Willkommen Bienvenue Welcome

Welcome, gentle readers.

This is an everyday tale of regular folk, who moved from Sheffield to the deepest Corrèze in France Profonde and thence to the rather more cosmopolitan Lot in search of something… different. We certainly found it.

The Lot is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Reputedly, a famous TV globetrotter was asked where, of all the places in the world he had visited, he might return to. He answered, ‘The Lot’.

Fans of Channel 4’s Grand Designs will know that we built a somewhat quirky straw bale house-with-a-view here in the Lot, not far from the celebrated Dordogne river. You can read all about it in my book,
Bloody Murder On The Dog's Meadow, or watch the re-runs of the programme on More 4, or view it on You Tube.

After a break in the proceedings to write a book or two, this blog now takes the form of an everyday journal. Sometimes things happen, sometimes they don't (but the art school dance goes on forever). I hope it will give you an entertaining insight into what it's like to live in a foreign country; what it's like in the slow lane as an ex-pat Brit in deepest France.

I shall undertake to update this once or twice a week, unless absent on leave. Comments always welcomed, by the way, but I do tend to forget what buttons to click in order to answer them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stop the Week 11

If I’m a bit late this week in posting, you can blame Ikea.
We capped off our week yesterday with a visit to Bordeaux, bourgeois capital of the Atlantic seaboard. The city that once rivalled Paris in financial, economic and even political terms found itself overtaken in the latter part of the 20th century by the likes of Lyon, Toulouse and Lille. It had to inject a huge amount of money to transform itself from a grubby traffic-saturated has-been of a city into a gleaming and efficient modern metropolis.
Bordeaux: Traditional elegance meets modern efficiency
We’ve both said it before at the Brighton Conference – and we’ll say it again – that if we ever have to live in a city again, Bordeaux would do quite nicely thank you. A top floor flat, say, in one of the elegant 19th century bourgeois town houses overlooking the quays along the Garonne wouldn’t go amiss, with a view across the great sweeping fluvial crescent to the poorer parts of town on the opposite bank.
But it’s 200km from here and a day-trip assumes almost epic proportions. All for an opportunity for the girls to go sales-shopping and the dubious pleasure of a trip to the Swedish flat-pack emporium. Mistake no. 1: shop first, visit Ikea later. I don’t want you to think that I’m a smug know-it-all, but I did propose the other way round. Unfortunately, I let myself be swayed – as always – by my wife’s uncanny ability to suggest that she knows what she’s talking about. Praying on my morbid fear of crime and disaster, she made the point that we shouldn’t leave a car full of Ikean boxes in some less salubrious suburb.
However, this is now an efficient city. The park and ride system is fantastic. An official in a booth surveys each of the car parks, where you leave your car before catching one of the swift, silent trams into the centre of the city. So, as the Strylians say, no worries, mate.
The upshot of the matter was: by the time I dragged mother and daughter, kicking and screaming, away from the more expensive boutiques, the traffic had built up to such a degree that the Centre Commercial on the edge of the town was heaving with idiots like us, who think that it might be a good idea to make their excursions in the middle of the afternoon. It was a vision of retail hell: cars, nose to tail, edging forward in search of an exit or a space to park.
Moreover, the Bordeaux Ikea is built to frustrate. You see it from the Rocade as you plunge down the Pont d’Aquitaine, but as soon as you leave the motorway, it hides itself from view. So you drive round and round in circles until someone spots a flash of yellow on royal blue and cries out, ‘Ikea!’ But, in attempting, to sidle up on it, we strayed back onto the Rocade and found ourselves going back over the Pont d’Aquitaine.
Well, anyway… By the time we got home, later than expected, tempers a little frayed and stress levels ramped up by the frustrations of not finding, as usual, exactly what we’d come to buy, it was far too late to turn on the computer and write up the week in perspective.
In truth, after the Packers’ victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field that sent them to next Sunday’s Superbowl and sent me into paroxysms of delirium, everything else was anti-climactic. However, an interesting metaphysical conundrum arose on Tuesday evening. Convinced that I was putting the hoodoo on Arsenal, who couldn’t score the goals against Ipswich that would send them to the final of the Carling Cup, I valiantly turned off the telly and went to bed to read a few lines before sleep overtook me. Within minutes, they’d scored twice and secured their spot. Now, the thing is, was it my selfless act that prompted them to score and would they have failed to score if I had remained glued to the box? I’m sure that Jean-Paul Sartre would have had something to say on the matter.
And finally… My wife and I watched Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, which has been languishing on the hard drive for weeks. I couldn’t imagine the three dreamers – an incestuous pair of Parisian twins and their live-in American friend, played by Michael Pitt, looking for all the world like a young Leo di Caprio – assembling flat-packs in the rambling apartment that could almost have been where Marlon Brando had his way with Maria Schneider in the director’s Last Tango in Paris. I knew nothing about the film other than its erotic reputation, and deliberately avoided any critiques that might have coloured my critical faculties, but we both loved it. Much more interesting than the rather turgid Last Tango, which was spoiled for me – as was Apocalypse Now – by Marlon’s mumbling routine. But not as successful as Bert O’Lucci’s masterpiece, The Conformist, my favourite film of all time.
I should tell you that we built our Ikean kitchen cupboard with minimal weeping and wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, but – in typical Sampson fashion – we made one critical error: nailing the back board on the wrong way round, so that the nice shiny laminated side faces the wall, unseen by human eyes, while the nobbly hardboard side serves to remind us of our craven stupidity every time we open the door.
Would it be too much to ask Gunar and Gudrun Ikeasson to stamp their un-finished pieces with big red Xs to remind idiots like Mark and Deborah Sampson to think before they gaily nail them into the wrong position?

1 comment:

  1. oh dear. A shame about the cupboard. I had a similiar problem a few years ago with a small black bookcase from ikea. Somehow I placed the bottom shelf on upside down. I didn't realise until I'd almost finished and by then it was too late to do anything about it. So my lovely black bookcase has one chipboard coloured shelf at the bottom.