Sunday, 25 October 2009

Of all the bars in the South of France, you had to walk into mine.

An early riser's lot is a good one. Vin hadn't enjoyed my snoring, and I was eager to see the chateau by day. Our hellish trip to Carrefour meant that it was dark when we arrived yesterday, and I hadn't had a chance to bathe in its glory. I went downstairs, met Julia in the kitchen and headed out to the patio.

I looked up and back at the chateau. Its vastness towered over four floors, three bold rows of cream and cherry red window arches. At ground level was la cave, a basement with a slouchy sofa and table football. Above, up the external stairs to the first floor, stood a narrow balcony with doors to the grand country kitchen and long dining hall. The drawing room, to the east completed that floor. Above, on the second floor, three grand bedrooms, and above that three more. A terraced garden led down to the pool. It’s a stunning place.

As I gazed upwards, Jamie leaned out of a window and yawned. I waved up at him. He smiled and came down the stairs.

Jamie and I walked out through the village with Teg, past vineyards and villas and down to the canal. We saw a hunter in a camo jacket and fluorescent orange cap, shotgun cocked, seeking out small game. We Bonjour!-ed cheerfully with passers-by, and wandered down to the boulangerie for fresh bread. The mayor has a tannoy system set up around the village, proclaiming their decrees. I felt like I was in another world. Perhaps I was.

The canal, with the wine cellar to the left and the chateau to the right and top of the photo

We returned to the fold, to find that there had been no news of Skinner. He’d been missing since about 3am on Saturday morning, and it was now Sunday lunchtime. On one hand there was every chance that Skinner could make it on time. All it would take was that he would find Daryl, pick up his gear and dash to the plane. On the other hand, worry was rising amongst us. Frantic calls from friends in Sheffield and Belgium hadn’t got us any nearer to finding him, and had stirred us up rather.

Although I mock the Ibiza Uncovered crowd for frequenting English bars on the Costa del Sol, I was glad we found a few ex-pats for the Liverpool United game after the hell of Carrefour. Vin was less pleased that they were mostly Mancunians, and almost entirely United fans. So it goes, I guess. Tom and Colin arrived with Jamie as the match was drawing to an end, so we had a beer.

Back at base, Jane and Hannah had arrived too. They’d driven down from Dover, which must have been beautiful. We ate, we drank, we drank some more, and retired to the cave. Insecure Dave, the Bristows and the Venezuelans were in another league when it came to playing le babyfoot. I was humiliated throughout. Dom and Vinny started to play music, and we smoked and drank and sang like Gomez.

The evening ended with Dom, Tani and me sitting downstairs listening to Roots Manuva and Belle and Sebastian through my phone. A reefer, and another, and another. Dom went to bed, and Tani asked me to show her how a tie is tied. My hands brushed on the skin of her collarbone as I tied the knot. I could feel her breath on my hands as I pulled it tighter. An erotic moment. Reader, I did not kiss her, although I wish I could say that I did.

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