Beginnings

 

We can regard our life as a uselessly disturbing episode in the blissful repose of nothingness.’’

Arthur Schopenhaeur.

 

Walking with shoulders hunched over and alone on a drizzly English evening.  The road along which he walked was busy. Cars droned along, one after the other in a line of speed and lights. He stopped and looked up to his right. He had arrived. The house he spied was a normal, anonymous English suburban house. It had been built in the 1930s. It personified  a typically drab suburb of the general London conurbation. Or to be more precise, slightly to the south and east of London. Nudging actually into what was once Kent. The front garden of the nameless abode had long ago been sacrificed on the anvil of pragmatism. This meant flattening anything living and green, sweet smelling and natural with grey concrete. The purpose? So that a boring, white computer designed car just like every other soulless modern car, could be safely harboured overnight. In this case it was a bland Japanese car. The car had a name sounding as if it had been thought of by a high level project manager with no imagination. It had. The bay windowed front of the house was pebble dashed in what was once white, but which had slipped into a dirty grey hue. The aging double glazed window surrounds were slowly having their colour leached from them by the elements and pollution. In places the paint was peeling away from the frame. The front door came up to him. He noted that it had not been rubbed down and prepared properly before its last application of paint. The door was black with a small  half-moon of glass at the top. It sat waiting patiently for his approach on that dark, wet early evening. On the left there was a small black plastic rectangular box with a round white plastic button. It had been fitted in a haphazard way and drooped slightly to one side as if it had suffered a stroke.  An off white cable ran out of its left side and burrowed into the door frame like a worm seeking the comfort of cool earth on a sunny day. He pressed the button which simply sat back within the entombing black rectangle and singularly failed to do the one thing in life that it existed to do, namely inform the residents ensconced within of a visitor on their doorstep. Irritably he pressed the bell again, and this time, as the half-moon of glass became illuminated, he realized that the bell had finally worked.

 

A non-descript woman, if not exactly running to fat, at least jogging towards it in a determined manner, answered the door. She was topped by a truly awful hair style. Akin to a sullen pineapple squatting on her head, anywhere between 33 to 38 years of age, the woman not the pineapple. Dressed in an awful combination of navy blue tracksuit bottoms emblazoned with a sporty stripe and an equally dark cardigan. Why he pondered, do obviously non-athletic people seem to wear sports attire. She asked his name, to which he replied with nervous courtesy. Being on time, he was always on time, he was acknowledged by her and by the fact that she had been waiting for him as arranged. Mrs. Non-descript beckoned him into the house, and almost instantly directed him with practiced ease into a room on the right. The room was located a few feet after entering the house. Mrs Non-descript was adamantly guiding him into her office so as to avoid any meetings or cross contamination with her family. They lay burrowed  safely deeper within the family womb of their home. A hint of dinner wafted into the hall and a snippet of a child’s laughter floated on the air. Dinner smelt greasy, the child sounded stupid.

 

The room he was ushered into was small and rectangular in shape, tastelessly furnished and boringly decorated. Furnished with cheap furniture, most probably from somewhere the counsellor considered funky and modern like IKEA, or cheap-crap-is -us. Same thing really. The all-pervading feeling of crappiness and low the budget approach to her office furnishings was finished off with beige wallpaper. Sweet Jesus, not beige wallpaper,  he thought to himself. She bade him sit with a forced, tired smile. She was obviously more interested in being paid the money for the visit than at any attempt to help in the intervening 45-minutes. She then perched herself upon her swivel chair at her desk. The desk was suitably lined with academic books,  magazines with curling covers  and pamphlets. Some of the pamphlets were distinctly dog-eared. Only there for show as far as he was concerned.

 

So this was what a counselors office looked like. Not impressive. Time to begin the flensing he thought pensively. His fingers entwined, rubbed and stroked each other nervously and an embarrassed half-smile flittered across his mouth.

‘So how can I help you’’ she asked. What it just him, or was the pineapple staring?

