33. Floofy the Koala, a Wooly Mammoth and a Chat to God.

The good wife’s last day at school in Sancerre France. 

Off she trots to school on her last day. Skipping gaily up the hill. Books and play lunch in her satchel. Apple for Marionette her head teacher. Hope and cheery love in her heart. I’m off saying ta ta to the tenuous friends I have made in Sancerre over three weeks. We leave Sancerre and France on the morrow. At the crack. My ‘friends’, well nodding acquaintances, all placed here in Sancerre by Aliens as they are a tad eccentric. I seem to attract that type.

Romaine the Waiter at Cafe des Arts a thin wiry youngish man, number two haircut, a sparkling effervescent smile and manner, runs rather than jogs from the cafe to the outside tables balancing a tray of bottles, glasses, food, money and humour. He has time, a bonjour and a smile for all. Blessed with a mind to remember finicky multiple orders. I presented him with a tiny made in China Koala Bear named Floofy. The Order of the Koala Bear a rarely imposed honour. He carried Floofy about on his tray showing Floofy his new country and living quarters with nary a Eucalyptus tree in sight. Then there’s Grinning Man. Tall ageing, well built, shabbily attired, going to seed, few teeth, permanent five o’clock shadow, a wide toothy grin for all, smoking smelly ciggies as he sits pensively on a wall trading grins. Cat Man walks about with his Pussy on a leash and stops whilst Pussy exchanges sniffs and meow’s with other cats and snarls with dogs. Pussy’s owner is popular, a dapper well dressed man, thin combed grey hair, a pleasant soft manner and he seems to know everybody in Sancerre as does his Pussy. Book Man is not only eccentric but odd as well. His long hair combed down each side over his ears to his shoulders, thin, worried look, walks with head partly down looks neither left nor right, east nor west. He seems always to be on a mission with books or magazines under his arm. He has a habit of charging to the head of the ‘line’ whether that be in the Boucherie, Boulangerie, the Poste, Cafe, wherever. Momentarily, people get offended but seeing who he is, let it go. And Singing Man, tall mid thirtyish, spiky haired, a notch above eccentric. He spends the day roaming about the village singing grabs from Opera’s, or so I’m told as we never had Opera’s in our lives. We had a few Begorra’s when Dad came home with his mates all partly full of wobbla. He, Singing Man, does his arias with a bit of class throwing his arms wide as he stretches his voice into an Aria with an imaginary Maria Callas in his arms. Then there’s me.

And then there’s my schoolgirls ‘girlfriends’. Hence mine, though they no doubt wonder what a lovely lady like Sue is doing with a Wooly Mammoth named Des. Aussies, Canadians, Alaskans, Yanks, New Zealanders, South African all middle aged to aged women. I wonder why no men want to learn to speak Froggy. I don’t. I have enough difficulty with Ozzy speak. Some attend for a week, some two, some three, some one on one with a ‘teacher’, others like the companionship of a class. As does my Susie.

At the end of Sue’s class on the Friday at 1pm, the very last one, finito Madame, there’s no graduation ceremony, no mortar boards flung high, no confetti, no drinking champers from bottles after spraying the head mistress then tying her up as an offering to any lonely Huguenots. Its, ta ta Sue, thanks for coming. Au revoir Madame. 

We have lunch in our Garrett. Canned sardines with tomato on Baguette toast. Luxury. My bride found it a well spent three weeks. But she struggled with Grammar. When I was a young person, school age, I never learnt Grammar. Did not know it existed as a subject. Grammar? That was mums mum who smelt of moth balls. We sometimes visited Mothball Grammar once a month if Mum could get the car. Less frequently as Dad usually left the keys and the crank handle in the Plymouth parked outside the Inglewood Hotel. Now be fair sonny boy, your Dad was on business. ‘Yes Mum, monkey business’.

At Cosne France an austere train station. Chilly as well at 0645 am.

Saturday morn early, its chilly, pitch black. We are standing outside Sancerre’s Coeur de France Language school at six am. Taxi to Cosne 12 k’s away. Train due at 0703. We huddle there in the chill at 0630. The stationmaster, a youngish tired looking, bedraggled man arrives at 0640. Into an office. Kettle on. Mama Cass his assistant arrives 5 minutes later. Lights go on, action, camera. Train arrives on time and we lift our heavy bags up 75 cms through a narrow train carriage door. Like we are weightlifters in the Olympics ‘Snatch and Pull’ division. Grr grr. Its a classless train and we sit opposite Large Lady and Thin Lady. Large Lady chews her way through two croissants and a bun with blackheads. We all grin and tolerate each other on the near two hour journey to Paris. Another taxi from train station Paris Bercy to train station Paris Gare du Nord. Long journey in traffic albeit a Saturday. We get ready to board the Eurostar choo choo from Paris to London. Yay. Security check is thorough. Passports, bags, backpacks, suitcases, bodies.

On board the Eurostar Chunnel train, sitting in our personal seats facing each other, its all very posh. I’m not used to posh having only experienced it three or four times in my 75 years. Never in my first 40. I’m not comfortable with posh. Small doses OK so long as I know theres an end to it and I can revert back to being a Wooly Mammoth. I wonder what they will call the train when the UK and Europe get divorced.

Susan relaxing on the Chunnel Train with the deleterious matter of a Posh train ride.

