Thursday, July 24, 2008

Camp sights: Part Three

On the beach...

The Bay of Pampelonne is 5 kilometres of sand divided up into public and private beaches. It was also one of the sites for the Provence Landing of 1944 and was soon to be the site for the lesser-known Baconnier landing of 2008.

They told us at the campsite that the beach was just down the dirt track that wound through vineyards and bamboo plantations. It sounded terribly exotic so we set off, me in my glamorous new silver flip-flops and the girls in their micro-shorts and tiny strappy tops.

It was further than we imagined and at one point we had to cross a busy main road. We stood hesitantly on the verge while young men in sleek sports cars sped past, flashing their lights and sounding their horns as my girls giggled prettily. Well, they are gorgeous. I was quite flattered when someone beeped their horn at me - until I realized it was because I was in the middle of the road and in danger of being run over…

When we finally stumbled onto the mythical beach, my feet were bleeding profusely and I had to take off my flip-flops. Walking barefoot on the sand was like walking on shredded Brillo pads but it was either that or lose one of my toes. By this time, the girls had decided I was cramping their style and had gone on ahead. But why were they staring at the ground? Had they suddenly lost confidence in the face of all this glamour?

Then I realized. This was a nudist beach. My girls are not used to seeing so much flesh and so many dangly bits on show, especially when the flesh was a little – how shall I put it? – past its prime. Still, it made me feel better about my own floppy bits.

In fact, a few days later, I came to this beach on my own for a bit of topless sunbathing. At least no-one would bat an eyelid at a pasty plump English woman baring her boobs. Now, my boobs are a little on the large side – let’s say that anyone sitting next to me wouldn’t need a parasol – but surely they wouldn’t draw attention here, would they?

Wrong. After a few minutes of blissful sunbathing, a shadow fell across my body. Then I heard a series of hoarse grunts and a man’s voice murmuring “Oh là là. Oh là là. Oh LA LA!” I immediately hitched up my bathing costume and rolled over. The Pervert of Pampelonne grinned lasciviously and walked away while I opened my book and vowed never ever to go topless again.

Still, I’ve got nice tanned ankles now. Pity I can’t wear the flip-flops…

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Camp sights: Part Two

The English Abroad.

A play in one act.

St Tropez: a mediaeval port that has lost none of its charm; its narrow streets wind lazily beneath the sun as azure waves lap softly against the ancient shore.

Gigi is strolling along the seafront when a lion-like roar (in a broad northern English accent) rips through the air. A large, purple-faced man is gesticulating menacingly in the middle of the street:

Angry tourist: Police! Get me the police! Anyone 'ere know where the police station is? Shut up you. I want the police NOW!

Gigi: Ahem - can I help perhaps?

Angry Tourist: Yeah, I ordered mools mariner, right? And when it come it were too salty an' there were no wine, no cream, nothing so I said…

AT’s Wife: We've only bin 'ere two days.

AT: So I said I’m not 'aving this rubbish take it away. I’ll 'ave what 'e's 'aving cos the bloke next to me were eating a pizza.

AT’s wife: Disgusting it is.

A French waiter, who has been standing calmly by and is now on the phone to the police, smiles tightly at Gigi.

Waiter: Ils sont partis sans payer.

AT: An' the waitress brought the pizza, right, and she slapped it on table an' said "There is no wine with this meal."

Waiter: Et il l’a traitée de pute.

AT’s wife: This is disgusting, this is. We've only bin 'ere two days.

Gigi: Er – the waiter said you left without paying and you insulted the waitress…

AT: No I never, stupid cow. POLICE! Where's the police? I want the police.

Waiter: No problem, monsieur– you are going to spend ze whole day wiz ze police. Zey are on their way.

AT: I want the British Embassy! Someone phone the British Embassy!

AT’s wife: My 'usband's not well. 'E's already 'ad one heart attack. It's disgusting, it is. We've only bin 'ere two days.

The Angry Tourist clutches his chest and starts moaning loudly.

AT: Oooh! Arrgghh! Get an ambulance, quick! Oooh…

Waiter: No problem, monsieur – what is ze number for ze eenglish ambulance?

AT: Nine – nine - nine.

Gigi: Well, er – I’d better be off. Um – I’m sure the police will sort it all out.
(To the waiter) Je suis désolée. Nous ne sommes pas tous comme ça. Bon courage…


Monday, July 14, 2008

Camp sights: Part One

I have just come back from ten wonderful days in Ramatuelle with two of my children. We did hardly anything at all except sleep, read and sunbathe and it was perfect – well, almost.

I’ve never been camping with my children before. If we ever went on holiday, it was with my husband and he did all the booking, organising and driving. I am quite proud, therefore, that I managed to do all these things by myself and only got lost a teeny weeny bit at the end – hardly anything at all really; I just missed the turning for the campsite on the route des plages and had to do a nifty U-turn in a vineyard. No problem.

We stayed in a bungalow toilé. This was not some grotesque parody of English suburbia as I had first imagined, but a glorified furnished tent full of zips: the cupboards were zipped, the bedrooms were zipped, the windows were zipped, the door was zipped…Forget the sweet, soft chirping of crickets at dusk - every evening at bedtime, the air fairly resonated with the sound of zips.

The showers were great, which was a good job, since my two girls had refused to leave home without at least three kilos of make-up and toiletries – each. The loos, on the other hand, were Turkish. These holes in the ground have always inspired in me fear and loathing: what if I slip and get my foot stuck? What if I overbalance? It has not happened so far although the last one I frequented had a rather aggressive automatic flushing system which took me by surprise because I hadn’t quite finished…

There were a lot of Dutch and German people at the campsite, all tall with headfuls of gleaming Boris-Johnson hair. Our immediate neighbours - a blonde couple with two blonde, well-behaved children - provided us with fine examples of Teutonic discipline. When we staggered out of our bungalow at midday, bleary eyed and dishevelled, they had already left (at dawn) to visit some interesting, historical monument. They had prepared a healthy picnic and never forgot their sun block. I know this because I once got up very early to go to the loo and saw these items neatly aligned on their table. Our own table was strewn with the debris of the previous evening’s meal (cheese rind, gobs of pickle, apple cores and crisps) and our beach towels were hanging off the backs of the chairs rather than neatly pegged on the clothes horse provided. They also aligned their shoes on the terrace and I never once heard them yell ‘Where the *µ@% is my other flip-flop?’ as we did quite often.

It was a ‘family campsite’ which is a euphemism for ‘very noisy’. On most evenings, an animation was provided. We never went to any of these – we didn’t need to because we could hear everything from the comfort of our own beds. On the first night, an extremely irritating ventriloquist with a stupid voice kept us awake until half past eleven (I would have told him just where he could throw his voice but I am far too polite). The following evening, we were regaled with a couple of slightly out-of-tune guitarists who were obviously having a bit of plectrum trouble and a few nights later, a magician - who sounded suspiciously like the ventriloquist – performed an act which seemed to consist in shouting ‘Are you having fun, children?’ every five minutes to a worryingly silent audience.

Of course, it wasn’t really proper camping but it was bucolic enough for my tastes. I bravely squashed a huge spider with my shoe but I am ashamed to admit that when a giant cricket found its way into my children’s bedroom one night, I was unable to come to the rescue. Once more, it was my fearless daughter, Rachel, who found the courage to dispose of it (after suffocating it with fly spray) while I trembled in my own safely-zipped-up room like the despicable coward I am.

To be continued…