Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Encounters - 15 October

So I had a lie-in, of course…what did you expect?

Sunday morning in Strasbourg is relaxed. The trams still run, naturally, and there is a to-ing and fro-ing of people, but a lot sit out around the squares, just taking in the ambience and enjoying the sunshine. Which is what I did, for a while. Until I got into conversation with another taker of the morning air – he passed by with his dog, and smiled. Being polite, I smiled back. He commented on the weather, and I replied, in my fractured French. He enquired if I was German – no, Anglais. He spoke fractured English. He asked if he could sit down on the bench I was on. There was no-one else on it, and it’s a free country, after all. We began to chat – the usual niceties, the weather, where we were from; he was from Mauritius, did I know where it was – yes, in the Indian Ocean – he seemed surprised. He was an ex-sailor, he had been to England but had come to France and now had his dog. We considered how places had changed over the recent past – wages, job opportunities and the like.
Was I here with anyone?
Yes – I explained about the science fair.
Was I here with my wife?
I blinked, but reckoned he meant husband – no, some colleagues.
Was I married?
In retrospect, I guess this is the point where alarm bells rang. Quietly. And I should have invented a large hairy man lurking in the background. But being me, I told the truth.
No, I work with them, which is quite enough!
‘Do you not like sex then? There is plenty in France! If you like women there are some hot ones!’ the conversation became more graphic.
I’m not exactly sure what I said here, but I made my excuses, politely thanked him for his company and scurried back to the safety of the hotel and the ‘Bringing the Cows Down the Mountain’ celebrations on the local TV channel. And the weekend meteorological programme.
I shouldn’t be let out without a keeper.

Meanwhile, Liz and Lucy had made their way to the Museum of Modern Art, and had discovered, amongst other things, the exhibition of erotica...

We meet up at the tent just before 2.00 pm, and as the doors opened, a positive flood of people come in, and it’s non-stop thereafter. Joanna has difficulties getting away to catch her plane, being in the throes of tree-making. One very small and utterly enchanting little girl comes in with her mother, and proceeds to make a tree, with my help. I can tell her Mum wants to get on and get home, but the wee lass is engrossed, and won’t quit until the tree is completed to her satisfaction. Mum has the rueful, ‘I know we’ll be doing this at home’ look I’ve come to know, but she is very patient. Eventually, they leave, clutching a tree, partly in pieces – I’d explained it was best to take it that way so bits didn’t become ‘perdue’. When I next look up, the little one is back again, busy with paper. She cuts and folds for a while and then silently presents her creation to me.
‘Pour moi?’
She nods, silently smiling, and goes off to find her mother.

Outside the stag herd grows apace. David the Security Man is now a convert ‘I thought this was stupid when it started, but it is all about families, which is the important thing - it is wonderful!’ he confides to Lucy.
One lad has been coming back for three days now, making part of a stag until he has to go. The first day, his half-built creation had ‘gone for recycling’ at the end of the day; when he came back and it wasn’t there he had set to and rebuilt it, and this time it was saved overnight – he’s back again today and is very intent on his task. He finishes just as the event does, and proudly displays his creature. He then has to go home on the tram (he was late yesterday, we expected him to be grounded!) and so leaves it, content that he has finished it at last. He takes the last of the ‘giveaways’ with him.

Time to pack up. The tent is stripped down in about 45 minutes, all the stands a mass of frantically packing people. We say a sad farewell to Eric and Delphine (and leave her with the last of the marshmallows!) The organizer is delighted – she reckons we’ve had 11,700 people through the tent since opening on Friday (I don’t know where the numbers came form, but there was semi-controlled entry, so maybe it’s not too much a case of creative accounting.) I reckon we’ve seen at least 700 to 800 of them on our stand(s) over the three days. She wants one of our stags for her office, and we give her my little fellow, as he’s small enough to fit and strong enough to have survived this far. I’m glad – I didn’t want to witness the moment when he would be broken up and sent for recycling. OK, so I’m daft! It’s not news!

The three of us head back to the hotel, to clean up and relax. From my window, I watch a distant plane draw a contrail across the clear blue sky, and am staggered that we have only been here four days; it seems much longer.
Then it’s out for supper at the tavern at the back of the square – a seafood and local produce place, wonderful langoustine bisque, steak the way I like it (shown to the grill briefly), and a large measure of beer. We make plans for our sightseeing trip tomorrow – Liz wants to do a walking tour, Lucy wants to see the astronomical clock at the cathedral, I want to do the river trip. The shoe shops are also exerting a certain call on Liz…

We agree to meet up at the cathedral at 12.15-ish, and take it from there. We leave the tavern, which has suddenly turned into THE place to watch the football, and head back across the square, early for a change. Above the Music Hall, small shapes are flickering back and forth. Bats, chasing moths drawn in by the lights illuminating the building at night. It’s air combat to rival anything previously seen in the skies over France, wingtip turns, dives and barrel rolls. The bats don’t have it all their own way, the moths drop like stones to evade their pursuers, sending the bats off course, skimming the roof tiles at high speed.

We watch, the only ones on the square looking up.


Sue D said...

Mad - you portray your visit so perfectly! Simply brilliant!

Tats said...

Why don't people notice bats? Always puzzled me.

Sounds like you had quite a day - procreation, recreation, inspiration!

mackie said...

lie-ins are essential for the mental well-being :yes:

that was a disturbing conversation :-| i think you are not the one in need of a keeper; maybe the dog was supposed to act as one and didn#t understand the questionable direction it all took due to language barriers?

but to have a tree presented to you by the little girl must have been such a sweet moment …

so is the conversion of David into a true believer :-)

it is also lovely to know that your stag has found a home. (and not daft at ALL)

the battle of the bats is delightfulo - you are SO good with this, you know. i can see it.

Tats, i think people are just now used to really see what they are looking at, and they usually do not look up anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad about David. I''ve been following his "conversion"! LOL.

That man with the dog was just plain odd! Perhaps one of those infamous white slavers our grandmothers were always warning us about?

It's always a little sad when an affair like that ends, isn't it? Even if you're ready to go home. It really sounds like a wonderful experience.

My son Joe would have definitely spotted the bat ballet...and been running like hell the other way. LOL.