Just over there are two ageing Yanks. He’s Chip and she’s Splinter and its obvious that Splinter holds the key to the Chainsaw Cupboard. Poor Chip looks worn out as Splinter rattles on in Yank speak Chip nodding his wrinkly face. He sparks up when our all inclusive lunch of cold chicken and/or cold salmon arrives with wine and/or beer. This causes Splinter to fill her mouth with food so she cannot issue instructions. The Bride has a white and I two cans of Heineken 250ml cans. I’m thirsty after the Olympics ‘Snatch and Pull’. The train speeds up to 334.7 kph or so our overhead screen says. Cripes, I start wondering about the ball bearings in the train wheels. Were they greased at last service by Gaspard and Marcel. Did they drop ash from their Gitane’s onto the bearings?.

Its a two hour fifteen minute journey. Paris to London. Chip and Splinter doze off, heads slumped. The Chunnel itself is 50.45 k’s long from Coquelles near Calais France to Folkestone UK. On the French side, the tunnel starts 3.3 km’s from the sea. On the UK side, it extends 9.3 km’s from the sea. There’s three tunnels, the smaller centre one the ‘service tunnel’. At its deepest point, the tunnels are 75 metres below the sea bed. Amazing. And in bygone days, years, centuries, all those Roman Galleons, Viking Longships, Barques, Cutters, Warships all powered by wind, sometimes oars, floating by above in choppy seas and here we are with Chip and Splinter, down in the English Channels subterranean dirt choofing along in Luxury at 160kph for that’s the maximum speed allowed in the actually tunnel bit of the trip.

Eurostar arrives into London’s Saint Pancras Station but we need London’s Victoria Station to continue our journey. Another taxi as its just too bloody hard to descend with heavy suitcases into the bowels and sewers of London to get the tube. There’s no escalators or lifts to some of them. Cripes sonny boy, all that spinach and giblets I fed you and you can’t lift suitcases. 

Another hour and a bit, we arrive at Maidstone East train station in the Borough of Kent. A six minute walk to our pre-booked accommodation at Innkeepers Lodge Maidstone. Approaching the Inn, I got this sinking feeling. Is this another of those Hotels photo shopped by Mgumbu and his Uncle Botswana in Nigeria. Well partly, as we find there are no lifts and we are assigned a room on the third floor of an old timber framed building. Built in 1797 to house Officers of the 7th Light Dragoons from Invicta Barracks which was just over there. Apparently still is. Only 12 rooms and we are up in the Crows Nest where the least popular Officer, Percy, was ensconced. The cheery staff carry our bags up. Thank you. I inspect the room, several flights of stairs to negotiate. Where’s the fire escape. Grr grr. The Wooly Mammoth goes back down to chat to Linda the manager. No prob sir, as you say your wife has a ‘dicky knee’ and you are obviously a Girlyman afraid of heights and getting burned at the stake. Right on the Ball the Wooly Mammoth agrees. We are re-located to the first floor. A big main room, with an ante room where one’s Batman kept the sherry, cigars, brasso tins, swords, boot polish and a stiff upper lip.  This is more like it. No doubt Kitcheners Great Grandfather Hubert stayed in this very room. Although later that night, we discovered that our U Bewt room was directly over the Hotels famous ‘Miller & Carter’ Steakhouse. Pommy speak Cowboys and Cowgirls were having a hoedown just below us which judging by the noise, included lassoing the cows and/or stray girls, slaughtering them, then delivering the off cuts to the chuck wagon. John Wayne had a starring role leading the 7th Light Dragoons in Boot Scooting Classes until 2am. I slept with deaf ear up. The Bride, poor Sue, slept not so well. Then again, her dicky knee was OK.

We had spent the day getting into a taxi. Out of a taxi. Onto a train. Off a train. Into a taxi. Out of a taxi. Into a train. Off of a train. Into a taxi. Out of a taxi. Onto a train. Off a train. Then finally a walkies to where the 7th Light Dragoons used to live. It was a tough day. ‘And don’t forget God, we lugged two heavy suitcases, two backpacks, Sues handbag and my secret manbag. What did I do wrong in life God’.

Dear Wooly Mammoth. This is God. You have been naughty at times and there’s a price to pay for that. I’ll have a word to the Devil to see if we can agree as to how long you have to spend in Hell with your head in a bucket of hot number two’s. He he he. Sorry Wooly Mammoth. God rarely gets a laugh these days. On the good side, you will be next to your Dad, Uncles and brother Daven. There seems to be a long ancestral streak of ‘naughtiness’ running thru your family. Oh, I just love the diversity Archangel Gabriel inserted into some earthlings DNA. Laugh, Gab and I rarely get chuckles these days with all the mess you lot have made of that once upon a time cute Blue Planet. ‘Sorry God. So, all those Plenary Indulgences I saved up and all those Cathedrals and Churches I’ve been in don’t help’. No my Son. That’s all a fairytale to keep you lot in line. Ho ho ho. Cripes, where is that Gabriel when I want to share a giggle. Always nicking off to check on the Vestal Virgins. ‘OK God, thanks for the chat. But before you go, um, any chance of getting the winning Lotto numbers for this weekend?’

Ooroo from Des 😇 and Sue  😘.

PS The usual blog channel will be back on line, with photographs, next missive. Where we are staying has a wi-fi signal only when the 7th Light Dragoons are in residence.