I Could Not Lose


Not only was my garden recliner still soggy inside this morning (it had looked dry so I sat on it to my regret) but also a bird had left a deposit on it.  I was momentarily grateful that the cows I had seen yesterday do not fly.

Today I retraced yesterday’s steps, this time taking a side road to the left after the fork to Eymet, signposted ‘La Briaude’ . I had passed a field dotted with poppies and large daisies giving the effect of a pointillist painting.  The cattle were still lying down.  They knew what was coming.

The route to La Briaude, which itself turned out to be a small hamlet, was flanked by trees with a stream, no doubt replenished by the recent rain, flowing down one side.  After the few houses I came to a T junction and, with my not impeccable sense of direction, turned left.  In the distance, through a gap in the trees I soon saw the huge vats of Les Caves.  This gave me some relief and after a while I reached the cemetery not far from my house.  I now have a suitable circular route which I much prefer.

Just by the cemetery there is a large pond to which last spring Jackie and I had traced the source of a deafening rhythmic croaking which went on through the night.  Upon investigation we found that the water was almost completely obscured by a writhing mass of mating amphibians.

Passing Le Code Bar on my way out I had been called over by Frederick and David to be introduced to the local baker and newsagent whom I knew and a Basque man I had met a couple of evenings ago.  As always in these situations I focussed on the faces, not the names which I have consequently not retained.  No doubt I will get another chance.  Not understanding a word the Basque said took me back to the other night.  The bar had, fortunately only for 20 minutes, had a power cut and Frederick had come to my house to see if I also had one.  My electricity was uninterrupted and I suggested we contact the couple in the chateau between our two establishments.  As the entrance to that building is in the town square I took Frederick round there explaining that he would have to do the talking because I couldn’t understand a word my very friendly neighbour said.

Lunch at Le Code Bar today consisted of egg-noodle soup; melon and a really good coarse pate (the only kind I like); succulent thick lean slices of beef cooked to order with chips; and most flavoursome strawberries. I drank just one glass of red wine.  As I told him, David had been absolutely right to advise me to come at lunchtime.

This afternoon, until persuaded indoors by torrential rain, I made a start on weeding and clearing the small patio garden.  This essentially means extracting the ubiquitous ragged robin which seems to have been the major beneficiary of last year’s composting; and doing battle with ivy.  I don’t suppose the lizards were overjoyed, but they do have the place to themselves for most of the year.  I then sat down with Flaubert and dozed off, which is hardly surprising since I don’t normally do lunch, especially not such as that provided by Le Bar.  Suddenly siesta makes sense.

This evening’s viewing was of the England-France football match at the bar.  It was a 1-1 draw, so honours were even.  I am not particularly interested in football and these are now my two national teams so either way I couldn’t lose.  Had it been Rugby that would have been quite different.  The French don’t play cricket so no conflict would arise there, although I would be pretty partisan.  It was the conservative politician Norman Tebbit who had claimed that the true test of an immigrant’s loyalty was which team they supported in a sporting contest.  Don’t you believe it.  In my 19 years in Nottinghamshire I never lost my allegiance to Surrey County Cricket Club.  When my West Indian friend Frank, Rebekah and I used to go to Test Matches at Trent Bridge together, despite having spent his working life in England, if his compatriots were playing there was no doubt whose side he was on.  Nevertheless he and I both maintained a loyalty to Nottinghamshire and England if the teams lodged in our hearts were not playing.  When they reached retirement age Frank, his wife Pansy, her brother Joseph and his wife Liz all returned to Jamaica, where their roots were, despite having lived in England so long.  Fortunately Liz and Joseph left their adult children, all born in England, behind, because their son Errol remained to marry Louisa, my youngest daughter.

Arranging the seating in Le Bar, David diplomatically placed me next to Val, an Englishwoman who, like me has a holiday home in the village which she visits sometimes alone and sometimes with family.  She had not been in the bar before and, being by herself, had entered with some trepidation because she wanted to watch the football.  After the match David asked me if I wanted to eat.  I said, ‘What!  After that lunch!’.  Val went home ‘to cook [her] tea’ and I returned to Numero 6 to settle down with John Le Carre.

2 responses to “I Could Not Lose”

  1. I so enjoyed this …. my favourite line is the closer ‘Val went home to cook her tea’ sums it up. In some ways, you can take the Englishman out of England but you will never take England out of the man. For me, I support England in Cricket of course but in Rugby and Football I am France all the way. This is probably inherited. My father liked to infuriate my mother by supporting Scotland and Ireland in Rugby (in that order when they faced one another) and never England. There is always reason and sometimes it is just a little slice of wickedness 😉

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