13 December 2006

Our First week in France - Car fires and stake-outs

I mentioned in a previous post that I would tell about the experience I had during the first week here in La Rochelle. Well, to continue and recap!!

Our first night in La Rochelle, a Monday, was not simple, not calm and not nice! We all slept on one double mattress (Me, the wife and kids!) we had a hard day moving, I drove for eight hours etc etc etc.
Oh and there were three cars on fire in the street...
As you can imagine, I wasn't really in the mood to stay in France but as we were so physically exhausted, and the reality was that we couldn't do anything about it, we started 'le grande' unpack. Five solid days of living in a melange of boxes and bubble wrap. It is so tedious moving but so satisfying when unpacked. It was now Friday evening and my parents were due to visit us for that weekend, to see how we'd settled in and if all the tears we had shed were worth it or not.

After a few drinks, nice meal and a few glasses from the 'digestif' cupboard, we all headed off for bed. I hadn't slept since the day we arrived in France, mainly due to fear of more random car burn-outs, the occasional creak or two within the house (far larger than any house I have ever been in) and the fact that I can never sleep until it feels like home. I took a sleeping tablet.

The next thing I knew was a kind of gentle tap or two near my front door. I was in a bizarre drunken sleepy state, wasn't sure if the taps were reality or in my screwed up knackered mind. One thing for sure, I'd had three hours sleep and the tablet was nearly working. I laid still and did that thing you do when trying to listen, held my breathe! So amongst my gasping for air and silence, I did hear the noise. It was a kind of random knock, well not a knock, a tap.

I thought I should take a look out of my office window as this faces the square and overlooked my car and front door. To my utter horror, I saw a torch light beaming randomly in the back window of my car. Those bastards are not burning my car. No way. I am not the bravest man around, far from it. I am comedy. Not this time, the sleeping pill gave me a sense of aggression and bravery that i'd never felt before. I took a deep breath and decided that I would tackle them.

I crept downstairs, in my pants, and prepared myself to open the front door. I thought that if I startled them, I would have the upper hand. I also figured that I had more chance of getting the first punch in!! I stood behind the door, took a deep breath and realised that whoever it was is sitting on my step. Shit..shit shit shit..Deep breath again. This time, I am going to put a stop to this..I opened the door as quickly as I could...

A skin head with the face of a battered rugby player jumped up...shit...he was a tramp I thought..a nutter maybe..In my best drunken, sleepy French I asked "c'est qui ca?" which means who is it, he looked at me with a kind of scared yet alarmingly cool nutter type expression. He opened his mouth and spoke "n'ais pas peur monsieur" don't be scared sir? Don't be fucking scared? I am standing in the street in my pants talking to a crazy tramp about to burn down my car, don't be scared!!
Then he said it again and again..by now, i'd realised that his voice was kind of teenagerish, he had quite a high pitched voice. Really didn't suit his hard look! "Je suis le Police" he said. Yeah right, of course you are the Police I thought. He showed his ID card..yup, he was the Police.."encore" I said, show me it again..He got out the ID card again and pulled his ragged overcoat to one side, yes, it was all there, the badge, the cuffs, the gun..GUN!!!

This was mad, now he'd shown me his gun, I felt comfortable. Standing in the street in my pants. Really bloody comfy! Anyhow, now I felt I ought to ask some questions. Why was he here, turned out he was pretending to be a tramp and wait for more arsonists. Ok ok, I said, I got that part, that made sense, but there was a torch light in the back of my window, what was that?

"Ahh..." he was now trying to speak English "Zis is mah torsshhh..zerr izz a spider on mon edd" What? I asked him to say it in French, yes, it was true, this hard nut with a gun was looking for a spider that had landed on his head. Discretely so as not to scare off the potential arsonists, he got his torch out. Terrific I thought, these guys can shoot you but shit themselves when they see a spider. I made my excuses and left him to it. I went back to bed.

I got into bed and woke my wife up...She lifted her head and said "why are you talking to people outside at four in the morning, can't you just sleep like normal people".."You'll never guess what just happened to me" I began..

No comments: