This week’s challenge at http://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com/ is looking for humour. This is based on a true story, and I’m hoping it doesn’t fall into the “you had to be there” category. It is written with respect and affection for the participants
Shortly after arriving in France, we enjoyed that honeymoon period when everyone wants to visit – you know, before they realise how far it is to drive, just for a visit to a tiny hamlet where one of the dogs howling with frustration because he can’t pick up a hedgehog without hurting himself turns out to be the highlight of the month as far as excitement goes.
During that time, we had a visit from my wife’s parents. Both in their seventies, they had not been man and wife for many years, but always remained good friends. Father-in-law drove. They had an arrangement whereby, if one committed a navigational or other faux-pas, rather than argue, they would calm down over a Ginger Nut (a hard ginger biscuit/cookie for those not familiar with the genre). This was most effective, as it is not easy to gnaw such a challenging foodstuff with teeth that have already seen service for seven decades and probably feel that they should be presented only with less onerous duties.
They arrived at Le Havre, intending to drive the 535 km down to us. It should have taken about six hours. We added a couple of hours for stops, and expected to see them about eight hours after their call to tell us they were on French soil. A call from them about five hours later told us that they were entering Paris for the fourth time, but that they were confident that, this time, they would leave Paris facing south. They confirmed that the Ginger Nut supply situation was still within bounds. A couple of hours after that, they called to tell us they would stop for the night and sleep in the car, in one of the many aires along the autoroute. They chose a full aire (think motorway service area) rather than a simple aire de repos (think off-road picnic area with toilet facilities). This may have been a mistake, as they were awakened at about 5am by a gendarme (gen d’arme, literally man with gun – there’s a thought to carry with you) who told them in the French version of Franglais – Franglais being kind-of-French spoken badly by an English speaker, his was kind-of-English spoken badly by a French speaker – that they couldn’t sleep there, and they had to move on. Being, fundamentally, law-abiding citizens, they had another Ginger Nut each and set off again.
By a totally unplanned and unanticipated concurrence of events that serves only to reinforce that the universe has a devilish sense of humour, we were subjected the previous evening to a thunderstorm of such ferocity as to relegate the millennium celebrations to a mere firework display. It was sufficient to reduce my broadband modem to little more than a box of frazzled electronics. I left home at about 10.30am to drive the 30-odd kilometres to the nearest town, intending to buy a replacement. The possibility of being separated from the web is too painful to contemplate. On the way, as I was driving through a village only 8km from home, a small car with two older people in the front, both apparently chewing on something, came towards me. Just before we passed, I recognised my in-laws (but my, they looked tired) so I tooted and flashed. Knowing they were within fifteen minutes of arrival, I carried on to town. On arrival in town, I called my wife. Although it was a full half hour after I had seen them, they hadn’t arrived. I made my purchase and returned home, entering the house just before 1pm. Still no sign of them.
They eventually arrived at 2.30pm, having been into the nearby village and shouted their anglicised representation of the name of our hamlet (which, trust me, couldn’t have been much further from the way it is normally pronounced, if they had tried) to the great confusion of the local populace, and circling the area four or five times, passing the bottom of our road as many times – in each direction.
When they arrived, they were, if anything, more relieved than we were.
I understand that sufficient Ginger Nuts were consumed to support McVitie’s share price for some months!