Sunday, 10 August 2014

In search of bread

We're closed!

Here in the town where I live, in Normandy - on the tenth day of the eighth month of the year - I've just enjoyed another game of spot the resident. This amusing game is a bit like spot the ball, but instead of working out where the football is located, spot the resident involves finding a resident - anyone will do - on the streets, in a bar, in a park or dead, in a gutter.

Now, you may think that there could be nothing in simpler in life, but you have clearly overlooked the fact that (a) Normandy is VERY rural and rustic and (b) we are in the month of August. Therefore, ghost towns are all you can expect to find here, in this very irritating time of the year.

It is irritating not for the French, for it is at this time of the year that the shutters go down, doors are bolted and the whole world heads south, for the annual three-week holiday. Of course, some people will stay behind, but where they stay remains to be seen - because it's getting bloody hard to spot a resident around here.

Okay, the boulangerie was open this morning, but when the shop assistant served me my baguette, she told me that the shop would now be closed for three weeks. I took my bread and smiled. Happy Holidays! On driving back to my house I passed two youths and a stray dog. All of the bars and hotels seemed to be empty and the high street - a tragedy at the best of times - was dead.

In the week, you will of course spot more people than at the weekend, but these bodies seem to be just passing through, like interlopers, in search of something better than this.

But ghost towns in August can have certain advantages. The supermarkets - which certainly don't close for three weeks - are virtually empty. Oh what joy it is to do one's shopping at this time of the year. The aisles are free of old people and children - all of whom are somewhere else - but where, I cannot say.

But where am I heading with all of this?

Well, as France slides gently towards third-world nation status, no-one around here seems to care. Just don't ask me to work more than thirty-five hours a week, give me five weeks holiday a year and don't think that my high street will take on an English accent, and actually bulge at the seams, even in the month of August.

The English complain about shops being open on Sunday, but to those people I say one thing: come over here, right now, and you'll soon see things differently. Long live England's out-of-town shopping centres and long live Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys, for on a Sunday, in the hour of need, one of these three beasts will be open to sell us bread, cheese and wine.

I'm now off to play another game - an amusing variation of spot the resident, which is called spot the English tourist wandering around in circles looking for a shop which sells bread, cheese and wine.

Tune in next week for a list of last-minute holiday destinations in England, for the mentally insane.

Until then, Happy Holidays!

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