A number of people in the town of Greeneville, Tennessee called the police last week to report what appeared to be a man crushed by his own garage door. It turned out to be a harmless Halloween decoration.
I recently moved flat.
The apartment to the left of mine is occupied by a nice Franco-Vietnamese couple who apologised profusely to me about all the noise their kids must make, even though I hadn’t heard a peep out of them since I had moved in. I therefore suspect they keep their offspring in an airtight box.
The man is friendly enough, though the woman only ever peers sideways around the door with an embarrassed look on her face, shielding herself behind the front door as if expecting the person outside to attack her. Despite the fact that she lives on the second floor of a building protected by a sturdy locked gate followed by a locked main entrance – and the person at the door is only her husband.
The apartment to my right is more mysterious.
I have always abhorred so-called “Hallmark” holidays, the sole purpose of which is to prompt needless consumption and boost the profits of card-makers, florists and chocolatiers.
My wife and I always deliberately boycotted Valentine’s Day. I have never drunk a green-dyed drink or dressed in emerald colours on St. Patrick’s Day. Nor, when I lived in the US, did I ever eat tacos or drink tequila on Cinco de Mayo, which even most Americans erroneously think is the Mexican independence day (it actually marks a victory over the French).
By the same token, I haven’t even considered doing anything on the ridiculously contrived Grandparents’ Day or the frankly preposterous Siblings’ Day, although I had the former and continue to have one of the latter.
But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are different.
Whilst out walking I began to ponder on the progression of the human through the ages. Obviously, I was not around for many of these ages and neither was pen or paper or, in some cases neither was accuracy even when pen and paper were the done thing; thanks, biblical text writers, you wheeze master generals you, you had us going there for a bit. This aside I got to mulling over how things have spun upon their heads over the years.
Let us put on our mental hiking boots point our odometers to backwards and wander down the ages isle at our mental supermarket. We are not going that far, no packed lunches required. Off we pop, just to a time when being poor meant working your own field, growing your own vegetables, milking your own cow, collecting eggs from your chickens and putting wood into your oven in your small thatched cottage to make a simple meal of stew and bread.
What is it about my third-floor balcony that objects both animate and inanimate appear to have this irresistible urge to hurl themselves off it and into the void below?
One such apparent suicide featured our large, green parasol, which lifted itself clean out of the middle of the table and over the balustrade mid-meal as we and our lunch guests looked on, our mouths agape. It then floated down Mary Poppins-like to the garden below in a somewhat surreal slow motion, surviving its unexpected flight with just a broken rib.
Of course, I then had to go and ring on our ground floor neighbours’ door and ask for it back, trying to look nonchalant as I first walked through their flat and then took the lift upstairs holding a slightly muddy and bent seven-foot parasol.
My world, the little bubble that envelops me, is one where to allow my mind to frequent the negative currents of thought only leads me to a place where illness and unhappiness prevail . . . this is not a place I delight being in. I have seen spatterings of similar thinkings pasted all over social media akin to Banky’s work. You either get it, or you don’t.
The new school year here in France somehow wouldn’t be the same without a long list of back-to-school supplies.
When I was at school, shortly after the invention of the printing press, the only thing my parents had to fork out at the start of the year was a roll of adhesive film to cover my textbooks. Since I went to a comprehensive school, I sometimes had to make do with present-wrapping paper. Or, one memorable time shortly after their divorce, leftover wallpaper.
It somehow brings Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch to mind: “We was so poor we had to chop down trees ourselves using just our siblings, chew the wood down to pulp between what were left of our teeth, then press it into paper with our bare hands to make our own exercise books. And still teacher would cane us ‘cause the cover were green, not red.”