Did you know that [counter] people have been having a skeg at my little autonomous region?


Gérard & the Canadians


This could be the name of a spin off from the 1980s New Wave band, Holly & the Italians but it’s actually the people who I had my breakfast with today. The first half hour of my early morning repast was a carbon copy of yesterday’s petit dejeuner except Gérard’s slices of bread were in a plastic bag rather than cling film. He loves his antique furniture does Gérard. For me, having a thirty minute conversation with someone who doesn’t speak a great deal of English was always going to be a bit tricky but when the subject matter was restricted to Queen Anne chairs I’m afraid I must admit that I found it hard to find the right words and there were a few awkward silences. Awkward silences for me, that is, as Gérard seemed perfectly happy that he had an audience at last.

Then reinforcements arrived from Canada. It was like Vimy Ridge all over again except it wasn’t muddy. One of the Canadian guests spoke in French to Gérard and her husband spoke in English to me. Joy upon joy, my conversation companion wasn’t really Canadian. He had been born in Headingley in Leeds sixty years ago but had moved to Canada when he was a year old because his parents hadn’t liked the landlord at the Original Oak public house (an in joke there that only my friend Tommy Brannigan and I will ever understand). As we reminisced about our days of being Dirty Leeds Scum considered smashing the plates up in Gérard’s dining room but there weren’t any so instead we stood with our arms aloft and sang ‘Promenadez en ensemble’.

Before leaving les Chambres d’Hôtes I took some time to take some photographs of my personal chambres. I use the plural because I really had two rooms. One was a bedroom which was clean and comfortable and furnished with Queen Anne chairs complimented by classical busts and naked cherubim blowing trumpets and some drawers from M.F.I. I wasn’t quite sure what the other room was though. Was it a bathroom with a fridge and a microwave oven or was it a kitchen with a shower and toilet? Very strange indeed! At the going down of the sun and in the morning I will remember that room.


My chambre (pot) at les Chambres d’Hôtes, Arras.

My chambre (pot) at les Chambres d’Hôtes, Arras.

Gérard came to the front door to bid me adieu. He continued to stand on his doorstep all the time I was looking at my map and plugging in my iPod and changing my spectacles and blowing my nose, all of which are all essential elements of my preparations for a long car journey. As I turned right into Rue de Pasteur he was still standing there. I had a feeling that Gérard liked me.

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