Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Of Mice and Men

I am moved by momentous events to write an extra-curricular blog.

After having successfully (well, almost) negotiated two months of events throughout the US, and a hectic French schedule in Lyon, we ended up yesterday in the delightful Romanesque Mediterranean town of Frejus for an event at the Librairie Charlemagne - a prestigious local bookstore.

We were met by the delightful Valerie Mouton, a former radio journalist who was going to host the event, and lunched in a local restaurant before visiting the oldest cathedral in Europe.

When we turned up for the event itself yesterday evening, the bookstore owner hurried out to let us into the store's private parking area, just off the main street. To do this he had to lower a two-foot high, nine-inch diameter post sunk into the sidewalk. This was a highly sophisticated process that involved jumping up and down on it until it stayed down.

With traffic piling up behind me I waited patiently until it was down, and I was waved forward. Unfortunately, as I passed over it, the damned thing suddenly took it into its head to rise up again. There was a terrible crashing and grinding, and I jammed on the brakes, effectively to find my car impaled from below on the pillar. No way to get it off.

And I had an audience awaiting me in the store!

Mindful of the fact that I had a meeting with my French publisher two hours away at Arles at 9am the following morning, plus twelve hours of driving over the next two days to get me to the book festival at Le Havre, I abandoned my poor, impaled Renault Scenic, to do my duty in the store.

As I spoke of research and inspiration, a mechanic arrived to raise my car up on two jacks, while simultaneously inserting a third between the pillar and the underside of the vehicle to force the pillar down. It took him an hour-and-a-half to free it. My concentration was less than perfect - a little like my French!

Now I cannot take to the road this morning without having the car checked for damage and safety. Even assuming all is ok, I will be several hours late for my appointment at Arles, and the leisurely overnight I had anticipated at home to break the two day drive that lies ahead, will be reduced to a handful of hours.

If there is a problem with the car, God knows how it will go...

In the words of a famous Scot: The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley.

A certain Anglo-Saxon word of mediaeval origin comes to mind!