Provence blog

Dan Briggs continues his Provence blog about life at the French school gates

It would be hard to invent a worse possible beginning to a life in France. You will remember that I accidentally stumbled while trying to faire la bise outside the school gates and ended up with my face in the decolletage of a lovely French mother. Then a week later, after some intensive French lessons, I pronounced to the same mother that I’d crooked my neck. Such are the complexities of the French language that what she understood was I’ve done something naughty in bed to my asshole.

As a consequence my confidence has been at an all-time low. I feel that every time I walk through the village all eyes are on me. I’m convinced they think I am a weirdo. And I feel so sorry for the kids, who are still pitching out of the school in tears every night.

To make matters worse I’ve now fallen out with Cathy, my nuclear physicist wife. She’s gorgeous and intelligent and far too good for an idiot ex-journalist house dad like myself. Anyway she’s the reason we’re all here, mathematically she’s up there with the top 1%, hence the fact we keep getting parachuted into nuclear research facilities around the world. Provence was supposed to be a good gig. How wrong we were.

My row with Cathy began with a visit to the doctor. The generaliste is a lovely lady in most respects, but quite unsuited to being a doctor.  I’ve only been here a month and already I’ve discovered she has a hair trigger when it comes to illness. Both the kids have been packed off for blood, hearing and sight tests. Cathy saw her about a mole and temporarily ended up with a diagnosis of cancer.

Anyway there I was flicking through the magazines on the waiting room table. Another mother from school was sitting next to me, and this being France every other page was full of breasts. I flushed red.

I’ve convinced myself that I am on probation at the gates, that there’s a divide in the hive. Some of the mothers I am sure feel the kissing incident was an accident. Others, well, they are less sympathetic.

I flicked even quicker through the pages. What is it with the French and magazines? I quite wanted to read the article about the best chambre d’hotes but I couldn’t because the glossy double page spread was centred around a photo of a woman sunbathing topless. The more I lingered on the page the more I felt the eyes of the Mum burning into me. I am all out of credit for this type of behaviour and so I had to put the magazine down.

Silence. The clock ticked. I tried to think of something to say and rejected various openers due to grammatical and pronunciation uncertainties. There will be no ‘cou’ vs ‘cul’ repeats (asshole vs neck).

I couldn’t stand it. I picked up another magazine. More breasts, more breasts, I longed for the security of the political pages of Le Point.

At that moment the doctor arrived. And what should the political pages of Le Point hold:

A double page spread of a French actress draped over a bed, back arched, breasts pointing skywards, legs spread, as close as a respectable magazine can get to porn. The randy president has been at it again with an actress.

I’m only human, show me a photo of some breasts and I look.

Back at home I attempted to explain to Cathy the anxiety issues that have arisen since my visit to the doctors, which have nothing to do with a no doubt faulty diagnosis of liver dis-function. I expected a sympathetic ear, and reassurance.

Instead Cathy joined the tribe or is it hive of women in the village who now suspect I am a confirmed misogynist. Foolishly I argued onwards, promising that from then I would take a book with me to the doctors. I joked (something I should never do) that it will not be Manon de Source, with the pouting picture of Emmanuelle Beart on the cover.

The conversation took a turn for the worst.

‘Do you think I’m pretty?’

‘Of course’

‘As pretty as Emmanuelle Beart.’

‘Of course’

‘You don’t sound so sure….’

It was early to bed for me in the spare room, where I am still sleeping.


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