We have just come back from a wonderful week in Tréguennec. As usual, the winter winds off the Atlantic were fierce and the rain horizontal but it didn’t matter. With careful planning and nifty footwork we still managed to go for walks and to tidy up parts of the garden, and during most evenings to sit snugly in front of our log fire reading and writing. More importantly the weather did not prevent us from chatting and eating with our Brittany friends. This blog is about three particular events that occurred during our stay; the first is about a tomcat that changed – or did it? – the second about three important hugs and the third about my descending trousers.
‘Bill’ is a black and white feral tomcat who patrols our garden and who, for years, has been making local female cats pregnant. He is known to our neighbours as Felix, named after the 1920s animated cartoon cat (see illustration). Amongst his successfully impregnated female cats, one – a tabby – seems to carry a new litter of his four times a year and in homage to his endeavours we added to Bill’s name the prefix ‘Quarterly’.
Quarterly Bill was never out of the local news and during our week there was much discussion about an unexpected sighting – he had been seen walking with two kittens, something a tomcat would never do! A neighbour renamed him ‘Félicité’ and two explanations began to circulate; one proposed that it had been a case of mistaken identity, Rohan however argued forcefully that Quarterly Bill was now ‘trans’. Time will tell!
Now to the hugs. For hundreds of years, French men and women have kissed one another as part of their “hellos”. I do the same, at least with those close, and I love how it reinforces friendships. However, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the French government banned these traditional hellos making it illegal to “faire la bise” and only now, some three years later have I, and many others, permitted ourselves to reinstate the practice.
With last weeks reestablished exchange of kisses, life came back to normal. But with three particularly close friends these kisses were accompanied by wam hugs and the pleasure I got from hugging Jean-Claude, Armelle and Chris was of a different order. I can’t explain, but being able to be close physically and give an unspoken message that we had all survived three threatening years and were once again close was very special. Interestingly, the intensity of these feelings came as a complete surprise.
Finally to my trousers whose slippage some might see as humiliating, while I saw as closer to pantomime. To avoid strike disruptions in England our journey home was lengthy and complicated with three changes in France and three in England. One of the most testing changeovers involved a twelve kilometre taxi dash from Nantes railway station to Nantes airport to catch our plane to London. Out train was very late and eventually we arrived at the airport just twenty minutes before the plane was due to depart! The race was on.
With the initial checks done we rushed to ‘security’ and while Rohan sailed through and went ahead to departure gate 38 to tell them we were coming, I was left facing a beeping metal detector and an over-zealous security guard. The guard decided that my shoes were probably the guilty party so I took them off and trIed again. The beeps recurred so, with his instruction, I removed my braces and again walked through the detector complying with his command to “hold your arms away from your body”. This time I left the detector beep-free but with my trousers round my ankles – no braces, no support. They were down there again when, with my arms held straight out, he ‘patted me down’.
He found nothing – it was indeed the buckles of the braces – and I set off for Gate 38 with my bracers in my pocket and trousers unsupported – reattaching braces is a complicated business – my shoe laces undone, and with one hand holding my passport and boarding pass and the other in a trouser pocket. Not surprisingly, as I shuffled down the airport corridors my trousers twice descended only to be caught at my knees.
I was the last to get on the plane and when, with Rohan’s help I stood up to re-thread my braces back up under my jumper, the plane tannoy made an announcement – “Could the gentleman in the front row sit down, the pilot has asked you to put on your safety belt ready for take off”. It was not until way into the flight that my trousers were once again reassuringly secure and the potential for more descents over. In pantomime terms, the train strikes have a lot to answer for!
The illustration shows a picture of Felix the Cat, an animated 1920s cartoon character that at the time was known and loved worldwide.
For helping me write this blog I would like to thank Martine, Armelle, Annie, Sarah, Rohan and Vivien