Thursday 21 February 2002
When I glanced casually at my carte grise, on getting back to France, I saw that it had been stamped with the date 9th September 2001. This was the date the poor old Citroen, battered veteran with the elliptical steering wheel that it is, should have had its "controle technique", its sort of MOT. I asked Francis about this. He was aghast..."Septembre, Marie! You absolutely must get it done immediately. They are not jokers these gendarmes you know. They have no sense of humour..." So, feeling a little worried, the dogs and I drove off down to Tessoneau's garage in Mirambeau.
A youth in red overalls (not dear Christophe) was behind the counter. He said something that must have been the french equivalent of "Lumme!" and agreed that it was a case of urgence. Then Mme Tessoneau in the office was told. She clutched the table dramatically..
"SEPTEMBRE?!! You risk danger, Madame. Do you know what the fine is if you get caught? Nine thousand..." but whether that was francs or Euros I didn't catch.
Luckily Mme Tessoneau is a good sort. She picked up the phone at once and phoned the relevant officially recognised tester. "Yes, I have the dame here in front of me...." she was saying. Had he not believed that anyone could be so irresponsible?
The date was fixed for this morning so I left the dogs looking sad in the kitchen and set off to leave the car at Tessoneaus for the day. Dear kind Dinah had agreed to make a special journey into Mirambeau to save me from having to walk the long, long winding and uphill roads back home.
On the way back we stopped at the brash new supermarket that has replaced dear old MarchéU. How could anyone get nostalgic for a tatty old supermarket? But we both agreed that we could. For my part, I will always remember it with affection for providing my introduction to Dinah on the dreadful day I lost my car key there. I'd only just arrived in France and, in a kind of nightmarish dream, I'd groped under every grimy cabinet in MarchéU trying to find it. The key turned up under Sam in the car - but not before Dinah had given me her address and shown a kind of raised-eyebrowed pity for this incompetent fellow anglaise.
After several arctic days (slept on a mattress in front of the fire last night) the sun has come out in a huge Charentaise pale blue sky. The light is so clean here. My garden has reverted in my absence to grassed-over mole hills and vine-rat tunnels. It does need a spot of cultivating certainly but the wild violets are very plentiful and show that Nature left to itself can be pretty good.
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