April, really can be the cruellest of months. When you’re lost in the rain in this hole and its Eastertime too, the one thing thing you really do not need is a visit from long lost and totally forgotten people who sincerely believe they played a major part in one of your previous lives. Every year about this time come the telephone calls, no not the polite over the pond type that ask sheepishly “if it would be all right?” or “not wanting to put on you Rod, baa, baa..”No, these are cellphones and they are on you doorstep and, excuse the bad English, in your face.
Here was the leading lady, Phyllis MacFarlane “How absolutely farcically adorable to see you too!” Words would actually fail if were asked to relate the ten days or so I recently spent trying to avoid this year’s fearless batch of cut price spring breakers at my expense. Fortunately for you, Phyllis and the truly dreadful Teddy left an indelible reminder of their misadventures on a Curry County message board and I give it to you freely and in full…
“We arrived in the quite lovely and picturesque village of Collobrieres rather early this morning and found the little house that our dear friend Rodney had recommended quite easily, despite the jet-lag. We had seen the website and had been more than a little intrigued by the description of the property: Constructed in the trapeze fashion with an expanded backside! Expanded backside my eye, and here we are. Towards sundown after intermittent napping, what is it about roaring power tools, barking dogs and heavy hammers around here? Ted suggested that since Rod was typically indisposed, we should go out for dinner and see a movie. More like let’s download a movie before popping out for a bite to eat. The wifi connection seemed to have plenty of bandwidth so he had his laptop hooked up and was already perusing The Pirate Bay top 100.
This is not our first trip to France so we were prepared to do a bit of shopping around before finding a suitable restaurant, you see poor Ted is a vegetarian and doesn’t care much for Phish. He also stated more than once in his autobiography – Ted the Dead-Head – that he did not expect to share the same plate with an omelette again as long as he lived. Here though we anticipated no difficulty in finding some of that fabulous Mediterranean food, the stuff that diets are made of; marinated goat’s cheese and real sun ripened tomatoes, ratatouille, even a more exotic fruity tajine would do just fine. This was also the season for wild mushrooms, gorgeous juicy figs and of course roast chestnuts.
As for the movie, he had settled on “Beyond The Valley of the Dolls”, for some strange reason, But it was coming down nicely anyway. We felt all cosy and safe from the ire of the copyright holders. Tucked away here in deepest Provence, the only time you might get into a bit of a fluster is if you were dopey enough to telecharge Johnny Halliday or his kidney.No, ilk. Rodney had told us, among other more curious things that there were ‘shed loads’ of eating places in this tiny town and we had already checked out collobrieres-tourism.com. No less than eleven, with all but two in very easy walking distance, so with mouths already watering off we set.
We began down by the little river at the Hotel des Maures, Borellos! Not much information on the site and their link was broken, but “Cuisine Provencal” was a good enough start. I was drawn in by the Tarte Maison, forty thousand headmen could not have restrained Ted, but in the end anchovies, piggies and moo-cows were more persuasive. I found out much later that an omelette aux champignons had always been a more less compulsory appetizer at this establishment and not only were the mushrooms of the canned variety but the eggs were supplied very cheaply by a man called Didier, who Rod does not seem to care very much for. Is Didier really a name anyway?
It was with some trepidation that we ventured into the the Bar de la Mairie. Bar, restaurant, tobacconist and reputedly a house of ill repute, although Rodney had mentioned that King Ludo was not as bad as his choice of shirts and baseball caps would lead you to believe and his paladin Magnetto was a charm boat.
After ten minutes or so of being unceremoniously ignored we were told that the restaurant was only open at lunchtime, so we hopped across the street to the rather posh looking “Un Air de Rien.” Just a tapas bar though really, spicy sausages and tortillas, omelettes by any other name, I wouldn’t get away with that. No Way. We did pop in for a drink or two though. Julian the owner is such a sweetie, sooh! attentive, I really think he should rename it The Dewdrop Inn, or better, The Dude Drop In, that would be really sweet.
Not unduly discouraged, in fact buoyed a little by Lucien’s lovely wine we strolled the fifty or so yards to the Farigoulette, which looked absolutely stunning, almost completely smothered in a glorious Virginia creeper and several beautifully hand-written chalk menu boards. Now this was more like it. Not so much for the herbivore however, unless Ted was to stick to the puddings. The chef, Franck did kindly propose some Hot Tuna, why do people always think vegetarians eat fish? His wife Karine was a doll and would not hear of us leaving without an aperitif as it was still quite early. She produced a half emptied bottle of Guignorix, a power packed cherry liqueur, from her husband’s secret cubbyhole in the kitchen and would not let us go until the bottle was finished. Before leaving I asked Corinne what the word farigoulette actually meant, but she had no idea,
“We’re not from round here” she explained,
“we just pay the rent, I think it’s just the name of the shop”. Francis was looking decidedly peeved.
A little later we found ourselves standing forlornly outside La Petite Fontaine, where, we had been assured by Francois that we would find our bonheur. Cuisine provençale again, but this time recommended by nombreux guides, including Gault & Millau and Gantié no less. Their specialities were onion tart, local goatee cheese and red peppers marinated in olive oil and farigoulette, the local name for thyme. Eureka! It was closed, which is probably a good thing because looking around we find that they don’t do major credit cards and I doubt they give receipts, but I’m sure it’s all quite legitimate.
The immediately adjacent and gaudily decorated Terrasse Provençal was packed to bursting, taking shameless advantage of their neighbor’s annual vacation to feed what sounded like, well I may be from New Mexico but I know something about eating meat and thumping tables. I’m not sure why, but I also know what a Welsh rugby team sounds like; fleisch, fleisch, fliesch! Osso Bucco!
