Thursday, December 30, 2004

Coffee and Airports

One Monday a couple of years ago I was in France with Helene and I was due to leave on flight FR514 Dinard to Stanstead. We'd been up since 03:30am to do the rounds delivering newspapers "Ouest France" all around the Rosporden countryside. As usual Helene was driving me to the airport, it was a two and a half hour drive from South Brittany to Dinard in North Brittany. We'd had breakfast and we sat chatting with Martine, I kept looking at my watch. Helene was cutting it a bit fine if I was going to make the flight on time.
"Do you think we should be going now?" I asked her.
"No I need a cup of coffee first." Helene at the time was very thin and addicted to caffiene, she was wired. Martine didn't own a kettle so a pan of water had to be boiled, I knew that if Helene needed a cup of coffee it was best to let her get on with it. So I sat there wringing my hands, looking at my watch and sweating. She sat there sipping her coffee and chatting as if she hadn't a care in the world. I'm thinking "drink girl! drink!"
Eventually she put her mug down and stood up, looked at me and said "Well are you ready now?" as if she'd been waiting for me.
We got in the car, a little white Citreon AX, not the fastest vehicle on the road and drove off. We now had to do the two and a half hour drive in two and a quarter hours. She put her foot down.
At St Brieuc we sailed along the dual carriage until ahead we saw a pile up cars strewn all over the road, there was a small gap between the wreckage and the kerb. Les flic (police) were starting to put barricades up across the road "Don't stop." I said.
"But they are waving at us."
"We can't stop, keep going."
Helene slipped into the inside lane and undertook a few cars which were slowing down before the barricade. The police waved at us some more but we kept on going, not very fast, but determinedly. We just squeezed through and through the back windscreen we saw the road completely closed behind us. I breathed a sigh of relief. Helene was shaking.
"I need a coffee. " she announced.
"For the love of God not now, surely."
"I'll be quick, there's a MacDo's just here."
We stopped and I look at my watch for the hundredth time. "Shit Shit shit." She walks in. I'm sitting in the car still. "Don't do this to me please."
Helene smiled at me as she came out of MacDonalds. Her coffee in a paper cup.
"Well drink it while you're walking, why don't you?" I'm thinking.
She get's in the car. "it's not good coffee, but it's coffee." she takes off the lid and has a sip "it's 'ot." she says. "You 'old it for me." and she puts the car in gear and starts driving again. On the straight road she says "Coffee." I hand her the cup she has a drink and hands it back. A minute later "Coffee" she smiles at me all the time. I can't help but love her to death. Even though this obsession for coffee is going to make me miss my flight. As we get closer and closer to Dinard I'm looking at my watch more and more, I'm ticking off the minutes, we are already past the checking in time and we're still miles away. I see familiar landmarks slip by and then we get stuck behind a tractor with huge wheels and a trailer. It's doing thirty. we are four cars back and can't possibly over take the lot. I'm not even sure her Citreon AX had the acceleration to over take just the tractor and trailer, never mind four cars as well. None of them were keen to overtake and so this sedate procession carried on down the winding country lanes.
I am going crazy. Finally the tractor turns into a farm yard and the pace quickens again. We are way past checking in time we're almost at boarding time.
"it's OK." says Helene, "if you miss your flight we 'ave one extra day together. That will be nice."
"Well yes my angel, my Princess, my petite artichoke heart, I'd love that too but I have to get back to England TODAY!" I couldn't believe how relaxed she was over all this. I had meetings to go to, people to see, business deals to sort out.
Then I saw the control tower in the distance. Nearly there. She pulled into the car park. "I'll park while you............" I was gone, running with my bag to the check in.
"I'm sorry Sir the check in is closed."
"What? But I have no luggage. I need to get on this plane."
"You 'ave no luggage."
"No. Just this bag."
"It's too big."
"I can leave it."
"You can get on the plane if you leave your luggage."
"Not a problem." Helene came in. "You have to keep my stuff for me."
A man came running in behind me.
"I need to get on this plane." he said. he was a big fat man sweating from his bald head.
"Sorry Sir. The check in is closed."
"But I need to get to England today."
I turned to him. "Ditch the bags. And you can board."
"Are you mad?"
"No I've had to."
"That's not possible."
"Then you wont fly." meanwhile the guy at the check out gave me my boarding pass and for the first time in three hours I relaxed.
"But I need to be in England today."
"Then ditch the bloody luggage."
"I can't."
"Sod you then." I walked off leaving the guy to argue with the check in staff. He never got on the plane.
With boarding pass in my hand I turned to Helene.
She said "See I got you 'ere in time." How can you be angry with someone you love so much? "I will look after your stuff. I will wash your clothes so they are ready for when you come back." And she did. She later told me that she loved washing my clothes and ironing them and folding them up. She felt nice doing it. When I wasn't in France with her, she had my clothes instead. Hardly a great substitute. From then on I took to leaving more and more clothes in France. There's still clothes there to this day waiting for me, my walking boots, my barbour jacket, jeans, shirts, pullovers etc There's even my shortie neoprene wet suit for swimming in the sea when it's cold. They wait there for my return. I don't know when that will be. I have given up asking Helene during our weekly phone calls. She just says "one day".
It's been just over two years now since I was last with her. It's not so bad now. I have a life, I have great fun doing what I do. I have my friends Del and Tony and Simon and Smashy. Not to mention loads of others. They keep me going they make my life worthwhile. But I miss Helene a lot.
I may have told you this before but she is not the most beautiful girl in the world. She is poor. She comes from a poor background. But to me she is everything. She has dignity. She is a Princess in paupers clothes.
People used to ask me how I felt when she talked to me in her French accent. All I could say was "It does it for me."
I don't know whether I'll ever see her again. Honestly I don't know. I don't mind waiting. I'm having a wonderful life here without her. I've been criticised for that, people tell me she's hanging me on a hook. But while I'm still having a great life who cares? I'm happy and that's the most important thing. If we could be together I'd be happier. But that's the future and who knows what the future will bring? I might meet someone else who is also a Princess. I have very high standards. I wont settle for second best. I'd rather be alone and happy by myself than settle for second best.

That's it. You've had your lot.

Rock on dudes

iPod now playing Do it all over again by Spiritualized

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