Nightmaire on the High Street

If ever you’re invited to meet the Maire of your local town, make sure you’ve mastered the art of talking about yourself and practise in front of some sympathetic friends.

We were delighted when we received our invitation for an informal get-together for all of the new residents.

“What a lovely idea” we all remarked in absolute naivety.

It was lovely and it was a great opportunity to get to meet various people in the town including some of the teachers of the local school, the owner of the garage and many other useful contacts. We were welcomed to the area by all the officials and it was nice to feel part of a community.

However, the nice feeling very quickly evaporated when the realisation struck that this wasn’t just a chance for the Maire to do all of the talking.

All of a sudden, I was transported back to the first day of secondary school, when an uninspired and somewhat sadistic teacher felt that a good way of romping through the lesson was to go round and get everyone to talk about themselves in front of the rest of the class.

To do it in English was nerve-wracking enough. To do it French was enough to make the pores of my skin open into Grand-Canyonesque floodgates and allow the perspiration to flow like my whole body was a new Atlantic tributary.

To make matters worse, we had positioned ourselves in the furthest corner of the room, away from all doors and windows, in an effort to go unnoticed. Thus, by the time the watchful gaze of our French interrogators had fallen onto us, all of our involuntary muscles had sprung into life and were attempting to mould themselves into the wall hangings.

No one was fooled.

Two minutes can seem like such a long time.

Luckily, there was plenty of Pineau Cognac to be consumed afterwards and the Maire was very interested to hear about Andrew’s and my story of why we had come to the Charente and offered lots of helpful advice as to how and where to find work.

Unfortunately, the relief that the public humiliation was now over was so immense, that my brain was having its own little party and wasn’t processing the information quickly enough to make a note of it.

I guess we’ll just have to brave another encounter…