Wallflower Dispatches

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The Charming Mountain Goat – La Bouffe – Grub

January 18th, 2012 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, French Food, Provence, South of France

It is important to be straight in this crooked world.

This maxim also applies to the lesser activities of life such as fielding marketing calls.

Unsolicited marketing calls.

Unsolicited marketing calls in French.

Unsolicited marketing calls in French while you are in the middle of something.

Unsolicited marketing calls in French placed from Algiers by a French speaking Arab. Who is trying to sell something to a German over a crackling line in the midday sun.

At first, these annoying interferences served as a measure of the level of our knowledge and application of every day French. Hesitantly mumbled – and plainly wrong – French vocabulary served as a starting point. (What is the French for the casual “I am in the middle of something” ?).

Then one day – progress! – when the rather perfect “Ça ne m’interesse pas” escaped my lips. Fluently, calmly and authoritatively.

The next step in the manifestation of our advancement the anticlimax of the familiar. The marketing call was taken, it was answered, the marketing person pushed, was pushed back, the call ended.

French marketing companies love to place their calls at lunchtime either when people are preparing or eating food. So one day my honest answer to the question if I had a need to replace my old windows was: “I am in the middle of eating.”

The reaction to this mundane piece of information was astounding. The marketing person retreated immediately, apologising profusely. Although I couldn’t see her, I swear she was walking out of the room backwards, bowing towards the phone that linked her call to my home.

The holy French practice of eating! Of course….

A few weeks ago, Piglet 2 was punished with detention at school. The school had ordered Wednesday afternoon after the official lessons finished. Since Piglet 2 finishes two hours early on Mondays, I suggested his detention be moved into that slot.

Last year, these requests were granted without much fuss as long as it was reasonable. This year, I had to justify myself over the phone to the officious person in charge.

Why did I want to change? Did I understand this was meant as a punishment? Did I not realise that this was not done for Piglet 2’s amusement? Wasn’t my request a bit useless? On and on it went (when French people make their point, they do not come up for air).

I had long accepted her refusal and said so calmly, when suddenly I heard myself say: “In any case, on Wednesday the canteen is closed and Piglet 2 won’t have had any lunch by the time he starts his detention.”

My innocent reflection on this minor organisational point stopped her in her tracks. “Of course,” she said as if she had just realised this painful fact herself for the first time. “You are right. In that case, I can move his detention to Tuesday afternoon instead.” Just like that.

Naturally it is very tempting to use the food argument at any given point, but it is hard to digest well on a crooked stomach.

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