DISCLAIMER : I have several British women friends and acquaintances who are intelligent, witty, clever, creative, warm-hearted, good conversationalists and none of them have ever done anything like described below.
I am on holiday half a day every day until next week when I go to Paris to be on holiday. I won’t be back in Argelès until mid August, so I decided to play tourist starting this morning with an early morning walk to the beach, a wade and about a half hour of gathering Vitamin D rays followed by a trip to the traiteur for my evening meal anchovies and roasted red peppers in olive oils and several olives. Before you make a face these aren’t like the anchovies in a can, but much more like miniscule filet de perch, sweet and delicate. I bought crispy chestnut flower bread to go with it.
My plans for the week also include only eating in restaurants for lunch (I ate at Cayou and their fixed menu was cold beet soup, rabbit and polenta garnished with a balsamic vinegar and basil dressing, and whipped white cheese and apricot sorbet with mint) but that came later and gets me away from the point of the story.
I am not a beach bum but at least seven times when I have gone over the last few years no matter where I place myself, I end up next to a British woman with a non-stop mouth. With my eyes closed, the sun warming my skin, the quiet babble of French voices and the waves lapping against the shore, I thought I was safe.
Number eight was about to happen.
Along comes a Brit with two toddlers and proceeds to go into minute description about how they all could have been there earlier if they hadn’t dawdled. Simon could have taken the red pail, he didn’t have to hunt for the orange. Phoebe had spent much too much time buttoning her blouse and her croissant was in the basket to finish before she could go into the water. I then listened to a lecture on sand castle building that would have done an obsessive compulsive architect proud. If the woman had time to breathe between instructions and comments, I couldn’t have given testimony to the fact. The children seemed immune. I am not even sure they had voices.
Over the years these run-on conversations have discussed how much the children really do like rosemary on the lamb chops even though she isn’t sure about the French quality of meat, how to open a biscuit box, although biscuits can’t be eaten for another five minutes complete with countdown and a ticking clock, the best way to hold a shovel, a lecture on broken shells, and a constant wondering “Where is your father, he’s always wandering off. I can’t stand it when he…” I resisted telling her why he might have escaped.
I don’t know if it is a class, gender, national, regional or combination thingie, because I do know British mums who hold give and take conversations with their children not 24-hour diatribes. Maybe the tourist office hands out tape recordings that these mothers are lip synching to. Maybe it is only been my bad luck that the few times I have been to the beach, the motor-mouth mom is trekked out to confound the Suissesse who speaks with an American accent. Whatever it is, chances are way out of the expected percentages.
On the other hand, as I listened, that it made me feel as I really was on holiday, and couldn’t help smiling.