Across Continents

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Night on the town

Charles had travelled extensively in France, mostly on his small folding bike. He was spending a few days camping in Fresnay-sur-Sarthe. We wandered into town in search of a beer. Jean ran a popular ’cafe tabac’. He knew Charles. We were welcomed as locals. It was still early – a little after eight on a Saturday evening – but people were already beginning to drift away.

Charles explained that opening hours could be a bit unpredictable. You had to look for the signs. Complementary nibbles with our drinks was good, but then Jean began to stack away the chairs out on the pavement. Ominous said Charles. When the shutters were lowered we knew it was time to leave.

Not yet nine, the town was empty. But one more drink seemed in order. Wandering around the back streets we eventually found a small bar still open. It had more the appearance of a bookshop than a drinking establishment. There was something slightly out of place about it, but exactly what eluded me.

I returned the following day for morning tea. The service, whilst impeccable, was overly fussy. I gazed at the book shelves searching for inspiration. A selection of biographies of tortured cinematic souls – Dietrich, Bergman, Garbo and the like. A French translation of ’The Art of War’ sitting uncomfortably alongside ’Religions du Monde’ (’Religions of the World’). An array of home style guides. I drank my tea, thanked the two gentlemen, and left.

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