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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

January 09, 2007

Ruffled feathers

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Apologies for absence from here, and more especially for my absence from the New Year voeux.

Photograph: Harry Halibut.

Sorry to Jacques Chirac, of course, since I fear I won't be in Paris for his annual drinks-for-the-press gathering on Thursday, but also - and no less sincerely - to Gil Bernardi, the mayor of Le Lavandou.

Poor old Gil may already have been feeling left out of things. I see in Var Matin that none of the presidential candidates has sought his blessing, French law decreeing that no one can stand without having secured 500 signatures from around the country.

Then, on the very evening he throws open the salle d'honneur of the town hall to every Thomas, Richard et Henri in town, it must have been especially hard to be snubbed by one of his most recent permanent residents.

But it wasn't a snub at all. I had simply found a better offer: an evening's badminton.

How sad it that? You live in one of the world's most beautiful countries. You abandon its magnificent capital but beach up in one of its lovelier regions.

And all you can think to do, when the mayor invites you to sup with him and hear of his plans, is to whack a shuttlecock around a sports hall.


There are mitigating factors, however. Working from home - or, more accurately, living at work - is no aid to keeping fit. It seemed in Paris that I was either darting from one end of the country to another, or (rather more often) merely darting across the corridor from bedroom to work station. It wasn't a bad commute.

In Le Lavandou, things have already changed. Mme Randall has imposed a sensible regime of less wine, less bread, more salad and lots of steps. Steps?

Yes, foolishly enough, we live on the top of a hill. To go anywhere, there is a winding road, and there are steps. Joëlle has decided that I/we should take the steps, which are beyond the old BMW's powers to negotiate.

Yesterday, going for the baguette bien cuite, I counted them down and then counted them up, and there are 136 of the things. Some of them may well be shown here once I overcome one of those technical problems of mine and manage to upload some new photos to an unfamiliar and unwelcoming computer.

That sort of exercise is all very well and good provided, in stick and carrot terms, there is also the promise of a ball to chase and kick or, in my case, the feathers of some poor goose to tempt my racket.

The mayor was just unlucky to have chosen to present his voeux at the same time as, I discovered, you could play badminton at a sports centre on the outskirts of his town.

No disrespect, Gil, but also no contest and I trust you appreciate how enthusiastically I took advantage of local facilities.

French badminton clubs are probably much the same as French anything else clubs, that is to say not clubs at all. Are the French just too single-minded for clubs?

Certainly, I retain unfond memories of my experiences at the prestigious Racing Club de France in Paris, where people arrived with their own friends/playing partners, their own shuttles and their own resolve to nab a court from which they would not budge all night.

No hint of the sensible British system of pegs and boards and shaking things around to make sure everyone plays and little cliques don't simply stick together.

Ming, mentioned in my posting about hits and misses from Paris, was my saviour, introducing me to a much friendlier club which had begun life as an out-of-hours social amenity for post office employees but probably has few members these days who even buy stamps.

Even there, if Ming wasn't present to prove I knew someone, it could be tough to break into ready-made foursomes.

Photograph: trevor.

But I think I will take to badminton in Le Lavandou. For a slightly selfish reason.

Southern France has taken longer than the rest of the country to cotton on to the joys of this wonderful sport, with the result that a basic club-standard basher like me can look half decent among those who have taken it up.

And on my first night, there was therefore no shortage of people wanting to play with me.

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At January 10, 2007 11:51 AM, Anonymous Jules said...

Less wine, less bread? What's the point of living in France, eh? What's the point of living? Shuttlecocks!


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