Thursday 20 June 2013

Royan to Saintes by SNCF

Yesterday, we went by train from Royan to Saintes.
The big fat controller at Royan

Saintes is a great wee town. At one street corner near the cathedral there is a garage door open and the space filled with junk - God knows how you would reach the stuff at the back. The proprietor is not present and, on a whim, I look into some shoe boxes that are readily accessible at the front of the mess. Inside, are some little HO scale plastic French cars - perfect for my layout. But where is the proprietor? "Away for lunch, I expect." says the proprietor of the creperie up the street.

"Damn. Our train is due to leave in 90 minutes."

I sit on an antique chair outside the closed junk shop across the road from the junk garage - same owner - and wait, and wait, and wait.

In the end I phone the chap - his number being on the shop front door. He has quite good English and says that he'll be over in 10 minutes.

But, 10 minutes elapses and we've got to get our train.

So, I hand in the box of cars to the Creperie having written "10 euros" inside it. I explain that I'll phone the junk shop proprietor this evening and that if 10 euros is OK , I'll come back to Saintes tomorrow and buy them.

All of this discussion takes place in pidgin English and pidgin French, but the Creperie chap is more than willing to cooperate.

The Treasure
So, yesterday evening, I phone the chap who gives me short shrift over my offer of 10 euros. He suggests 20 euros. I suggest 15, he repeats 20, I say thank-you and goodbye.

Spent next 5 minutes feeling awful. What am I playing at quibbling over 10 euros for 11 model cars? And, for sentimental reasons, it would be great to have these cars populating my layout, knowing the story behind their provenance.

I phone him back:

Feeble bargainer: "Monsieur! 20 euros."
Monsieur: "Okayyyyyy!!!!! That is good!"
FB: "Tomorrow morning, I come."
M: "Make it after 10.30."
FB: (Thinking: "This guy's accent is turning increasingly cockney.") "Onze heures?"
M: "Parfait! Wotcha' squire!"

So, back to Saintes this morning to do the deal.

He was totally bald on top with long hair hanging down, curtain like around sides and back a la Terry Nutkins. He wore a long storeman's coat and as I approached his place I could already see him in negotiations with a woman over some lengths of material - for upholstering, I think.

Terry Nutkins - late TV presenter

I only had to utter the words: "Excusez-moi, Monsieur, etes-vous le proprietor?" (Slight tension on my part in case 'proprietor' was French for 'prostitute'.) And he realised who I was.

"Ah, Monsieur, the shoe box!"

He left the woman customer and went into his shop. I think he was feeling a bit guilty about the 20 euros price tag because he offered me a load of other toy cars too, (gratis). But they were the wrong scale and baggage weight is a consideration. But I took 2 wee petrol pumps.We shook hands and that was that.

Mine, all mine!

French style: 2 contrasting examples:

Spotted in Saintes
Currently listening to:

Bugge Wesseltoft: Out Here in There

Last night's dinner:

Chicken and miscellaneous vegetables
Cost per head: £7.50

Finished Reading:

I'm sad to have finished this exceptional book.

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