When you’re looking around for something else to clean, even Lola isn’t safe! My wife is still on course for the international cleaning world championships. I have never felt we live in a dirty house, quite the opposite. But this is getting beyond a joke, I am forgetting what fresh air shells like with the stench of bleach/Dettol/polish and whatever other mystery products she has wafting about the place. At the moment she is being entertained with some ironing, but this won’t last. The floors have got a mention again and I have been detailed to clean the windows. Honestly whatever the prize is she is going for; she better win or I will never hear the end of it.
Now it is Lola’s turn, she has gone from having a little nap by my feet to up to her ankles is bathwater in no time at all and it would be fair to say she is less than impressed with the whole performance.
She has seen all this before though and knows the game. What she does is shuffle herself towards the plug and stand on it. We have one of these plugs that pops in and out with a little pressure. The pressure say of a small dog who doesn’t want a bath. So if you not careful all the water is gone and you are left with a very wet, soapy and nonplussed dog. She manages to perform this trick twice before we succeed in getting her clean. Again not that she was dirty before, but if you’re going to win the trophy you can’t let anything go to chance!
Now the next game begins. Drying said soggy dog before she shakes. This is an almost impossible task and from experience the best thing to do is wrap her in a big towel, pick her up and run outside before the inevitable happens. This time she manages to wriggle free and does her best shake right up the wall across the TV and half way across the sofa. Second time around she is outside before she has time to think about it. She even manages to pull off her butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth pose.
Now everyone and everything is cleaned to within an inch of its life, the wife settles on the sofa to watch some of her rubbish. I have time to write a bit of my nonsense and Lola risks coming back to sit by my feet.
I was talking the other day about my Europe trip and how I wasn’t fussed with France. It’s not really fair. France has some beautiful places. The biggest problem with France for me is the French. Now I must say I have met some lovely French people, I have even worked with a few; but by and large the French have an arrogance I can do without. They will stand and let you struggle through your best high school French only to respond to you in perfect English. But if you chose to try and speak to them in English they will have no comprehension of the language. For me they appear to want to go out of their way to make life difficult for you. I have many examples of this but here is just one.
We are in Nice visiting my girlfriends brother, now his French is pretty fluent; ours not so. Anyway we have had a tour round the old city, which is fascinating. Ride the train of shame as her brothers dubs it. The train of shame is one of those little tourist trains that is really a tractor with some sort of false facade to make it look like a train, that ferries tourist around the city looking at points of interest. Now we had an honouree local who had been working as tour guide for a good few years so we had seen the best of what Nice had to offer but what this did, eventually is gets you to The Castle Hill Park. This historic hilltop park offers dramatic city and ocean views and is well worth the trip. You can walk up to the park but taking the train seemed like fun. Anyway we had a nice day in Nice and headed off to our campsite. Camping close to Nice, at least back then is limited so we car going to stay on a campsite just off The Grande Corniche, this is a glorified car park but the views are magnificent.
The Grande Corniche is one of three different routes following the mountainous stretch from Nice to Menton and creating one of the most dramatic and inspiring views in Europe. All of them are carved into the mountainside. The other two are Moyenne Corniche and Basse Corniche (sometimes called the Corniche Inferieure). Basically top middle and bottom. All are spectacular drives, you will see them featured on car adverts a lot, I think even Hitchcock filmed something here. It is truly spectacular scenery and because of this scenery very dangerous. Tourists are all rubber necking the view and not watching where they are going.
Our plan in the morning is to drive to Monaco, have a look around. Then come back to meet her brother in Nice. No problem, we are up early head out along what I think was The Grande Corniche but I remember one hundred percent. It is truly an amazing drive. We hit Monaco mid-morning and I managed to navigate the van around part of the famous Grand-Prix circuit. Knackered old VW’s aren’t meant for GP circuits but what you don’t appreciate from the telly is how narrow it is. Nelson Piquet famously likened racing round the course to “riding a bicycle around your living room” and having driven only part of it on open roads I can see where he is coming from. We park up and do the touristy bit then head back to Nice.
The plan is to put the van in a secure multi-storey carpark and have an evening out in Nice. Kipping back in the van if we can if not we will go sofa suffering at her brothers. I pick a spot in the corner of the carpark that I think we will be ok to sleep in and back the van in. What I don’t see is the massive air-conditioning unit poking out the wall about head height. So now we have no rear window and a lot of glass in our bedroom!
I discover quickly that I know more French words than I thought and even my girlfriend has become somewhat fluent. Here is where the French arrogance comes to pass. I know I have ballsed up, we all make mistakes and I am big enough and ugly enough to put my hand up for mine. So I head off to look for some security guard or something. What I really want is a broom (le balai) and maybe a box to put all the glass in. The less then helpful security guard gives me the world’s smallest dustpan and brush. We have a bigger one in the van!
Meanwhile my girlfriend has been on the phone to her brother who arrives to help the situation. He talks to the guard, who despite being spoken to in his own language still appears anything but helpful. So we have no choice, I am sorry to report I kick out what is left of our back window in the car park and scarper.
I am thinking it not so much of a drama, I have international insurance so a quick phone to my insurer gives us an address in Nice to go to. We have a French speaker with us, no problem. I forget the name of the company but it is one of those big multi-national franchises. They bring out a procession of people to look at the back of the van. There is the traditional sucking of teeth all tradesman seem to do when they think they can make a bit more money out of you. Then one by one they start giving us reasons they can’t do it. We don’t have the glass! Yes you do that’s why we are here, my insurer spoke to you and we drove here specifically as you had the right glass. Ah well it’s a bigger job than we thought! The glass won’t fit as there is a small buckle in the frame. This buckle was there pre accident and that bit of glass fitted perfectly before I rearranged it. But it doesn’t matter, my insurer speaks to them over the phone we speak to them face to face. As we overcome one objection they find another. We are caught in a French arrogance and unhelpfulness circle. If they just said, look its four o’clock we don’t fancy the job right now, could you come back on Monday? That would have been fine, I could have lived with that, but all they wanted was to get rid of us. So in the end we left. No big night out in Nice, we couldn’t risk leaving the van so open. We had to improvise. Duct tape and a shower curtain, style improvisation. I am sad I can’t find a picture of this because we did a cracking job. None the less we left Nice and headed North into the Alps, thinking our trip was over.