Curry and corn on the cob

On my final night in France, Tahar took me to what he described as the best Indian restaurant in Chambéry, which turned out to be a Pakistani Halal outfit, but who’s going to quibble over such small details (apart from Indians and Pakistanis, obviously).

There were a total of four of us in the restaurant. Me, Tahar, a solitary French diner, and the proprietor. “You like cricket?” I asked him, to which he replied with a stream of Pakistani-accented French, from which I picked up that he had watched cricket every day while growing up in Pakistan, but in France all they show is “le foot, le foot, le foot!”. After yet another smoking break involving Tahar and the other diner (the restaurateur took his smoking breaks separately) they returned to the obligatory coffee. I declined. “The French – they drink a lot of coffee, right throughout the day,” I commented in my best GCSE French. “They drink a lot, they smoke a lot…”

This tickled our friend at the other table. The scene reminded me vaguely of Desmond’s, with Porkpie chuckling away in the corner.  “And in England, you drink tea instead.” I explained that I didn’t live in England, and I much preferred coffee, but at 10pm? I would never sleep. Doesn’t seem to be a problem that’s occurred to the French.

In an intriguing mix of our native languages, with much hand-waving and the odd break for a cigarette, the three of us discussed any number of topics, including family, DC’s situation, religion, the deterioration of educational and healthcare standards in France and the UK, French food (not as good as it used to be), Sarkozy (he’s an idiot), Muslim fundamentalism. It was quite a night.

I am in Sheffield as I write this – at a conference for the next couple of days. Had my first experience of Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken tonight. iColin and I opted for a corn-on-the-cob accompaniment. Corn-on-the-cob is great for getting your teeth into, I find, and it returns the favour by getting right into your teeth. Will be picking sweetcorn out for days, I expect.

DC was eventually repatriated to Scotland on Saturday, after a false start or two (try and avoid MapFre if you can when choosing travel insurance), and is recovering gradually in an Edinburgh hospital. I saw him this morning before I headed south. He seemed in good form, albeit dog-tired from lack of sleep. Not a good place for light sleepers, hospital. I brought him some earplugs.

Chambéry, Wednesday

Hannibal wuz ere

Yet another sunny day in Chambéry. The air was crisp and cold as I walked into town and found a café. I have learned some important skills on this trip to France. The French for “what is the password for your wi-fi?” for example, and the word for doughnut. Both have come in very useful.

Yesterday was the third full day I have spent in this town in the last 2 weeks, but the first where everything was open. Everything shuts down on a Monday, it would seem. Encouraged by places actually being open for business, I explored a bit more of the town, and it’s a great little place. Lots of old winding streets, Savoyard architecture and the odd castle and cathedral popping up when you least expect it.

A lovely thing about being in Chambéry is that, contrary to one’s typical experience of a French ski resort, it feels like being in authentic France, among the French. An American girl walked past me on Monday night, talking to her friend in English (or what passes for it among the North Americans), but the only British voice I’ve heard (apart from DC, of course) is from some relatives of the guy in the adjoining hospital room – who suffered an accident in Tignes a few days after him.

DC continues to make good progress in his recovery. The  highlights so far have included his reaction to my informing him I’d brought him the Guardian and Observer for reading material, and a purple patch yesterday morning when his humour was in full flow. A male student nurse called Tahar, pronounced ‘Tar’, at least by me, had a few questions for DC, which the big man attempted to answer, not always in the most helpful way imaginable. Replying to the question “Have you any children?” he replied “No.” before adding “Apart from the people I used to live with.” I convulsed. Tahar just looked bemused.

Tahar went on to explain that his name was Algerian in origin, and that his mother is French but his father Algerian, which provoked a robust comment from DC, which, while not especially racist in the great scheme of things, invoked a certain favourite French stereotype of his, involving surrender. I daresay Tahar, had he understood the comment, might have found it a change to have the French side of his family targeted by a racial slur…

It’s just after 11am here. Visiting starts at 12. Time for another coffee, I reckon.

Chambéry bis

Back again.. the opportunity having arisen to come back for a few days to spend time with DC, and my employer having been kind enough to permit it.

Back in the same hotel. It’s a different room, but they’re all identical, so it feels rather familiar. This time, though, there is no Wiseman to bicker with about who uses which coat hooks, I get the double bed, and there is no-one snoring up in the top bunk.

Flew into Geneva at 6.20pm today, and had to wait for the 8pm bus. Found a food vendor. Swiss sausage rolls, it turns out, are none too shabby, although not really a patch on Greggs. There were no chicken and bacon lattices, fudge doughnuts or yumyums either. The bus left at 8.02pm. Felt slightly let down by such a flagrant lack of efficiency in Switzerland.

Arrived at the bus station in Chambéry just after 9.  So many memories came flooding back – the anxious taxi journey exactly 2 weeks ago.. the hospital waiting room, the trudge to the hotel through darkened Chambéry streets.

These are happier times. Val and John, who have been with DC for the last few days, kindly delayed eating until my arrival, and we caught up over dinner. The big man continues to make good progress. Looking forward to chatting with him tomorrow.

A return to form

I have it on good authority from my reporter in Chambéry that DC is making a good recovery.  This is evidenced by his increasing irritation with the lack of food coming his way. having to make do instead with water and some stuff coming down a tube stuck unceremoniously in his nose.  There is unlikely to be a more resounding demonstration of DC’s possession of his faculties than hearing him complain about lack of food, or delayed food, or food arriving in the wrong order.

This has helped raised the spirits of those of us now back in Edinburgh, already buoyed by being reunited with our luggage a day or two late.  Wiseman, having already had to make an emergency pants-buying trip in Chambéry, on a day when the only shop open was an expensive department store, was staring the bleak prospect of a second underwear-acquiring expedition in the face, when everyone’s luggage arrived.

I must say, having travelled back from France with my rucksack, ski-boot bag, skis, DC’s rucksack and DC’s boot bag, having them delivered to my door was a good option, one day late or not.

Feels odd to be back in Edinburgh when there is what feels like unfinished business back in France.  However, DC has even more people out there looking after him now, and is looking at a return to the UK soon, hopefully.

Thank you to all who sent messages, and especially to those who prayed.