The Englishman and his usual bloody cold
“Les cheveux have become over-abundant,” Eric-the-cat-eyed-crimper was stating the obvious.
He continued, “we cut back here, just where they begin to turn upwards …”
I apologised for the offending locks’ aspirations. Eric smiled kindly: “Of course they turn upwards, they are naturally wavy. And they get to a particular length – so – and they are delighted to be there, alors ils font la fête, quoi!”
What a lovely thought, les cheveux so delighting in their freedom they throw a party, kicking up their heels. Sadly the truth is my hair, left to its own devices, simply does a close impression of a Blackthorn hedge. Bless Eric for his skill and patience!
Eric is also a courteous man: “the locks,” he reproved, “undulate beautifully and are clearly in good health. And what about you?”
Well, I don’t undulate much as a rule. And my health is good (-ish), certainly now that I’ve re-established sleep patterns after months of disruption by a new neighbour.
“Explain!” he demanded. I was delighted to have an opportunity to unburden myself, so prattled away happily, fluently – and ungrammatically.
“The neighbour – an Englishman now known to all the other residents as ‘the CL‘ – sleeps all morning; awakes late lunchtime, plays some LOUD music, then watches television. All night. LOUDLY.”
Eric frowned. “So you asked him to be more quiet?”
“Well,” I paused to gather my thoughts and control my temper. “The CL responded to my polite pleas at 0230h and other similar times by shrugging, denying the sound was loud – when it was, VERY LOUD – and stumping off back inside, to turn the ruddy thing up …”
“… a shithead, clearly” concluded Eric, helpfully and accurately. Yes, indeed. Even without mentioning the CL’s habit of going to check his post in the lobby without bothering to put on any clothes (not a pretty sight, according to a thoroughly disgusted Mado). There’s worse – but I’ll spare your delicate sensibilities and simply add that you know the joke about sleeping like a baby? The one with the punchline: ‘I wake up every hour, screaming!’? Not very funny at the best of times – and far less so, believe me, when it is The Awful Truth …
These disturbances continued for months until one night I finally cracked and rang the CL’s doorbell. He ignored it. I kicked the door. He ignored that. I kicked the door again. He opened it, and a shouting match ensued. Having discovered that his greater height, weight and lung capacity had little or no fear-inducing effects, he gave up lowering over me and shouting and went back inside, slamming the door and … turning the sound up even higher.
I stood on the landing, near deafened by the din and blubbing helplessly.
Doors opened downstairs and two sets of neighbours emerged to express concern. I told them about my sleep-deprived woes, and they came upstairs to see what could be done. Simultaneously, Nadia emerged, blinking, from her flat opposite to signal to me: “Leave it to us,” she whispered, “we’ll deal with the CL.”
I kept out of sight, listening while Elie-from-downstairs led the negotiating team. He did so quietly, reasonably and with such authority that only the occasional contribution from Nadia and Madame Cessole and the latter’s mother-in-law was necessary.
As for the CL, he opened the door at Elie’s request but lurked behind it, refusing to show himself. That would be due to the presence of another male: all well and good to bully an aged bat of slight build, but another chap? Certainly not!
CL’s pleas in mitigation began by telling us his earphones had broken. Er, right. So why not ask his current paymistress to replace ’em? No? The next set of excuses consisted of him repeating tremulously, with obbligato sniffs (fortissimo), that he was ‘really ill’, had been ‘for years’: ‘unable to move’, ‘hadn’t been out clubbing for three years’ (oooh, shocking deprivation!), and forced to take loads of nasty médicaments for his ditto malady.
Let us look at the facts: he has long been so enfeebled by sickness as to be confined to quarters? So that’s how he’d managed to make his way to and from this place for regular visits to his petite amie prior to moving in, bags and baggage, all on his own? That’s how he’d managed to father a child – a toddler aged between 2-3 – on another Frenchwoman prior to acquiring a cushy number chez his latest unfortunate victim? By being so ill that he was physically incapacitated?
Serious illness? That condition dreaded of all GPs, plumbum oscillans, more like.
And my neighbourly group support? It worked. As such things do, if you are lucky enough to live in a place where neighbourliness is valued.
Back at the salon Eric was approving, “so, you had part of the United Nations with you, all acting in solidarity!”
Well, yes – near enough, with Elie, a Jewish pied-noir, and his partner, a Catholic Gersoise; Madame Cessole: Italian; Madame Cessole’s mother-in-law: Austrian; Nadia: Lebanese – all united against a common foe.
“Aha,” said Eric, “the Englishman. He is, of course, cold!” Frenchmen know this for sure (I make no comment, merely report).
“About right,” I sighed, acknowledging that high levels of chilly detachment are required to ensure complete indifference to another’s pain.
Later at Nadia’s, she hastened to explain to me that the CL had lied about his ‘médicaments‘.
“Well, yes,” I said. “I knew that …”
“No, no,” hissed Nadia, “he takes drugs. Drugs!”
“Golly!” I gaped at her, and gave myself a mental kick for not having twigged: “definitely accounts for his behaviour, and the constant sniffing.”
So the CL is known as a user in the quartier: a local dealer pays regular visits. What an effing effwit the CL is, to be sure. Or a sodding sniveller, perhaps?
Could this be a new variant of ‘the Englishman and his usual bloody cold’ (l’anglais et son sang-froid, the old song by Paddy Roberts)?
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