New year, new year’s resolution: drink more beer. Less of the namby pamby, tea and coffee madness, more good old fashioned lightly chilled exquisite and invigorating beer.
A year or two back, one icy January morning I vowed to give up alcohol completely. I am now sure this must be the origin of the French expression: Un quart d’heure difficile. This year it is going to be different, Mr Apollo himself could not even hope to bend my iron will, nor ever again restrain me from peering over walls.
Plato the Greek may have said “It was a wise man who invented beer.” But It is unlikely. Sounds a lot more like Homer Simpson really. A smart invention though, it has to be said, also a great leveller. Even the stinkiest, richest bastard can only drink thirty or so pints of the stuff a day, so despite his wealth, he really is no better off than me, which would be pretty difficult anyway, given the extent of my own personal beer allowance.
Regrettably, In my sober matinée hours, I myself am not a wise man, I have actually no idea where I should go to buy beer, or anything else for that matter; food and drink in my shop-less haven of a village are at worst served by my daughter, at best in the Bar de la Mairie, but Ludo and Magnetto are closed for their annual holiday. A busman’s holiday I’ll be bound.
Fortunately I do have a couple of very sharp witted friends who pop into my head from time to time. Little BSD, the Beer Swilling Devil would be a good chap to ask, faithful server and a cute little bugger in those horrid green sneakers, thoroughly reliable and comes with coherent documentation too.
“Go to Lidl my friend, there you will find a splendid range of quality lagers, continental pilseners and much other beery goodness, all at very reasonable prices. Go, go now and bring me back a case of whatever is on special…”
Screams the shiny smug unstable penguin that has installed itself uncomfortably on my laptop,
“Lidl? For a start you’ll have to rebrand it to avoid copyright issues. Dillmart in all its configurations Rodney is the axis of evil! One of the worst rated employers in Europe, robbers they are, cheap chandlers and manipulative bar stewards. Don’t go. Go instead to your nearest wine cooperative, support local business and agriculture, buy some cheap wine and feel better about yourself.”
“Thanks Tux but today, beer is what I need. Dillmart it is.”
“Ok mate, but steer clear of the Fink Brau, shame in a bottle…”
Hypocritical little git. I really should have stuck with trusty old XP.
I would never have thought that a town as well-heeled and golden slippered as Sainte Maxime would accept to host one of these unmentionable establishments, but it does, wait a second, there’s one in Cogolin too, that’s a bit closer, what an app! These places are everywhere. So off I go, beer bound, over the hills and not so far away. Well I found the place all right, that was the easy part. I climbed out of Collobrieres and dropped down towards Grimaud and there it was, the filthy great sign in the sky, LIDL! There I found hordes of curious looking people milling around in the car park from hell, pushing and pulling on pram like things with tiny, tiny wheels, some piled high with groceries, some completely empty. I found this perturbing, a bit bizarre in fact, why do people dress that way? I hung around anyway to study them, look for a pattern, some logic, and then finally I worked it out. They go in one door with an empty barrow, then appear a bit later through an adjacent one with the darned thing full, looked like a lot of fun.
I spotted a makeshift shelter with lots of these wheelie things all crushed together, so I wander over to get one for myself. Judas Priest! They’re all chained up, what the diable? I stood there despondent, scratching my head and feeling perplexed, when out of nowhere a lady with soft, dove-grey eyes like funeral tapers took pity on me and firmly pressed a Euro coin in my hand saying ,
“Allez mon vieux, payez-vous quelques canettes avec ca!”
How on earth had she got wind of my mission?
Soon I was deep in the soup with my very own professional perambulator; slip the coin in the slot and voila! How can they sell them so cheaply? I tried to focus, I was looking for beer, the place was busy, full of biffos, hard to navigate. These trolley things may be dirt cheap but that’s no reason to abandon them, half full in the middle of the aisles. I seemed to be going round in circles, up and down, round and round, looking here, looking there, searchin’ everywhere and then I was struck by a moment of pure intoxication and blindfold revelation, after all these years of wondering, at last. This was a supermarket and I was all lost in it. Why had the song made no sense to me before?
I found the beer in the end and really, I could not believe my eyes as they darted between big cans of Larsullrichbrau and huge bottles of Rammestein before settling contentedly on a stack of genuine English Old Scrotum Ale. Two for the price of one no less. Free beer! Just wait till I get to tell the sanctimonious little penguin about this…I duly began to load my wheeliebarrow with just as many bottles that would fit without breakage, I got to 359 and had to stop, I could always come back the next day…
I teetered off delighted towards the out door. Of course I had every intention of paying for them, how dare any of you think otherwise? I just wasn’t quite sure of the procedure, as I’ve said before, my unwisdom in these matters are pearls. Then I spotted the queuing ahead of me, barring the way to the exit. So this is how it’s done. Ha! Ha! The goods you have selected pass grudgingly along a sort of conveyor belt until they are picked up by a blue-uniformed inmate who presents them to a primitive scanning device which then emits a high-frequency and annoying error message bleep bleep. I could hardly wait for my turn.
When I did finally get on more intimate terms with Amandine, the angel in blue, she gave me what is possibly the dirtiest look I have ever encountered and said in a dreary French monotone:
“please have the goodness to place all the items in your ‘caddy’ on the belt.”
I said pleasantly, wishing I had a lapel badge too, I am Rodney, how may I help you? But handing her a selection of credit cards I said:
“you count. There are 359 of them, word of a gent.”
She repeated her demand as if it were a recording but added nastily,
“I have to check that you are not trying to nick something.”
Nick something! How can someone called Amandine be such a hard faced bitch? I tried again to reason with her and softly recited the touching lyrics from my new favourite song, looking for sympathy.
“There was a wall back in the suburbs, over which I never could see.”
She was unmoved, intransigent and horribly dumb.
“Please have the goodness to place all the items in your ‘caddy’ on the belt or I will be obliged to call the overseer.”
I remained calm and withdrawn, explaining that the green thing in my hand was an American Express card and that she was supposed to say “Tres tres bien Monsieur.”
In response to my perceived retardation, she grabbed a handy microphone and before I knew it she was braying,
“Monsieur Warwick Hunt is required at check-out three, Monsieur Warwick Hunt!”
Within seconds a mean looking fat guy in over tight green pants and a crumpled white shirt was greasing himself through the crowds in my direction. For a moment I was convinced it was Peter Griffin, puffing and panting as he approached. Imagine my surprise and discomfort when I realised it wasn’t Griffin at all, it was Bono! It was, it was really him, slightly plumper than I remembered, but definitely Bono, not a word of a lie. When he saw me his face lit up with a professional smile.
“Quel honneur! Monsieur X”, he proceeds in his inimitable where the fuck do I come from brogue.
“I find you here in our own humble, err,” looking aflake at my pickings…..Beer Depot? The beers are on me!” He bellowed with evident pleasure, for all the world as if he were the Milky Bar Kid.
After all these years in hiding, all these years of unspecified gallivanting, there had finally been a sighting; Bono positioned me in a Lidl! Can you believe that!? Like a captive bound in leather thongs, I shall mingle no more.
I was off, as fast as my portly legs and the encumbered caddy would allow me, resolving to start growing a long shaggy beard the moment I got home. Just as the mechanical doors slipped open, I turned to take one last look. Bono, smirking stupidly, thoughtlessly, one hand upheld his beardless chin, said boldly,
“I see you have the same problem with your trousers as I do.”
This I took to mean, I won’t tell on you if you keep closemouthed about me.”