Sunday, 10 March 2013

100 posts and the concluding chapter

This is my 100th post! And it is also Mother's Day in the UK. Whether or not you're in the UK, send a message to your mother: call her, text her, email or Skype her. Remind her that you love her and appreciate her.

Public service announcement over. Let us return to Rouen.

So: when we last met, Mary and I had ascended the Gros Horloge and looked out over the glorious vista of Rouen. Having looked, all that remained was the descent. The descent past five floors, down hundreds of steps whose height changed without warning. The feeling of jolting terror that filled me when I put my foot down to where I thought the step would be (and instead found empty air) became my constant companion. A difference of even three centimeters is enough to cause the human brain to fold in on itself and collapse like a soufflé.

I didn't realise quite how tense the descent had made me until I reached the bottom. I had to walk like a robot because my legs had cramped up so completely that my knees refused to bend. Twenty minutes later I was still feeling a little wobbly as we paused to review our progress and our map. Following lunch, Mary had indulged her love of apples and crunched happily away as we watched the market close down around us. We stepped briefly into another cathedral, l'Eglise St-Maclou, in the hope of finding the crypts but the whole place seemed to be under renovation. We nosed around, but the day was drawing on and we retired from the building with an urge to sit and enjoy the peace.

We found a park and settled ourselves on a bench. To our left was a gloriously large house of the kind one only seems to find in France. Beside it was another towering spire and behind that the sun set. A long day and, to put it bluntly, we were pooped. After sitting for a while, watching children play football with their dad, listening to the music and sounds of students around us, we roused ourselves and looked for a bar.

Thankfully bars are both plentiful and easy to find in Rouen. We settled at a table outside in a little square and waited for the waiter to come past. I may have mentioned this before, but managers in the French hospitality industry have a near phobia of hiring more staff than they need, and as a result getting served in France is a matter of waiting and being absolutely ready to order when a waiter stops at your table. If you say "Um," he will be gone, and you will be thirsty for another thirty minutes, unhappily regarding the golden-coloured beer that others are drinking.

We snapped off orders fairly quickly and the waiter was overjoyed to meet an American and an English person who spoke a little French. He disappeared, he reappeared, two tall glasses of cold and delicious beer were presented to us. The evening drew on and we talked about this and that, nothing of any importance. We had another beer, looked at the time, and made our way towards the station after one or two false starts on my part. Having reached the station we embraced again, parted, and I collapsed into my seat. Opposite me was a young lady who looked unhappy and had arrayed about her exercises in English grammar.

I offered what little help I could and what followed was an impromptu lesson in English, because, as previously mentioned - I like teaching. As we got off I offered her my card on the assurance that she would call if she needed help; I doubt she needs an English tutor but - you never know. The only sure way to gain nothing is to do nothing.

So: Rouen is beautiful. If I have learnt anything from this trip, from this year, or from the events that transpired over this day it is that opportunities should be seized around the waist and passionately embraced.

Metaphorically speaking.

A final photo that I particularly like; the rest can be found at this link.