Dan Briggs continues his Provence Blog about Life at the French school gates
Cathy is cross with me. She says I don’t live in the real world. Instead I have created a delusional version of France and the French in my head. According to Cathy it’s a France full of available women, who despite my protestations are forever coming on to me.
She says the subliminal underpinning of this blog is a repressed desire to have an affair.
She suspects that I am feeling trapped after all our time together and that being deposited – against my will – in France has triggered some sort of ‘Loaded’ inspired relapse to millennial laddism in me.
In this state of mind I might mistakenly perceive sexual undertones in every day behaviour. The school gates, stated Cathy, are not the boiling hotbed of repressed sexual energy that I have been describing, this is just a fantasy of mine, they are in fact just a set of gates, where a collection of perfectly normal parents gather.
I told Cathy she was wrong.
‘National stereotypes’ I argued ‘always have some grounding in reality. Throughout history the English have suffered from an inferiority complex about the supposed sexual prowess of their Gallic cousins.
Take Napoleon, he took a night off nooky before Waterloo – pas ce soir Josephine, and lost the battle the following day.’
‘So what’ said Cathy.
‘It shows that back then the English believed France’s Emperor was at it every night, hammering away at the bed posts. For an Englishman to have a night, month, life time without sex was normal, for a Frenchman to pause for just one night, meant something was up.’
‘Shut-up with the History’ said Cathy ‘you only got a 2:2’
I refused to end the argument. ‘We still think the French get more and better sex than us. And they do.
Just look at our PM and their President – John Major had Edwina Curry, the awe-inspiringly dull Holland by contrast poked beautiful actress Julie Gayet.’
I was building up some steam by now.
‘Plus look at the number of lingerie shops in this country. Even small villages support boutiques selling lacy little numbers. Behind closed shutters the French are at it every night.
So I finished my little speech and told Cathy that it was not me that was sexually obsessed, ‘oh contraire, it’s all the fault of the French.’
To prove me wrong Cathy made time in her schedule to come and do a school pick-up. We arrived deliberately early, and sat to one side watching the other Mothers.
‘See any lacy bra straps?’ prompted Cathy.
I shook my head.
‘Any short skirts?’
‘No just jeans’
‘Now we are going to cross over and you are going to introduce me to your ‘hot mum’ , you talk, I’ll watch’
‘I don’t think that’s a very good idea’
And so off we went, hand in hand to confront our two different versions of Frenchness. I should have known I’d be on the losing side, science always trumps the imagination in today’s world.
I gave Marie-Lou a kiss on either cheek and presented ‘Cathy’. We made small talk about how it was good to get the swimming training session out of the way early in the year, because the weather had now turned colder. Cathy and Marie-Lou started talking about how it would soon be time for the first fire.
And that was that. Not a misplaced glance, not an embarrassing pregnant pause. I managed to get through the whole conversation without blushing. The children came catapulting out the school gates. End of story.
That evening Cathy conceded that it was empirically impossible to prove whether or not the French spent more time thinking about sex than the English, but in her view and based upon her careful observations it was me who had the one track mind. I began to feel bad. All that stuff I’d written about Marie Lou and our life saving classes, pumping her breasts and all that. Perhaps Cathy was right, arriving in France has been such an emotional jolt I’ve reverted to ‘Loaded’ man.
The next day, determined to re-find my meta-modern Jamie Oliver inspired all capable persona, I decided to buy Cathy some flowers. Normally I would have bought a bouquet, but I’d just noticed that outside all the florists and garden centres, large deliveries of potted pretty multi-coloured flowers had begun to arrive. It was obviously a seasonal thing, a way to jolly up a house as winter approached. I bought a large display and left it on the dining room table to greet Cathy on her return home from work.
‘Get those things out of here’ she screeched on opening the door’
‘Darling they are to say sorry’
‘Get them out. Now.’
Later that evening Cathy explained.
Lapsed Church of England Christians like myself couldn’t be expected to understand, only hell-fire fearing Catholics like her could grasp the horror of such blooms. These flowers were coming into stock for All Saints Day on the 01 November.
And so what I’d actually bought her to apologise for my oafishness was a pot of flowers for the dead.
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