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Now please don’t get me wrong. I love my Froggie chums to bits. The kindest, gentlest, most sociable and cultured people on the planet. No doubt about it. Well there isn’t any doubt until peut etre un peu creeps in when one considers the gentle art of French queuing.
Froggies don’t. Queue that is. There they all are, in our immaculately kept village Boulangerie, the wrinklies with their black berries (no, not those infernal mobile phone thingies, the things that look like a cow pat with a wick in the middle and worn sur la tete), the young pregnant housewives (why are all young French housewives pregnant? Silly question. Moving quickly on), the farmer in the green dungarees and standing apart from everyone else in the corner (he grows pigs. Over 2,000 of them at the last snout count) and the overworked local midwife (see aforementioned reference to housewives), all waiting for the hot baguettes to emerge from the ovens in the back.
Kiwi All Blacks wouldn’t stand a chance. Oven doors are thrown open and to sounds of clog skidding on quarry tile, cracking bones and elbow embedded in colostomy bag there is a sudden rush to the counter at the front.
“Je voudrais une baguette petite. S’il vous plait.”
I love the “S’il vous plait” bit appended at the end. Never mind that the announcer has her left stiletto embedded in her neighbour’s right Wellie at the time. She is French and she is thus obliged to observe the epitome of courtesy and append “If you please.” as she slowly grinds her heel into her neighbour's foot.
Then there’s the satisfied smirk on the face of the first satisfied customer as she slowly counts out her Centimes for her just won trophy. Very, very slowly counts out her Centimes. All part of the excruciating art. Before leaving your house for the daily ritual of leaping astride your velocipede and promenading au bicyclette down to the village Boulangerie to grab a fresh baguette, always ensure that you have only one coin of every denomination buried deep in the bowels of your hand crocheted purse. There is a mysterious black art known only to les Boulangeries ensuring that by no possible spark of mathematical genius will any combination of those Centimes ever add up to the price of one baguette. I also suspect that Madame la Boulangère subtly changes the price of her baguettes frequently as well, just to frustrate anyone’s attempts at one day turning up with the right change.
Inevitably fifty five people turn up each and every day and equally as inevitably Madame La Boulangère bakes just fifty three baguettes. The two disappointed customers leave crestfallen under the scornful gaze of Madame La Boulangère who, arms akimbo, clearly admonishes them for being late. Either because they were late or because they weren’t up to speed with the latest Irish Hurling tactics employed by their more fit voisins seeking pole position at the head of the queue. I use the word ‘queue' loosely here. Out of respect for my Froggie chums who, if reading this, probably wouldn’t understand any metaphor referring to ‘Charge of The Light Brigade’. Baking fifty five baguettes instead of fifty three is a concept that will not dawn upon her until at least three Breton voisins have succumbed to mortal injuries. All sustained in the ultimate scrum for the last baguette.
I've finished moaning now.
For the day anyway.