17th August: Our hosts have left for the Cevennes in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson. They’re engaged in a spot of reccy before making any sort of decision that might involve a donkey. We’ve been left behind to guard the cats: Opus, Calico, Molika and Galileo. I’m not a big fan of cats. That might be an understatement. On the other hand, Mrs Proust has now been replaced by Leonie who has arrived tout suite from Lake Garda. Leonie’s undergoing a culture shock. They do things differently in Garda. I’ve seen the photos. It’s not quite as rustic down there. Or anywhere really.
Yesterday, Karil took me to Chateaurenard to collect the new car from a French rental agency. It was a good plan. Just a shame that, even though my paperwork said I was to pick up the vehicle in Chateaurenard, they omitted to tell me that they close on Saturdays. Europcar, Avis and Hertz also play this game at Avignon Airport on Thursdays. Tourists disembark clutching their booking documents only to discover nothing apart from a telephone for the TGV station. First timers don’t know that the TGV station is miles away on the other side of town. And as Avignon Airport is a shed with two doors, there’s no taxi rank and no means of getting to the TGV station. What a hoot!
Karil had a brand new, unused sat nav in her car in preparation for the Cevennes sortie. She felt sure it would locate my missing rental car which was, apparently, somewhere in Avignon. There were a couple of tiny problems: firstly, the sat nav woman whispered in French. We couldn’t turn up the volume. This meant we couldn’t have the air con on because the noise of it drowned out the whispering French woman. Neither could we have the windows down because the sound of the traffic…blah, blah. Karil persuaded the sat nav woman to speak in English so we could just about understand her. The trouble was that the English sat nav woman gave directions in feet and yards. Karil only does metric so we kept missing all the turnings. ‘Why didn’t you turn down there’, asks the irritable navigator? ‘Because we haven’t got there yet’, replies the remarkably calm driver. It took nearly two hours and four phone calls to find my car. ‘Call yourself a serious business’, demanded the driver who’d been saving her wrath for the couldn’t-care-less twelve year old behind the counter?
Karil’s not calm about her cats: there are an awful lot of rules involved, mostly pertaining to food and doors. Galileo is losing weight so must be fed with the soft food several times a day. Molika only likes the juice from the soft food and only in the morning. I don’t know when and to whom Molika mentioned this alleged preference. I mistook Molika for Galileo with the second bowl in the afternoon. Molika did an excellent impression of Usain Bolt and gobbled the lot. I put the third bowl in the garden because Galileo, apparently, likes a picnic. So does Molika.
Leonie and I went out for an ice-cream. The cats have to be inside. I gathered up armfuls of Opus and Leonie got ready to do the thing with the doors. We herd the cats behind one door which we then shut making sure the front door is already closed. The door which is now shut has a cat flap in it but Karil has assured me that this only works one way. I fail to grasp this feat of feline engineering. Once the door with the cat flap is shut, we then close another door. When this other door is shut, we re-open the door with the one-way cat flap so the cats can get to the ‘kitty toilet’. We then re-open the front door and rush outside.
Did I mention the ‘kitty toilet’? Don’t worry – it won’t happen again. Off to do the watering now if I can remember which plants are involved. As I said, they do things differently in Garda.