into 'If you are travelling at night with a wind speed of 30 knots and air temperature is clearing 260 degrees, Kelvin, and a horse-drawn vehicle signals that you insulted a member of their family, into what lane should you change and how many millimeters should you be from the moon? And oh, wait you're in Florida. And it's a Tuesday. Answer all applicable'. The Driver Theory Test, it's gotten ridiculous. Back in my day, it was tricky enough for me to fail it first time round but that was when the hardest question was 'If a pedestrian crosses in front of your vehicle (when it is in motion) should you a) run him down or b) not.' Nowadays you have to answer loads of maths-y junk and know the correct type of lantern you should carry if escorting a party of boy scouts from the scene of an accident and how you should alert a vehicle travelling to your rear that you are a gemini. While juggling.

'Driving is not complicated', I have to point out to her as I manoeuvre gracefully round a traffic island, one hand manipulating the radio, the other hand lighting a cigarette, the other hand painting my toenails. 'It's about feeling at one with your car, knowing it's limitations, it's hopes and dreams.'
'Are you still drunk?'
'No! Well...'

'Whup! Didn't you see that speed bump?'
'It was a secret one. Those buggers will creep up on ya. First lesson: look out for pot holes.'
'Watch-! And pedestrians?!'
'Well, only at crossings. The rest of the time they're on their own. Second lesson: Keep your eyes on the footpath.'
'Don't you mean the road?'
'No! Who am I gonna see to honk at on the road? Watch out for the footpath and see if there's anyone I know walking along it and we can stop and talk to them.'
'Right. Never mind, I'll just use the book.'
'Lesson three: You don't need to go down a gear if you're going around a corner, you just to need to speed up so you don't conk the engine.'
'Shut up. Even I know that's wrong.'
'Lesson Four: When driving in high heels, one should- oh fuck, cops!'