‘’Well’’ he started to answer slowly and thoughtfully as he already felt her evaluating senses scan and analyse him.

‘’I need someone to talk to about various issues in my life’’.

Let the flensing begin.

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I just got home to find four Police Officers in my house looking

…I just got home to find four Police Officers in my house looking for something, acting like lunatics!!!!! Even searching through my garage. They checked through the air-conditioner and inside my bed, tearing the mattress apart!!

When I asked if they had a search warrant, they answered completely hysterically:

“Where did you hide it?? We know it’s here somewhere!!”

Then I watched one of the Police officers look at his mobile phone and shouted.

” Stop it! We are in the wrong house!!!! The Pokémon is next door!!!”

Further Southwards into France

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Went into Avignon by bus which was cheap, clean and let me have a good gander as I was not driving. I did ask, but the driver said, ”Non”. Avignon was home to the pope between 1309 – 1377. Well he had one advantage then, the walls kept people out. They are still an impressive sight. However Avignon was beset by hoardes of tourists, they swept all before them. Really it was too much. Souvenir shops for instance. A few tacky shops are okay, however Avignon had its fair share. Nice bridge too, but when will it be finished?

Took in Aix-En-Provence which was a combination of the beautiful and the slighty grubby gracefulness. Prices for food were bad. Basically what we will pay in Polish Zlotych cost the same in Euro’s. The best way to negotiate this thorny problem was to stop and buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the roadside stalls. Great food from under the provence sun, and far better prices. Even managed to get service with  smile.

Headin’ down we drove through the Camargue. This is one beautiful place, truly. Low lying and flat, none of those pesky mountain passes with inches to spare! Driving past rice fields and then the most beautiful white horses. There are plenty of places to stop take in this area. We alighted in Cassis. Cassis in the sun is great. A long sweeping esplanade with a great beach and a free pissoir in the car park. What more can you want! Although there were tacky shops the place had a wonderful feel to it. Just walking along the roads one could see it was well looked after, with splashes of colour from beautiful flowers thrown in for measure.

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Pottered around and went to the most unhelpful information lady in history. Her Gallic indifference and shoulder shrugs were superb and her English, well, bazik. Anyway we discovered that safaris into the Camargue cost around 120 Euro for the four of us. So no thanks. Eventually we plumped for the cruise which was about 12 Euro for an adult and discounted for the children. The ferry trip went up the mouth of the (Lesser/smaller?) Rhone and although we draw close to some beautiful views, it was all a bit distant. The chop on the sea as we took in the swell of the sea on the return trip was pretty cool for me. Onwards and along the coast…

 

Czech This Out

Moving on in a non-sequential manner. Wyrd, fate, sisters of… Part of the road trip took us back through the Czech Republic. Now we were looking, and looking for a petrol station to buy an vignette in Germany, and tank up.

But the road just changed into he Czech Republic and so we stopped at the first station to make sure we stayed street legal. Into the station and asked politely if we could buy the vignette by card, it being the 21st. I take my hat off to the young lady serving, how she fitted so much spite and disdain into her reply was remarkable.

Looking bewildered we trolled across the parking lot to a booth selling  vignettes. Again cash only, again the reply only lacked being spat in the face. What gives?

On we went. A few kilometers down the road we found a station where we could pay by card forthe vignette. Now I don’t know, maybe it’s part of the test for securing a position in a petrol station in the Czech Republic. Again the staff were, shall we say, less than friendly in a viper kind of way. But we got our vignette and were a little bemused by the lack of manners we encountered.

Later in South-West Poland we went to a Stołowa Góry. More on that later. Again only cash could be used to enter the attraction. As we sat counting our small change, trying to get it to add up to enough, a middle aged couple were watching us. After a while they offered us some small change to make up the difference. We gave them our sncere thanks with lots of smiles and friendly nods.

And where did this nice couple come from? Yes, the Czech Republic! Just goes to show.