Tuesday, 8 September 2015

French toilet seats

Long running feuds can be hard to understand. Families have been known to feud for generations over matters that to the outsider seem barely trivial. Sometimes there are feuds that have gone on for such a length of time that the participants no longer know why they are feuding and yet they continue despite neither side benefiting from it. And so I wonder then what trivial slight could have started the feud between the French and toilet seats. Bars, restaurants, public toilets, campsites, motorway service stations. You won't find a single toilet seat in any of them and like the bitterest feuds it's causing both sides to lose out and yet neither will relent.

You're going to reel out the old line about the French only having toilets that are a hole in the floor but your wrong. Yes, the French have traditionally lagged behind the British in toilet technology - it was common even 10 years ago to find a hole in the floor where the toilet should be, but here's the bit I don't understand: In recent years they've made such advances. They've really made the effort to catch up. Nowadays almost everywhere you go the hole in the floor toilets have been replaced by proper crappers (consequently the French have noticeably thinner thighs).

Admittedly they still put urinals in the same places as the English would put public telephones. In two of my favourite restaurants it's possible to wave to the people working behind the bar whilst taking a piss. Turns out they find that unsettling. Anyway, generally they've gone to the trouble of installing proper loos in cubicles with doors and locks. But this is the thing. They have gone to all the trouble of installing the loos and they have come so close to joining the rest of civilisation and then they haven't bothered putting the fucking loo seats on. There's not a loo seat in France.

In our campsite they've actually gone to the effort of installing machines that dispense paper loo seats for you to rest on the rim and flush away afterwards. JUST PUT A PROPER FUCKING LOO SEAT ON IT. Put a seat on it for crying out loud. What has the loo seat done to be so roundly shunned by an entire nation? Whatever it is it's time to make amends. Put your differences aside, France. Be the bigger man and embrace the loo seat. Then put it on the fucking loo and stop being such a prick.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Buying a car in France

I remember walking past a car at the village garage a week ago that was the most awful thing I had ever seen. It was a Renault Megane made in the 1990s – the decade that brought us two tone jeans and the Lightning Seeds. God I hate everything about that decade. You can say what you like about the 80s but at least people had passion and optimism. At least people were brave. The 90s barely even went through the motions. It started off terribly with grunge music. Grunge music. That fucking turd on a string. Listening to grunge music was like finding a shit in your butter dish - you spent the rest of the day wondering why anybody would do anything so inexplicably horrid. But at least they didn't wash. After that they sanitised everything and the rest of the 90s beiged out into the horizon. It wasn't that the music was dreadful or the style was dreadful, it was that it wasn't really anything. It was the Lightning Seeds. One day someone will steal the 1990s and nobody will fucking notice.

To say the Renault Megane was badly designed gives it too much credit. It wasn't designed. Nobody dared design anything in the 90s. It was an off-white void on wheels. It had nothing to say about itself. It was the physical embodiment of the noise you make when you chew salad. Worst of all it was an estate version. I remember thinking to myself at the time, 'at least we won't end up with that shit cube.'

I wanted to buy a proper french classic like this, a 1970's citroen:

But it rapidly became obvious we didn't have anywhere near enough money for anything road worthy, so I gave up on the 1970s citroens and started looking for modern, practical cars. But they were still too expensive. Most used car dealerships in France sell cars that are only one or two years old, so they are pretty new and the price is still high.

By now we were running out of time. I had trawled every single used car dealership for 30 miles and had found nothing. We needed a car by the end of the week as our tenancy ran out then and our next residence was a campsite 5 hours drive away in Bordeaux.

By switching our search to the internet (leboncoin.fr) we finally found something that we could afford that wasn't miles away. It was called the Fiat Doblo. It was the first in Fiat's new range of cars designed by a drunken toddler looking through a kaleidoscope. It was remarkable in that no elements of the car matched any other elements. No windows were the same size or the same shape, none of it's parts were the same proportion. The bonnet looked further away than the rest of the car. If you stared at it too long it would give you an attack of vertigo. If Postman Pat had an evil nemesis this was the car he would drive. Needless to say I quite liked it.

Curves in all the strange places

Sadly before we could buy it someone else saw the genius in it and bought it. And so it got to yesterday, the day we were due to be thrown out of the house and still we had no car. Luckily there was one car left in the village that nobody would ever buy.