At the End of the Day

mesmile There’s one thing you can say for my life, it’s never less than good copy. Travelling north in France recently (and thus changing from the A89 to the A20), I was pulled over by half a dozen cops after the péage. There must be something about the way I look, but this is the third time I’ve been subjected to a drugs check since living here. Tracker dogs spent half an hour munching the contents of my baggage while the flics checked forms, IDs, passport, licence and my inside leg measurement.

At a halfway point in the journey, I reached my hotel. I’d made various stops on the way to view bits of history, but by the time I pulled into the Ibis car park, the focus of my attention had narrowed to food, wine and bed in rapid succession.

“You’re not due here for another month,” said the receptionist, as if I might be someone early at the gates of Heaven. This wasn’t encouraging. I’d booked for 16th July, and this was June 16th.

The hotel was full. Seven hotels later, I’d established that the supply of rooms was precisely none. So at the last establishment, I sat down for dinner, then drove a little way further up the autoroute, found a quiet rest area and slept among the truckers. I’m describing the proximity of vehicles involved rather than sweaty males sharing sleeping bags. The old jaloppy I drive these days is a Peugeot 207, and the best description of it would be “compact”. It’s especially compact when it comes to sleeping in the back. There are additional comforts like seat-belt anchors, window buttons, and seat-runners that tend to impinge on buttocks, ears and toes. These didn’t stop me from going to sleep (I was so tired by this time, I could’ve slept on the central reservation) but I did have some odd indentations when I awoke. Also, walking was a bit of a challenge for the first few minutes.


Briefly back in Blighty, a female friend told me, “Politics doesn’t interest me” as if I might be in some way offended. On the contrary: such observations are an indisputable and globally recognised symptom of entirely balanced brain hemisphere syndrome, aka mental normality. Although I seem to write about politics a lot, my main interest is in personal fulfilment for the average person, and the triumph of creative endeavour over brainless process. It just so happens that politicians get in the way of that laudable aim more than any other single factor.

These days, she does B&B. Previously, she’d written to point out that, ‘I run it in such a way that they think they are friends. Actually, several have become fiends’. It’s amazing how just one ‘r’ short makes a serious point hilarious.

Another female chum doesn’t like beards on men. I agree with this when it comes to women (I once had a girlfriend in Paris who specialised in depilatory treatment for such unlucky females) but I’ve had a beard almost without interruption for nearly half a century. I am, as they say, attached to it…although my younger granddaughter is convinced she can pull the hairs out painlessly.

Last week, however, for one reason and another, I shaved it off. There are umpteen smartarsed theories about why men grow beards (“you’re hiding behind it”, “you’re disguising a weak chin”, “you’re a bit brown rice and sandals” and so forth) but the reason I grew a beard at the age of 23 was because I have a small mouth completely out of proportion to the rest of my face. So small and mean in this gob, when I purse my lips one gets the impression of staring at a bumhole.

A moustache and goatee (when well tended) hide the abomination that, in my opinion, suggests the exact opposite of who I am: I’m a gobby bloke with soft and insistent lips in a clinch. Eligible ladies keen to test this assertion may apply in the strictest confidence to, supplying a suitably tempting (and recent) photograph.

As Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist everything except temptation”.

I am that man hiding in the shadows, busily regrowing his facial hair.


Last Thursday, I was cleaning the kitchen floor prior to the arrival of a Parisian copain. I carefully mopped my way backwards and then sideways out of the room in order to avoid walking on the wet surface. I already had wallet, shopping list and car keys to hand, so I was ready to head off to the supermarket. Until I remembered I was wearing underpants. The shorts were in the bedroom. Up the spiral staircase. On the far side of the kitchen.

Life is like that after a certain age.

My Parisian chum often drops in on his way to an annual holiday in his family homeland of Pay Basques. We joke about how this tiny commune I inhabit in the middle of nowhere is in reality the centre of the universe. It is sort of Entre Deux Mers, but the weather has been more entre deux merdes until recently. We are told this is something to do with Hurricane Miguel. I’ve always been amused by the naming of Hurricanes: I feel the desire to give them more interesting names like Adolf, Genghis and Higgins – or these days, Boris.

What this meant was an unusually wet Spring, and more than usually active moles. Almost every day from mid-May to the end of June involved clearing up after their serial eruptions. But in the last 48 hours, things have returned to something approaching normal.

The “normal” situation here is one of glut, with much use of the freezer to avoid enforced gluttony. But the more delightful communitarian approach to surfeit is barter.

By September, I will have enough quinces to provide Vitamin C for a small African nation, so at least three farmers will arrive and take several kilos each away to make quince jelly. They never fail to bring me at least one pot of the output back; with what my great Aunti Lizzie used to call “a cold collation”, it is absolutely delicious. My nearest neighbours grow too many tomatoes, while the house across the way from them always has a fig mountain. I in turn always have about three tons more prunes than anyone beyond a chronically constipated ideologue could ever consume. In turn, the dairy farmer neighbour over the hill slaughters some cattle each year, and from time to time I swap a freezer-container’s worth of meat from him for some damsons I’ve turned into jam, apples he’ll turn into cider and a good bottle of malt whenever I’ve been to the UK.

Meanwhile, the search for the third Mrs Slog continues. Last night I enjoyed a delightful dinner al fresco with a lady. We chose somewhere cosey & not too noisy. It was also coy and not too nosey.

Obladi, oblada, the Life goes on.