Another day, another hangover. Nothing too severe for me, but some of the team were really suffering. Loose ends were tied up over the course of the morning: Vin and I finished writing the quiz; Skinner had been found, and would be with us in the afternoon; Charlene was on her way; Audrey and Tani were about to leave; my team decided on its Come Dine With Me meal. It was a Monday morning when things got done.
“Mate, let’s go out on the bikes and find somewhere to buy a beer.”
“That sounds perfect. We can sort out teams for the quiz as we ride.”
“On y va!”
We rode west along the canal, towards Carcassone. We searched for and failed to find a beer in Paraza, and then the English bar in Roubia was closed. We pressed on, and found a house by the side of lock. A tanned man in his mid-fifties, the lock keeper, greeted us. I asked for two beers, at a euro each, offering him a five. “Pas de monnaie,” he said – no change. He offered me the pair for free. I shook my head, and asked for five beers. He smiled at me, and handed them over.
We found chairs at the side of the lock, and drank our beers in the sunshine, smiling at passing boats. We were here:
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The lock keeper wandered in front of us, carrying a plastic crate of old bread. He put his hands into it, and took out the larger lumps. He stamped on them, crunching their ends, and put them back into the crate. I shared a raised eyebrow with Vin. Obviously we were in the company of a mentalist. It got worse: we watched, amazed, as he threw a bucket on a rope into the canal, drew it up, and poured its contents into the crate. He rolled up his sleeves, put his arms into the mushy mix, and stirred. Sloppy breadcrumbs dripped from his elbows. Surely this is not how the French make their famous baguettes? He took the bread slurry, and scattered it up and down one bank of the canal, slowly, calmly, deliberately. I can’t remember if Vin worked it out, or if I did: he was feeding the ducks.
We watched the slow march of the sunken leaves in the canal and caught up in the warm lunchtime sun. A few more beers. Family talk. Private, intimate conversation. We talked about balancing holidays with work, about pleasure and effort and their relationship. The leaves were golden down both sides of the canal, as we watched the ducks have their fill.