Friday, 22 January 2016

La vache! L'escargots du jour sont dans les grandes pantalons de ma singe!

Kate Hoey, for whom I have a great deal of time, has launched Labour’s Leave campaign in direct opposition to her party’s general desire to stay in the wretched club. Ironic, really as it was a Labour government that took power in 1974 on a promise to reverse what many regard as Ted Heath’s treachery in signing us up and thereafter held Britain’s first ever referendum. Sadly, the ‘out’ lobby was poorly organised and even more poorly funded and corrupt outfits like the CBI and various vested interests had no intention of hopping off the gravy train after just one stop. Project fear is rumbling away to this day and even though the ‘outers’ have had 40 years to mount their case, the fear factor is never far away.

Fear of what, though? As humans, fear is very much built into our survival mechanisms; it’s the default reaction for most of us to change and many people live their lives in unadventurous mediocrity, never daring to experience anything they haven’t been gently introduced to. Flying, heights, spiders... meeting strangers; all events which could potentially prove hazardous, the last one even fatal if you are somebody like Alexander Litvinenko... or you’re meeting Attila the Hun. So it was with some degree of trepidation that a young couple prepared to entertain in Paris for the very first time. He had a job in a French bank while she was studying to become an interpreter and was very keen that their French guests should feel suitably catered for.

For some reason she was suddenly fixated by snails, of all things; what could be more French than snails? So she asked her husband, who she had been somewhat tetchy with all during the preparation, to go out and find some. He was glad to be out of the apartment but a tad miffed at being sent on this errand like some naughty schoolboy. Anyway, off he went to find the ingredients for Escargots à la Bourguignonne. On the street it proved rather less straightforward then he had expected, the staff in the corner Carrefour express being the standard jejune Eurofare perpetual teenagers and disinterested in his quest. He began exploring the local épiceries and boucheries with no joy until a kindly soul directed him to the poissonnerie at the end of a long boulevard. Thirsty work, this snail-hunting.

Eventually, clasping a bag of live snails he emerged victorious, just as the sun was setting over the Seine. In the distance the majestic silhouette of La Tour Eiffel dominated the landscape, black against the deep red of the sky. He checked his watch and decided a small aperitif would be an entirely appropriate and timely reward for his endeavours and so he sought out a local café, took a seat with a view and cradled a pastis while the last of the sun’s gold dipped beneath the skyline. The thing about a sneaky Ricard anisette though, is it is hard to drink just the one; and so it was that a couple of hours passed before he realised the time. He reached for his phone but realised he’d left it at home. Merde!

Gathering up his bag of snails, by now some of them were warmed up and trying to climb out of the carrier, he staggered back to the apartment. The lifts were out, again, and he had to take the three flights of stairs before he found himself finally in front of the door. He fumbled for his keys, juggling to switch the snail bag to his other hand and being half-pissed, guilty for being late and not a little bit preoccupied with multi-tasking he managed to simultaneously clatter the key in the lock and drop the bag. Oh, bollocks... on his knees, trying to gather up the snails he suddenly became aware of the apartment door opening and his furious wife glaring at him, arms folded in contempt.

Beyond her in the dining room he could see the dinner guests already seated at the table. Think, think, think... he looked up at her, grinned, said hi, waved to the guests, then he bent down closer to the snails which were all in motion and said in, an exaggerated stage whisper, “Come on fellas, nearly there!”

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