Monday, 7 April 2014

My 'Glamorous' life!

Living in the South of France always sounds quite glamorous and I think some of my friends in the UK fondly imagine that I spend my days lying by a crystal clear swimming pool sipping cocktails in the sunshine, or shopping for chic outfits in the designer boutiques in town.  I have just caught sight of my reflection in the patio window and felt it was time to put the record straight!  (My arms aren’t long enough to take a ‘selfie’ of the full glory of what I am wearing and also the more I stretched my arms out, the more wrinkles appeared in strange places, hence just the headgear). Today is a typical example of my ‘unglamorous’ life – I am wearing walking boots, old jeans rolled up to the knees, a strappy top (it is 25°), and finally, a woolly hat (very hot but due to vanity as I had my hair done this morning and it is very windy!) 

I’m sure when the hairdresser asked if I wanted hair-spray applying that she assumed I’d be going out somewhere nice, but the reality was that I was having to attend to a flood in the pool-house.  (And when I say ‘pool-house’, it is actually a small cave-type area down some steps where the machines that work the pool live) (and also frogs).  Sadly the flood was entirely my fault – I had done nothing about the vast amounts of leaves that had collected on the steps so after 2 days of wind and then a tropical monsoon-like downpour last Wednesday, I should not have been surprised to find that the drain was blocked and there was water all the way up to the second step.  I spent most of the afternoon playing ‘hook a duck’ with all the pool cleaning products that were floating on the surface and then digging out leaves with a rake.  I actually got a bit scared when I suddenly heard a mechanical noise start up (it was only later when I finally gave in and called the plumber that I found out there was a pump down there).

The ‘uniform’ of jeans and walking boots is quite normal for everyday life now as most days involve a walk round the vineyards or to the village for bread or just playing ball in the garden with the Loulou the dog.  On the days that I go to work she looks depressed the minute she hears the sound of heels clattering across the tiled floor as she knows that ‘noisy shoes’ mean I will be leaving her!  And when I say ‘heels’ I don’t mean stillettos – many of the streets here are cobbled and taking clients to view houses often involves walking around gardens and up slopes so the ‘sensible heels’ that my daughter used to laugh at me for wearing are now the norm – as are trousers (all of us in the agency have learned the hard way that you don’t wear short skirts on viewings as many properties have strange staircases, if not ladders...)

Actually on reflection I admit that life here can be glamorous – just the other day I had a lovely lunch next to the beach at a sea-food restaurant in Collioure and there are many occasions where you will find me lying on a lounger by the pool – but just remember that before I have poured the cocktails I will have cleaned the pool (of frogs and dogs), balanced the chemicals, cleared the poolhouse of leaves (HaHa) – and I bet nobody feels sorry for me!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Anyone for tennis?

In the UK I used to play tennis at least once a week with a group of fantastic friends.  (When I say ‘play tennis’ we didn’t really let the game get in the way of a good conversation and spent longer having coffees afterwards than we did on the actual match).  Since moving here I am regularly to be seen with a tennis racket in hand but that is only to lob the ball as far down the garden as possible for the dog to retrieve, but I really missed playing properly.  Recently I met a lovely ‘old’ (in his 70s I guess) man at an apero evening in the village and he said that he and his friends often had to play as a threesome so would I like to join them.  I now find myself an honorary member of a men’s tennis 4 and it is the highlight of my week.

The first time I played I was extremely rusty but they were very patient and recognised occasional flashes of brilliance (!) so invited me to continue with them every week.  Personally I think it is because they are so thrilled to find a woman who doesn’t speak much – I am pretty fluent in french and the words for ‘yours’ ‘mine’ and ‘out’ were easy but I have never before needed to know the words for ‘tramlines’ and the first time one of them shouted ‘recule’ at me I thought he was being rude, but now I know it means ‘run back’!

I have just played again this afternoon and have learned a lot of new french words -  none of them to do with tennis, but I am also giving them a crash course in swearing in English!  As none of them speak a word of the language so will never read this,  I can introduce you to l’equipe:

Here is Francis who always reminds me of Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers.  He is tall and skinny and is always accompanied by his very old dog who limps around the outside of the court.  I dread the day he decides to wear shorts!

This is Janou, who I always think of as Benny Hill when he dressed as the boy-scout (with the fetching socks and shorts outfit).  He looks like a typically grizzly french farmer but is very kind and can run much faster than you can imagine!

Jean-Jacques wears more jewellery than I do and spends much of the game announcing the score, wrongly and always in his favour.  He is quite short so when you lob him he just stands there and calls for a ladder.

And finally Joel, who has the perfect outfit for every occasion and brings several changes of caps and sunglasses, selecting just the right accessory depending on which side of the court he is playing!

So, all very different from the group of attractive female friends I used to play with, and the setting is world’s apart too.  Playing on a hard-court under a bright blue sky, with the Pyrénées in the background and the Mediterranean just visible on the horizon, and hearing the clanks and thuds of a vicious game of petanque being played on the dusty car park, makes my years of playing on an indoor carpeted court at David Lloyd just a distant memory (but a very good one!). 

It seems strange to me that even the scruffiest looking villages have such excellent sports facilities, but I am very much enjoying taking advantage of it and  have just paid my annual membership fee to the club – 40 euros!