I was rushing yesterday afternoon as Mark needed the car for a gig so I drove up to the back of our town to where the dogs can run about in the vines.
I was surprised to see, in my rear view mirror, a blue car with a flashing light. Shit - police . . . what have I done - (sharp intake of breath on remembering the state of our front tyres). They waved me over and I stopped, desperately hoping that no one had removed the vital 'Carte gris' from the glovebox.
For a small French town, (and actually, out of the town up a small road where I'm sure no drug trading happens) they were surprisingly well-armed: large black, what looked like machine guns, not to mention batons, and small steel canisters, (tea?)
"Bonjour, Madame - do you know why we have stopped you?"
"Er . . . non, pas du tout - filthy car?"
"You did in fact not stop at the stop sign."
But I did . . . "That's very odd, officer as I always stop at that sign, it being very difficult to see down the hill, and that someone might be driving up . . .
"You did not so much as turn your head."
I did, and I have these special eyes that can swivel left and right - perhaps yours do not do this.
"Well" . . .
We will have to fine you."
Merde alors - "How much"?
The scary older one who looked a bit like the policeman in Terminator, walked back to the car while the very young one who was fiddling nervously with his gun, answered my question.
"It will be either eighty-five euros and three points on your licence or thirty-five."
"Can I have the latter, then."
He shrugged and gestured to the car full of steaming, bored dogs.
"These are très jolie, quel race de chien?"
We talked about Spanish hunting dogs, dogs with three legs (after he noticed the runty one)
"Mais . . . il n'a que trois pattes!"
"Yes, he lost one in a police confrontation."(Not really).
The terminator gendarme re-appeared and informed me that I was to have a telling off and the smaller fine.
"I will not give you the ignoring-a-stop-sign fine, but the one for ignoring signalisation - thirty-five euros."
I was puzzled by this - if he meant indication then nearly all French drivers would be receiving thirty-five euro fines about every ten minutes as signalling is an extremely rare event.
"Er . . . merci, monsieur - c'est bien gentil."
They got back into their car and I got into mine sighing deeply, but with some relief as they hadn't noticed the tyres.
I drove to the usual spot, walked the dogs, got them back in, panicking a tad as I was late for Mark, and . . . reversed into a ditch - revved a lot and managed to dig the car in deeper until I was sitting at an angle that made it difficult to open the door.
A man appeared, sucked in his teeth a lot and walked off. I called the 'assistance' and listened to Vivaldi while most of the psychiatric day centre patients came out from the building opposite and suggested interesting things I might do to move the car.
I got through to 'grunt' (assistance) and described where I was, although I couldn't remember the word for ditch, so I said hole. He informed me that if I was in or on gravel rather than the road I would not be covered.
While I was wondering how to respond a man appeared in a beaten Visa van.
He leapt out grinning and said it would be no problem to haul the car out. After hacking back about a foot of the bank, working out where the towing hooks were (me- sadly ignorant) and making several attempts during which quite a few other people had arrived to add handy hints on car moving, he did manage to drag the car out of the fossé (did recall word later on . . . ) with help from Mark and some of the residents of the psychiatric hospital pushing at the back.
There's a cake cooling in the kitchen which I'm about to take to the man with the van as a small thank you even though he insisted with the biggest smile that he didn't want anything - "a pleasure".
If the world had more people like this . . .
Here, do something with this bread roll