dimanche 19 septembre 2010

L is for loos and other inconveniences

A Rome il faut vivre comme les Romains — When in Rome do as the Romans do

Any visitor to France will recall — generally with horror — those holes in the ground with porcelain footrests that pass for toilets. You know the ones: they are never in the first flush of cleanliness and you must remember to leap off those footrests quickly, otherwise your feet get drenched when the thing flushes.

Back in the UK, we tended to refer to them as French toilets. But the French call them ‘les toilettes Turques’ (Turkish toilets). I don’t know what the Turks call them.

On a more positive note, if you travel on the péages, or toll motorways, there are toilets about every 20km. French, Turkish, whatever, they are very conveniently sited.

Public toilets in France are always a bit of a gamble. You’re desperate and don’t want to go into a café for yet another coffee as that just exacerbates the problem, nor can you spot a handy McDonalds to sneak into. Then you see some welcome public conveniences. You approach. He turns left into the entrance for Hommes, you go right to the Dames. You descend some stairs — and meet in the middle. The unisex toilets consist of two urinals (in plain view), three toilettes Turques and a sit-down loo without a seat. Of course, there is no paper, the light doesn’t work and no water comes out of the tap over the basin.

My advice is to try not to go into such places on your own. You need someone to stand outside the door while you use the facilities, because the lock doesn’t work either. And always take some Wet Wipes and a torch with you.

Peace and quiet

Anyone who thinks living in the country is quiet has obviously never lived there. Birdsong can be soothing, but the same can’t be said for the electrician’s cockerel that crows throughout the day. Or the demented duck that lives on the river at the bottom of our garden and has the loudest quack I have ever heard; it squawks away — night and day — as the fancy takes it.

Church bells aren’t in sync, so first one lot ring out, then another, then another… You can hear the rattle of the postman’s moped from quite a distance, even over the lawnmowers, the chopping of wood and the occasional faulty swimming pool alarm.

If anyone gets married, the guests set off for the reception in convoy, with the drivers of every car keeping their hand pressed firmly on the horn throughout the journey.

On the first Sunday of August we are woken by dozens of tractors gathering outside our house in preparation for their annual parade through the town. As Sunday is also market day, this causes some little local difficulties. Then, every few weeks during the summer months, a van with a tannoy tours the streets advertising that the circus has come to town.

We, to our shame, have added to the noise. During the summer several people came up to Gavin to congratulate him on his piano playing, the sound of which must carry a lot further than we thought. Still, there’s a possibility he might now get a gig at the local old people’s home out of it…

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