Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ending up the weekend

Harry and James, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

After the booze-laden trip in Eruostar, I am now on a dry TGV train from Grenoble to Paris. It’s a journey of 600 kms (more than Amsterdam-Paris) being completed in just three hours. The train is tilting all over the place now and seems to be running exceptionally fast, as if in a race. I am in first class again, but no sign of a cup of coffee or tea, let alone a glass of champagne. Oh well, I will have to make up for it when I arrive in Paris. No Istanbul Grill restaurant for me this evening, I think.

Mission accomplished in Grenoble, I performed the monthly reporting for our company down there, a job I had to do as our previous accountant left (forcibly) last week. I met a new chap who can take over from next month, so I will probably be back again in January, where the snow cover might be a bit lower. I did not get to see much of the mountains as they were covered by cloud, although they opened up a little bit this morning to reveal a bright sun shining on the white peaks high to the east/south east of the town.

Nobody in our office in Grenoble really speaks English, so I was forced to speak French, as my mind dug back to my schoolboy days, where we learned to read and write but not to speak. I did OK, even though most sentences ended up being almost all the same. The bigger problem was understanding anyone said back to me. It was the intonation which I understood better than any words which were said. Still, I felt quite proud of myself. On the one hand, I think my company must be very pleased to have me, as apart from being a top-class accountant (ha ha!), I also know my languages. On the other hand, there is a part of me which appreciates the opportunity my job is giving me to, say, improve my French. Maybe I will take one of those CD courses, like Rosetta Stone (which are advertised everywhere – anyone with any idea of whether or not they are any good?), which I can follow in the times when I am sitting in the train with only my laptop and my blackberry for company.

Foodwise, it was a mixed bag. My two (female) colleagues took me to an old ramshackle building which looked like a cross between a castle and a prison for lunch yesterday. It doubled up as a restaurant, karaoke bar and night club. Very seedy. Anyway, nothing to complain about the meal… some cheap cuts of beef (which are so common in France) served with some spicey ve-ge-ta-bels and noo-dels, followed by a delicious fromage blanc with home-made raspberry sauce. Mmmmm…. Dinner was back at the hotel stuck between the motorway and the industrial estate, the main course being roasted duck (a bit fatty under the skin – not sure it is the best choice for Christmas dinner, Mum), followed by chocolate mousse. It was a buffet service and you could help yourself to as much as you like. How to stop going back for more chocolate mousse? I tell you, it is very difficult.

Paris beckons in just over 20 minutes. I have a hotel to find and two heavy bags and it may be raining. Not the best prospect. And… I have to find a place with internet connection as there is some (not much, just a little) work to be done this evening. I will be on the 15.25 train back to Amsterdam tomorrow, to be back home, finally after a week, by 8’ish… then possibly back to Paris next week…

And, there we were at the Marc Almond concert on Saturday evening…and he is starting off just as he began in Amsterdam (and Shepherds Bush before that) with Stardom Road and These My Dreams Are Yours, Your Aura and so on and it seems like we are in for a repeat until… he starts singing Fun City and London Boys and then, even better… he sings UGLY HEAD. Wow! That classic from 1984, from the days when I first met Fred, off the Vermin in Ermine album…. Oooohhh… I bet your life … that you’re sick and tired …. of all those eat-in take-out throw-up pizza bars… I’ll provide the full lyrics another time…

But a curious thing… just as Amsterdam was marked by all those people using their mobile phones to take photographs and make videos of Marc (all destined, no doubt for You Tube), the IndigO2 arena was remarkable for the lack of movement amongst the crowd. Its as if they had come to bury Marc not celebrate his wonderful music. It did not stop me from jumping up and down and banging my head and throwing my arms into the air…. But there was only about one other chap doing the same amongst the whole 2,000 crowd there. Maybe they are all introverts. Who knows?

Marc was on stage for the best part of three very very enjoyable hours, although he did leave the stage once in the middle of Tears Run Rings, looking very sick, poor chap. He was off for about five bewildering minutes but remarkably came back, as strong as ever and gave us song after song after song. He had cancelled Stockholm the previous week and has probably been overdoing it but now he can, hopefully, relax and recharge his batteries. We are very lucky he is still with us and even luckier that he remains drawn to the stage and the adulation of his fans.

The night ended up in south London at Barcode in Vauxhall, part of a complex of spacious gay venues under some railway arches, all of which were teeming with urban gays, of all nationalities. We liked Barcode in Soho, especiallyt for the friendly and efficient bar staff and charming clientele and this was a whole lot bigger, more modern and, to be honest, a little impersonal. Still, it was great sharing a few beers with Dean and Paul, our friends from Norwich (and Barnsley!!!), the girls having decided not to join us after all.

The night bus taking us home decided to make a mad rush for the very crowded West End – at four in the morning, it was teeming with people – from Victoria rather than proceeding alongside Hyde Park to bring us to Paddington and we ended up with a longer than expected walk from Notting Hill Gate an hour later. The blackbirds were singing (more than a month too early) and we saw two bold foxes outside Fiona’s house, but best of all there was a note on the front door to say she was sleeping on the sofa and was letting us sleep in her bed… what a perfect end to a long and enjoyable day.


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