Heathrow bristled with cops, the departures lane was blocked by a Police 4x4 and the Fast Bag Drop was a misnomer, but we were delayed mainly because our plane was – as our captain put it – ‘broke’, and they had to ‘go and find another’. How do you find a B737? How do you lose one? – (To lose one 737, Mr Worthing, is a tragedy…) This put us late enough to have a prandial drink and observe the changing faces of BA flight attendants. Smile as you board – glued-on; smile as they serve first drink – always just as you’re finishing your meal - cursory; smile if you dare order a second – snooty (DG was so intimidated that she said ‘We’re sharing it’); smile when they’re selling the (so-called) duty-frees - expansive; and ‘thank-yous’ as you leave - glued-back-on.
But it’s nice to be back in the sun after the wettest June since Noah docked. Or it was until a person very dear to me who shall be nameless so no one gets hurt especially me is complaining about the heat and can’t wait for the cool 19º promised for tonight.
They’ve done a naff but cute thing in Villefranche: in the more picturesque spots, they’ve put up paintings of it by local artists. This is the Place de la Fontaine.
Canal Minus Watching the news on TV is like still being at home: it’s all about England. The 104th Tour de France bike race starts tomorrow in London for the first time, and, what with our new prime minister, the weather, the floods, the terrorists, Alan Johnson’s release and a wet Wimbledon, (now that France has 12 men in the top 100 they’ve started showing Wimbledon. Britain got one man past the first round), French Schadenfreude is rampant. But don’t get me started on French TV. (Warning: the rest of this paragraph is so boring it could damage your health.) The only remotely watchable channel, unless you like quizzes and 1960s reruns, is an encrypted one called Canal Plus, for which you pay 30 Euros (£20) a month - but for six weeks it has remained stubbornly crypté. You ring the techies (45 cents a minute – average wait time 12 minutes), and Presto! It works - for an hour. Next night you have to ring again. I wrote cancelling the contract last month, and guess what? It started working! They wrote apologising and offered me a new contract at 22 Euros (£14) a month. Foolishly, I accepted, and promised the DG she’d have Wimbledon in French. You can guess the rest: it’s crapté again. Last night’s call was 17 minutes – can’t wait for tonight’s. Remember the name – Canal + or Canal Plus.
But it’s nice to be RW again after a frenetic few weeks, to have your meals outside, exhume the tube of sunblock that’s long past its squeeze-by date, and go for a walk without an umbrella.
Brown sauce Say what you like about Brown – please – but you’ve got to agree he’s lucky. In his first week as PM he saved Scotland from terrorism, freed Alan Johnston and stopped dropping his jaw between sentences. No wonder his ratings are soaring.
Carbon dating Went to a sensational party before we left. It was an eightieth birthday party. But no Zimmer-shuffle this: the music was blue-grass and the dancing square. The hostess is one of our group of travelling companions who’ve been visiting European cities together for eleven years, (this year we’re off to Naples). Two days after we get home from Naples, the said octogenarian is off up the Amazon – by canoe I wouldn’t wonder. (More later on this wonderful group of Nomads whose collective age looks like a telephone number.) Happy birthday Maggie!