Sunday, July 09, 2006

Back to work... A-G-A-I-N

I started my holiday, really, in an Irish theme pub in Stansted airport. I had predictably arrived fourteen million hours too early for my early afternoon flight, and so decided to while away the time waiting for the 'Family of Death' (my brother and his wife, plus their two small and extremely boisterous children) in O'Neills. I had eschewed the other refreshment option, refusing to be associated with the juice bar on account of its name: lovejuice. Yuk.

Eventually, the FoD arrived, trailing car seats and travel cots and all the other paraphenalia of child-rearing. Their two children, Dominic (3) and Oliver (ten months) seem to have developed a finely tuned system of alternating tantrums for maximum effect. At the check-in desk it was Dominic's turn, as his clamouring for a ham sandwich was roundly ignored.

After that episode, it was with no little relief I left the FoD, who were sharing a house with my parents, at the airport to catch a lift with my sister and her fiance to our gite. Ah, tranquillity, I thought. How wonderful it'll be to wave goodbye to the kids if they get on my nerves, and come back to read in peace and quiet. Perhaps I'll take up doing watercolours.

Watercolour plans, like pride, always come before a fall. The next morning I was woken up at nine in the morning by what sounded suspiciously like a hymn. That's annoying, I thought, and rolled over and back to sleep.

Eleven AM came, and I drifted back to consciousness and the unwelcome realisation that I could still hear hymns. Jesus, I thought, I've been conscripted into some kind of cult. I went downstairs, where my sister was not, it's fair to say, in a good mood.

"Can you hear that fucking racket?" she enquired.
"It's been going on since NINE IN THE MORNING," she continued, her voice rising dangerously and nostrils flaring. "Right underneath our room. There was even.... a loudspeaker!"

I looked outside. There were... oh god... there were quite literally hordes of children playing outside. In matching tee shirts. Now, I've been involved in some pretty hairy school trips, but at least I was never made to wear a uniform tee shirt. That bespeaks a dangerous level of determination.

I hailed the nearest adult with more irritation than regard for the French language. "Pourquoi le bruit, monsieur? Nous sommes en vacances, et j'espere d'avoir le paix!" He looked unmoved, and addressed me in English, framing the worst three words the holidaymaker can hear. "I am sorry, but we are a Belgian children's choir."
Not seeing my rictus of horror, he added nonchantly,"We come here every year."

Presently my father (who it's only fair to say is not noted for his tact and diplomacy) arrived and heard our tale of woe. He went off to 'bandy words' with the group leaders, but returned only with the information that the children were giving a concert on Friday, to which we were cordially invited.
"The only way I'm going to that concert is with a shotgun," I muttered bitterly, pondering the sentence I'd receive for multiple Belgicide.

Needless to say, my creaking French was enlisted to lodge a complaint with the proprietor. Funnily enough, modern language A-level doesn't teach you the vocabulary needed for a really good rant about the unacceptability of being forced to stay in a confined space with forty singing Belgians. "Ils chantent toute la journee!" I repeated pleadingly, but there was rien a faire. "Oh well," said my sister resignedly, "at least you'll have something for your blog." I perked up immensely: my family had been actually unusually normally and I had feared the whole holiday was going to be a bit of a blog washout.

So, we put up with the Belgians by the simple expedient of not spending any time at the gite. Although my sister did lose it a bit when we returned from dinner on Thursday night, full of foie gras and a cheeky local red, to find les Belges indulging in some delightful cabaret right underneath the gite. I could just about hack the Pussycat Dolls singalong, but then I heard a brass instrument of some kind start up a recognisable tune. Then I realised: I was listening to a Belgian 11-year-old murder 'The Winner Takes It All' on the trombone. "You suck!" I yelled half-heartedly as the unfortunate child finished. My sister, somewhat the worse for wear, added simply yet deafeningly: "SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!"

You couldn't make it up. (And frankly, why would you want to?)

PS. For anyone wondering how the swimming costume went down, the answer it that it was completely overshadowed by some Speedos. Yes, French pools still have a rule which insists that gentleman not wear shorts in the pool, only, er, posing pouches. This went down like un sac de merde with my sister's fiance.


Anonymous cakes said...

Hmm. A youthful Belgian choral crowd does somewhat trump my summer break’s five roosters (I’m not that good at discerning the sex of animals full stop – especially when the dangly bits aren’t too dangly but I’m pretty sure more than one male chicken-nugget is a recipe for pecking related fratricide) and an assortment of tethered canines (one slept in a tin bucket: somewhat stark disregard for the animal’s welfare we thought, given the wilt-inducing sunshine until it dawned that the little fucker was using it as a makeshift tannoy system, in retrospect the attached microphone probably should’ve given it away). One thing about Tuscan animals – they never, ever sleep. Ever. Except possibly in the day, when the Italians themselves take over decibel-making duties, making it hard to discern marginally less comprehensible mammalian shouting (I assume barking is shouting but then I’ve never really heard dogs using their indoor voices).

7/10/2006 12:09 am  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

That is such a pisser! But I think mass Belgicide is acceptable is such circumstances; I'm sure I read it somewhere.

And what is with that French swimming-pool law? Ridiculous!

Welcome back.

7/10/2006 11:59 am  
Anonymous dk said...

Justifiable Belgicide. It's in the Geneva Convention, no?

7/10/2006 12:23 pm  
Anonymous Jean-Luc Nancy said...

Alors, je m'appelle Jean-Luc Nancy et moi je chante dans la societe chorale belge/liegeoise, et c'est mon frere, Gilles, qui jouait de la trombone hors de ta gite la semaine derniere. Abba c'est sa musique preferee. Du moins, c'etait sa musique preferee. Parce que maintenant, il a... disparu.

Malheureusement, il s'est suicide il y a cinq jours grace a la critique tres severe qu'il a recue de la part de deux anglaises. Je ne peux qu'deviner que c'est toi et sa soeur qui sont les responsables de sa mort. Je vous deteste. If, indeed, ze winner takes it all, zen you win because my bruzzer is now as dead as a doodoo.

I 'ope you feel very proud of yourself.


7/10/2006 3:07 pm  
Anonymous galatea said...

What's French for Schadenfreude?

7/10/2006 3:10 pm  
Blogger Paul B said...

You should have said that their pussy has rabies. That'd have stopped them.

7/12/2006 8:28 am  

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