So I was minding my own business and all, when my Mother swanned into chez moi with a proposition: “I need you to come to a party with me in France,” she declared, “It’s in two days time.”
“In two days time.” I reiterated.
“Yes and it also lasts for two whole days.”
“You know I’m not 15 anymore, right? An all dayer would leave me hanging but TWO DAYS? You do realise that will probably kill me….is that your plan?” I looked deeply into her eyes for signs of wishful thinking.
Now it’s been a while since one has travelled with Mother ‘cos she’s got herself a new bloke and I got made redundant, however, he was unable to make this event and so I became replacement traveller. I know the place in France very well as my Mother had a house there for many years and this was the 40th birthday party of a very dear friend of hers, just outside Honfleur, in Normandy, where the light is very different, I’ll have you know.
“Well….”I sighed…”I suppose I could make it… I mean….. It’s a bit short notice…and you know I don’t have any money what with being a starving artist and all….” I added.
Two days later and after several hours of road rage we parked up on Brittany Ferries and got ourself a cabin. My Mum paid an extra fiver for one with a window so we could look at the sea. The sea that I curtained instantaneously as we were there to get a bit of a kip.
About 45 minutes into said slumber, just about that time where you think Angels are whispering in your ear and you’re about to go full on into deep coma, the neighbours arrived. Along with screaming brat. I lay there for a while hoping that the child would eventually stop kicking the side of my wall down and maybe, just maybe, the parents would have the foresight to realise that people go to cabins because THEY WANT TO SLEEP. No. After an hour of this I started to cough loudly, and say things like “Really don’t think your kid is tired! How about a trip to the ballpark?” and then I decided to kick the wall back and fell out of my bed.
Grumpy, tired and hating Frenchness at that particular moment we left the cabin for the bar.
Sometime later, across the other side of the water, we met my Mothers friends and dined in Honfleur with a few nice glasses of Vin de needed. The people had put us up in a beautiful gite with a thatched roof in the middle of the glorious countryside. Swag.
The next day we travelled to various friends to say “Bonjour” and ate at a pretty little restaurant with more Vin de Jour and basked in the (I kid you not) tropical Autumn sunshine.
And then it was time for the party.
“Make sure you dress up nicely.” My Mother had said.
So, I did as I was told. Out came the ubiquitous black dress, the exquisite, you really shouldn’t be standing in those, high heels and the I mean business red lippy. Off we tootled to the party which was situated in a large hall, just round the corner of our shack magique.
Now the thought of attending an event with about 150 people of whom I know only a handful, made me start to feel nervous.
“Whatever you do, don’t leave me on my own. Not until I’ve had a few and can speak fluent French and am past caring. I mean it.” I begged my Mother.
“Of course not.” She lied. Not a minute into the event and off she went, Bon soiring to all and sundry whilst I stood there like a socially awkward freak and practising mental voodoo on my Mother. “Oh and dress up”, she’d said, as I looked around at the effortlessly, classic French totty who so don’t do going out like an English bird on the razz, if you know what I mean.
To my rescue came two types of free cocktails on the bar. One was pink and one was blue. Recognising the word “vodka” I went straight for the blue one, a couple of times and then some until I felt my nerves abating and my indifference rising. My Mother returned and then lots of people came over to say hello via kissing, as is the way en Francais. None of this, raised eyebrow, or a slight nod of the head and a “Y’alright mate” kinda thing, but proper cheek to cheek stuff. I have never, in all my life, kissed so many strange men in one night. I felt like shouting “Next!” as they came on through. Never before, have I had stubble rash on my face without smudging my lippy and becoming untucked. And then when they’d kissed you hello, they would drawl in that beautiful accent, “Enchante” Enchanted. Yep. Can’t honestly say I’ve ever heard anyone say that to me in England. My face was sore, I smelt of layer after layer of French cologne like a tart in a boudoir and they deemed to find it enchanting to make my acquaintance. Well….I nearly wet my pants.
The night rolled on and I began to argue about the Scottish referendum, arm wrestle people, stab between their fingers with my knife, hang my dessert spoon from my nose and speak perfect Frenglish. It had absolutely nothing to do with the lashings and lashings of pink, white and red French wine or champagne on the table. My Mother always taught me: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Turns out you should never listen to your Mother. Sometime later after copious amounts of dancing with the enchanted, I sat hazily at my table and spotted my Mother on the dance floor, well and truly smacked and dancing like Suzi Quatro. It is at moments like this I pray to God that people aren’t thinking, “Look at the Mother to see the daughter….” thing. Feeling slightly hot from family shame, I decided to go outside where I struck up conversation with Monsieur indifferent. We got locked out as the fire door shut and I swear to God I did not do that intentionally.(Yeah…that old chestnut) This meant we had to walk around the building to get back in. Forgetting that I was standing on a small piece of concrete in high heels, I made to walk when I suddenly went from vertical to eating grass. I felled like a bloody tree. It’s amazing how embarrassment can sober you up. Of course, as usual, I got apology tourettes “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that…ooops, ooh la la, je suis desole, ever so sorry, really, gosh, I think there’s a divot there..no? Haha…lol..” God.
Never. Trust. A. Brit. At. A. Party.
I managed to get back inside to to find my Mother almost face down on the table. Global street cred totally ruined.
We had one last dance and then managed to stagger home by the light of an iphone. My Mother fell on her bed and remained there, motionless and fully dressed until some time the next day. This is the sort of moral guidance I get.
With great British, stiff upper lip and classy facade, we returned the next day looking all calm and collected and hiding the shame and the colossal hangover, beautifully and with true English denial.
I think we got away with it.