Monday, 1 July 2013

More about Nicholas

What I am about to relate dates from the few months after we had completed the purchase of Les Lavandes and while I was renovating the house, spending alternate weeks in France and England. I ate at the restaurant in the village at least once each week I was in France.

Nicholas has a style completely his own: untidy in dress, seemingly forgetful and harassed, scurrying here and there.  The problem is no so much that Nicholas has a poor memory, it's more a case of being disorganised and having too many other things on his mind. When he comes to the table to take the order he has usually forgotten either the order pad or, more likely, his pen. He then has to work out where he was when he last used the pen, but even when it has been located at the back of the bottles of spirits behind the bar or in a flower pot in the garden, the chances are that it won't write. I have taken to carrying a spare pen in my pocket when we eat there.

One day Nicholas was almost jumping up and down in excitement when I arrived. He couldn't wait to show me his latest acquisition, a set of plastic flower pots complete with plastic flowers for use as table decorations. He explained that he had bought them at a village I had never heard of. The name sounded something like Nasal.  Nicholas put me right: Noz was a new retail outlet that had recently opened in a nearby town.

‘I'm going there tomorrow morning,' Nicholas told me. ‘Would you like to come with me? I'll pick you up at nine o'clock.'

It was difficult to refuse him without appearing boorish, so I agreed, albeit less than wholeheartedly. That said, I rather expected that the proposal would have been forgotten by the morning so I was more than a little surprised to see a car stop outside the house on the dot of nine o'clock.

We drove to a down-at-heel industrial estate where the most dilapidated building of all bore a sign proclaiming in letters three feet high, "NOZ". The store was a cavernous warehouse and looked like an enormous jumble sale or a refugee clothing centre. Just inside was a counter loaded with socks, some in pairs, some lonely singles. There were green socks, blue socks, flourescent pink socks, and even one pair of red and white striped socks. Next was a section containing hundreds, or possible even thousands, of adjustable spanners about three inches long. They looked as though they were made of plastic, but when I picked one up I found it was actually metal. Exactly why one would want an adjustable spanner three inches long was beyond me. In any case, they looked pretty fragile and I reckoned they would break the first time they were used.

And so it went on: boxes of chocolates of a make unknown to me, just inside their best-before date; very large bras in canary yellow or leopard-skin-print; a rack of X-rated Spanish videos; sprays of red, plastic delphiniums (red delphiniums?). Trash, from front to back and from side to side. I took a chance and picked up a box of chocolates. (I tried one when I got home and threw the rest away.) As I joined the checkout queue, Nicholas rushed up, proudly flourishing four small bricklayer's trowels.

‘Just what I need for serving tarts,' he exclaimed.

I didn't have the heart to mock him, but I suspect Florence drew the line at using bricklayers' tools in the restaurant as I have never seen them in use.


The Broad said...

Charming story! And somehow very French!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Reminds me of a fella I know.

His motto, if he had one:

"I don't know what you could use them for, but I can get you a really good deal on a dozen!"