Cards, dice and virgins!

One night we headed for the local village. There are 3 bars in the village each with their unique character. I note I talk of one mainly because we spend most of our time out socialising in there.

On this particular night, we went to the bar that doubles up as a newsagent too. The range of magazines in there is amazing – arts and crafts, cookery, psychology, true crime, crosswords and more. I love the magazines here as they are so very beautiful but I am learning I need to buy them less as they are full of ideas and it is easy to get overwhelmed by so many wonderful things you could try at home. This bar is the one the children like best as it has more of a café feel and they serve really good hot chocolates with cream. I like it when I am in the mood for a magazine and also because the measures of wine are more generous!

The plan was to have one drink in this bar and then go across the road to our favourite. However, we were told by another customer that this was closed for a special event in the restaurant. The newsagent bar closes very early so we decided to head for what is affectionately known in town as the Crazy Bar. It is run by a bloke who looks like a pirate. He opens late if the customers are still there. The other attraction of this place is that is has a pool table. There is also a telly which may be playing sport, music channels, weather reports of what seems to be an annoying French version of the X Factor.

There were several men in the bar when we arrived but no women. Drinks and conversation flowed but myself and my husband were close to the heater on our own really.

Suddenly a pack of cards appeared and the landlord and four men started playing. I love cards as our family were very much card players and for money too. My brother-in-law called me Card Sharp as a nickname. I played cards in school with the lads too. So fuelled by my red wine, I got excited and determined to learn all about French card games. I plonked myself next to the group of men with my husband following on behind. The card games went on and whilst I enjoyed watching, I could not really decipher the rules. What I love is how it is fine and you are welcome to invade in this way. Nobody seems to bat an eyelid. I really cannot get over how we are so well accepted in this lovely community. The card game seemed to have a bidding system and each bloke called out a number. I topped them all by saying “cinquante”. One bloke looked at me askance and another who likes us told him I was having a good night and not to worry.

All of a sudden, the door flew open a Geri Halliwell walked in or the French version anyway. She arrived in a big way despite being quite short. She arrived talking or rather shouting really. Weirdly the card game stopped immediately so I wondered if she was a wife or possibly a plain clothes gendarme.

She approached my husband and talked rapid French very close to his face. He did not have a clue how to respond to the French or to the body language. She was so busy talking it probably took her a full five minutes to realise that he was staring at her blankly. Someone managed to get over to her that we were English. “Where is Brian?” she demanded of my husband. As we tried to work out whether there was actually another English man in the village called Brian or not, she added “Brian is in the kitchen” closely followed by “Brian is at the theatre”. It transpires that this is how she was taught French in school.

She then decided based on no real evidence that my husband was from Scotland and when he said he was not, she asked what was wrong with Scotland at which point we ended up a random conversation about tartan and kilts.

My husband was looking so uncomfortable but there was something about this woman I liked. Before I knew it we were leaning on the bar next to each other. I felt young again like I used to do with my friend H back in the day. Girls just wanna have fun and all that!

Right on cue, Madonna appeared on the telly singing “Like a Virgin” and Geri and I gave it some singing with gusto particularly when we hit “that” part of the song. I was pleased that I could translate the song too.

Before I knew it a few minutes later Geri left really quickly with a clearly sarcastic “Bon Soir”. One of the customers explained she had bought us all a drink but was offended when the landlord told her to wait. I got the impression that it was no surprise that she could fly off the handle. It was a shame though as I felt like my best new friend has just left the building.

There were a few more card games and then a tray came out together with dice. Again I could not work out the rules but it was fun to watch and I very nearly asked if I could have a turn. When we asked if money changed hands, we were told the games were played for pleasure only.

The landlord always delivers special food to us when we visit. Even on our first visit to check out the village months ago, he gave us lovely fresh seafood. At breakfast time he has given us cake and in the evenings it is usually crisps, cheese and sausage. Tonight, he brought out chocolate truffles which were so very rich. I joked that I was not fat but pregnant. Not funny but when merry, we say the daftest things. The landlord replied that he was preggers too and with twins!

I cannot tell a lie. This was a night where I had a little too much to drink. I got very excited by Eighties music and one of the blokes said he understood as it was from my youth. Mind you, even he got a bit carried away when Bohemian Rhapsody came on. How lovely it is to feel so safe as the only woman in the place – safe from assault, safe from denigration.

When we left there were no street lights and my husband had to guide me very carefully to the car.

What I love is when you see the people again, nobody pokes fun or looks at you judgmentally. I feel I can be whoever I want to be here and sometimes that will be shy girl and sometimes that will be horizontal can-can mode.

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