So wearily onward, a little further up the street we found the recently opened “Gourmandy’z”, their link was also a 404, so all we had to go on was an interesting variation of the cuisine thing, this time it was traditionelle. They should really have called it Wackjob’z, the menu being an arbitrary mix of international fare; baked Camembert with a banana sauce for example does, I suppose, warrant a great big V sign but vegetarians are notoriously unadventurous – isn’t that so Ted? Even I would have to pass on the tonno bonno with chorizo. It did have thankfully, a traditional Spanish tapas bar attached as well. Two of those in one small French village, odderer and odderer, still, may as well have a few more drinks.
It was now fully nine ‘o clock and staggering slightly, hopefully homeward bound, we stumbled upon another little place.Trying to decipher the menu in the failing light and arguing briefly about what day it was, for here they had a completely different menu for every day of the week, but closed on Wednesdays and weekends. We at last settled for the beetroot vinaigrette, aioli with its springlike vegetables, a Proustian cake and ice-cream, yum. We had found the menu but there didn’t seem to be any kind of restaurant, how could this be? We tried a few doors and looked in a few alleyways, nothing, until a woman tugging a rather smelly cocker spaniel by a long piece of string came to our assistance. She turned out to be British and Gordon Bennet! How do those people do it? She didn’t even bat one of her snooty eyelids when she told us it was the elementary school cafeteria and judging by our condition we wouldn’t like it anyway because they are rumoured to water down the wine for the 3-11 year-olds. She did though point us in the right direction home – even accompanied us for some of the way – until we made our excuses and hurried on. That dog really did stink.
I recalled in my tipsiness having seen a pizza to go flyer somewhere in the house and agreed to call the order while Ted checked on the download. The phone was ringing and I was wondering just how this man Goertz could possibly make pizzas in a wood-burning oven in his little van on the gas station forecourt! It took the best part of thirty years of marriage for me to realize that I didnt understand my husband, but we had been watching this film for a mere twelve minutes and thirty-eight seconds before I noticed that it was in Spanish and I understood even less. So far then its no dinner and not really a movie for me and the phone was still ringing…..”Allo Pizza!” At last. “Hi! Deux calzone mit extra formaggio, keine fliesch und molto capers por favor.” How well do I speak French after a few Drinks?
Goertz was all apologies, really polite, but why did I not know that it was Wednesday and that French people do not work on this day? Children do not even go to school! He had worked also both the public holidays in July and August last year and must now take the month of April to rest. Ordering a pizza at half past nine on such a night should be punishable by law, “Even dough boys have rights don’t you know”? Well if he doesn’t sell pizzas and he patently does not, if he is mild-mannered and quite incoherent on the telephone, this surely begs the question, what exactly does he cook in there? Shake and bake? Just over twelve hours in this odd little burg nor any bite to eat, though rummaging about in the larder I have just found a pack or two of Jiminy Cricket Brand super yum-yum chicken flavored instant noodles, Ted’s favourite. Also a bottle of schnapps just for me.
More posts in a day or two.
There were indeed more posts, try this one, crazy-assed hoe, for sure for sure…..
Ted and Rodney have now been locked in a basement for a little over 36 hours now, trying to tweak a dual boot of Slackware 3.1 and Minix. The only lilo configuration that interests me however is the inflatable kind, on the beach. We have even been blessed with the most extraordinary fine weather due to a massive anti-cyclone over western Europe which much to Rodney’s ravishment stops dead at the Belgian border. I am making the daily hazardous trip on an ancient borrowed mobylette from Collobrieres to Le Lavandou to bronze my glorious butt on a broad fat and virtually empty sandy beach and return with an oversized gallon jar of equally fabulous rose wine, served petrol pump style from a brilliant vineyard that I pass on the way.
This is paradise, the gadda da vida. I had grave doubts about the emblazoned scrawl on the back of my borrowed leather motorcycle jacket: TIBSA “The Idiot Bastard Sons of Anarchy”. This is some club that Rod has recently formed, a kind of existentialist stroke nihilist association of middle-aged and world weary gentlemen who have tried, but no longer give a hooey about anything in particular, he told me quite seriously, that “space, time and motion were mere suppositions and life itself was but an allucination”. He and his funny friend Steve seem more like naughty little boys seeing what they can get away with. Sounds like fun, sure, but he’s not getting any younger and he’s trapped underground with my husband. We love Rupert, always have, but the low spark of these moped boys? Men in suits can buy proper cars you know Rod.
Anyway, enough of that. Good morning, I’d care to purchase a chicken please. We have settled right down to the kind of a bread cheesy and wine routine that would make the folks back home in Curry County chunder. What is it now, you great pillock? Ten pints of sun warmed rose a night for three, cheese that smells like Hank Baskett’s armpits and bread that you can actually break. We’re good, me Teddy and Rod, very good. Ah, certainly sir, some stuffing? Awesome actually. Back and forth, back and forth, five liters a day the well balanced way. Unsustainable is not one of my favorite words, but the boys are right, bright pink and perpetually sozzled is not the place for me to be right now.
Ted has got his laptop sorted out; all this way for a dual boot? What’s wrong with the friendly old IRC channel? Use your own, you great poofy poonagger. Rodney, ever the diploma, cut at last to the cheese:”F@#K! off back to Clovis and leave me alone.” For he has great work still to accomplish, here in Collobrières. Tough titties if he didn’t, you nasty spotted prancer.
For the record, there are one or two things that I feel I must comment on: firstly, that figs, chestnuts and wild mushrooms are neither in season nor available here in April. Secondly that during their brief and unwelcome visit, we saw no signs of temperate sunshine, it rained the whole time in fact. Oh yes, I did not see Ted more than once, in passing and of course I believe he was running Slackware Current, single boot. What the hell is Minnix?