“Let’s write a pub quiz on the plane to France!”
“What rounds should we include?”
“How about Politics and Global Economics?”
Organising the organised fun to follow, Vin and I hammered out the skeleton of one of our contributions to the evening entertainment schedule for the week ahead. Sat to my right was a young woman who might have been fifteen, and might have been twenty-five. It was impossible to tell, so I kept the flirting very mild, and pre-watershed. She sped the journey for me, and I like to think I did for her too. No harm done.
France rose up, an autumnal golden brown, and met us as we descended into Perpignan. My first memory of France is following the sharp shadow of the aeroplane wing on the runway surface with my eyes, and being greeted by the grand Pyrenees. Wow! The airport is tiny, like a 1970s shopping centre in its décor and its mood. Jamie was delayed. “Hang tight, and get a beer.” We didn’t need telling twice.
Carrefour. Shopping, or hellish riddle, designed to confound les rosbifs? To my mind, the jury is still out. Let's divide up the shopping list between us, said Jamie, and collect the food for the night's meal. Of course, that'll make things much faster. Right? Wrong. My list included a very specific type of yoghurt, some milk, and some herbs - herbs with French names quite different to their English names. I don't think we covered tarragon in my GCSE class. What might have taken twenty minutes in Tesco Burnage ended up taking more than an hour. We didn't even bag up our vegetables properly. Our checkout girl ended up serving us in English. "Humbling, isn't it?" said Jamie as we walked to the car.
We picked up Tani and Audrey in Narbonne, and dropped our eggs at the garage. Alors! A quick trip to the halal grocer, and we were equipped for Insecure Dave's wonderful quiche and soup.
The news broke over dinner that Skinner was missing in Belgium, with neither his phone nor his passport. Daryl was going apeshit searching for him. What could we do? Not much from France. It's Skinner, he'll be okay, right? I hope so.
We spent the evening boozing. After insisting that we give Tani le splash to celebrate her birthday, I ended up convincing the Venezuelans to accompany me down to the pool, "for a look." Suckers? Not quite - I gave Tani my phone as insurance that she wouldn't get dunked. We swung our legs, sitting on the garden wall with stubby beers, and looking into the Canal du Midi. We talked about the UK, and the glory of the BBC. As we sat there, a van pulled up and stopped on the humpback bridge. Three men got out, stood in a row on its brow, and, in synchronised triplicate, unleashed a torrent of piss right into the canal. The ducks laughed, and we did too.