Having related my sufferings to Veronique and Manu – who clearly found them vastly amusing – I then turned to Pierre, who was as ever listening in from the sidelines.
When will I learn?
Pierre’s immediate response was a grin of the broadest kind. ‘Crude’ is the next word-association, of course …”Were they having an orgy?” he enquired hopefully.”Dunno, doank air,” I replied sulkily.”Because,” continued Pierre happily “if they were having an orgy, then you could have just grabbed un copain and joined in!”Words failed me. Doesn’t happen often; but this was one of those rare moments. I harumphed a bit for a while until deciding that to continue doing so might dangerously deplete my precious stores of energy.
I contented myself instead with what I fondly hoped might be a speaking look and tottered away to a chorus of ‘sleep wells’, ‘have a good rest’ and ‘sweet dreams’ from the relenting stallholders – enough to raise the spirits of the sleepless. A bit.
You know, I think I prefer Pierre when he’s morose and miserable.
What to do?
So it was that later that day, I took my neighbourly unneighbourliness noise nuisance ongoing challenging situation together with The Pierre Problem and laid them at the dainty, naked feet of la Patronne, Saint Reparata (yes! She’s back, fresh and renewed from the Catholic kitsch factory whence she had been extraordinarily rendered).
“Would it,” I whispered, “be too much to ask to send Pierre the butcher a spot of clinical depression – mild-to-moderate only – or, perhaps, to reduce his testosterone secretion level by, say, ooh, about 75 percent? Mind you, 90 percent would be better; but miracles are by definition unexpected …”
I heard a swishing sound and looked up. What could it be?
Lo and behold, it was none other than the Keeper of the Shrine doing her thing with the dustpan and soft-bristled brush. A fierce-looking elderly woman, straight-backed, dark and of the strong, dramatic cast of feature often seem around the Med – Anna Magnani’s little sister, grown into adulthood in Vieux Nice, guarding the ancient mysteries of the once-Italian city.
I smiled. She returned the smile, instantly transforming her expression from forbidding to warm and kindly – revealing, for a few seconds and for all to see, the ravishing woman she had been.
So, let’s get this straight: this may mean either ‘smile, things could be worse’ or ‘your prayers will be answered – or at least they will probably be answered, just as soon as we’ve got the hang of The Management’s new, incompetently-programmed and hideously over-budget database’?
Forget it: I am not even bothering to open a book on this one.
I left, exchanging the incense-laden twilight of the cathedral for the bright glare of the noonday sun. I know it was noon, because the gun went off – the noonday canon, fired to mark that point in the day: another local ritual – this time a long-dead Englishman’s insistence turned into tradition.
Perhaps a new tradition may be left in my wake: no effing all-night parties mid-week. Although it strikes me that it’s not the holy headless one’s services I really need: those of her executioner would come in a damn sight more handy, methinks.
Pierre, you see, is not the only person in Nice who’s obsessed with bed.
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