French kissing in the USA as the song went. But, hang on une minute, I’m in Provence, so French kissing in France then. With a French man. And they don’t come much more French than the rugged Jean-Pierre a la quad bike. Scarily French.
Rewind. I’ve been here a week and I’m off to the airport again, this time to collect a rental car. And frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn and I’m more than a tad nervous. Due to a mix-up, caused by my inability to speak French efficiently sur la telephone, I appear to have a date. At the airport. At exactly the same time that I’m collecting the car with a steering wheel on the wrong side.
Perhaps I’ve misunderstood. I certainly hope so as I like to have time and space to become familiar with a new car without the distraction of someone I may want to see again. Someone who, by the way, doesn’t speak any English.
The coast is clear but as soon as the car rental lady and I exchange Bonjours and psyche ourselves up for the forthcoming transaction, I’m conscious of a presence behind me. As Diana said, apparently believing it to be nothing but rumour, there were three of us in that arrangement. I turn. My God, I’d forgotten how attractive he is. Better not let it show. Although, to be fair, he’s not disguising the fact that I’m being inspected from head to toe. Frenchmen don’t do ‘subtle’.
I can’t tell whether he likes what he sees. I’ve spent hours preparing myself. For him I mean, not the car rental lady. Due to the intense heat, a long, flowing frock and a Cadbury’s Flake was out of the question so I’ve tried to reach a casual compromise: shorts and a tee shirt. One with sleeves of a length sufficient to hide the bingo wings. I’ve rebuilt my face with make-up and a nice pink lipstick and, at the risk of attracting even more bloody mosquito bites, I’ve dabbed a trace of J’adore behind the old ear-lobes.
We kiss – three times in the Provencal manner then he lunges for the lips. I let that one pass as Madame Europecar.co.fr is losing interest in me and eyeing up the next contestant. Jean-Pierre suggests that I do the business and wanders off; but not without trailing a large French hand down most of my body. I knew I should have abandoned my literary pretensions and read Fifty Shades of Grey this summer along with every other woman I know. I might have been more prepared. This is the first date I’ve been on in years and I never anticipated it taking place in an airport lounge. Especially when neither of the parties concerned is either arriving or departing on an aeroplane.
We meet again in the even less romantic airport café for something to drink. Jean-Pierre couldn’t get much closer and every now and then dives forward in another show of affection. Talk about cultural differences. When was the last time an Englishman did all this touchy-feely stuff in public? And I want to be clear here: Jean-Pierre and I are not resuming a past relationship; we were brief acquaintances on a couple of occasions last year. I propose we go outside to find the rental car.
Outside is worse. It’s 41C and he wants to do tongues. I haven’t done tongues in the last decade and never in this sort of heat. I’m English for God’s sake. I’m in France to celebrate my 60th birthday. I’ve just had news of my pension. And I still haven’t located the rental car, let alone ascertained where reverse gear is, which is always my main concern. No good asking this guy – he’s in overdrive. Reverse isn’t a word in his vocabulary.
At my suggestion, we go to my lodgings in Cabannes where Karil can act as chaperone over the artichokes and where those two commence a long conversation about melons. Occasionally, there is a squeezed knee and a pinched cheek. A pinched cheek? What’s that about? Karil disappears into the kitchen. ‘I want to embrace you’, he says. ‘Why?’ I respond. It’s too hot. I’ve lost all sense of normality. I’d forgotten quite how inept I am at this sort of thing. Whatever this sort of thing might be. I keep looking at him out of the corner of my eye. He’s very handsome. But stop pinching my cheek!
He disappears and I learn a lesson: don’t phone a Frenchman and say ‘I’m here’. Maybe we’ll meet again. Maybe not. Que sera and all that jazz. ©