Sunday, 20 May 2007
Turf & Numero Neuf
Civilized Saturday mornings at the Bar Terminus, betwixt Picquigny train station and the main street (where village quiet is vaguely distracted by a modern – albeit closed - Homeopathy shop). High on the hill, a Chateau; all around the periphery, war cemeteries filling with people. Here in the Terminus all is handshakes and kisses; non-stop banter – even with Eddie Izzard-in-France me.
There is sparkling wine to down, lotto tickets to buy. “I have no chance,” says Yvonne, “I choose my telephone numbers these days, that way if I win I can afford the bills.” She’s going to the Jules Verne clinic in Amiens next week. “It doesn’t exist,” says Francis the owner, bringing laughter. Perhaps it is at the Centre of the Earth.
Francis wears a “Walking Man” t-shirt. It as, as Robert Langdon might say, “significant.”
“Moi aussi,” I say, “I’m walking to Venice.”
“It’s just a t-shirt; tomorrow the garden,” Francis says, rubbing a beer belly.
It is a morning for chance: not just the lotto, but scratch-cards for Bingo and Sudoku – even Scrabble. I boggle at the chances of scratching off a triple word score with “x” and “z”. On the bar are several copies of “Paris Turf,” the daily racing guide. Men and women enter to drink, consider the form pen in hand, and then wander off to make their bets. Down the bar one middle-aged man scratches card after card.
Later on Canal Plus is Manchester United versus Chelsea, the English FA Cup final: more gambling opportunities to come. “A match of revenge,” Francis says, calling out his teenage daughter Charlotte to show me the Amiens football club shirt she is modelling. “Third division,” he shrugs. I am reminded of Crystal Palace for a brief and wistful moment.
On the obligatory ignored television in the corner is a moment of civilisation clash – Samuel Huntingdon would be proud. Whilst games show contestants go through their moves The Clash sing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Upstairs in Rock Heaven Joe Strummer lights a spliff with Jimi or Jim or John and whistles a bar of “Career Opportunities,” and all’s almost all right with the world.
Picquigny was an overnight stop for Tom Coryat. I’m sure he liked it here, the people are friendly, everyone shakes my hand and says hello. Yvonne notices this, “everybody does it,” she says, as if this is strange. “Are you German?”
“You look German, but not tall enough…or red.”
At The Treaty of Picquigny, drawn up in 1475 between England and France. The French King Louis XI paid our boy, Edward IV, 75,000 crowns and a yearly pension “thereafter” of 50,000 crowns to hold off his claims to the French throne and stay put in England. These days English Steady-Eddies use similar city bonuses to fly-drive and buy estates around here, no doubt.
But I don’t think they’d like the Bar Terminus, it is too full of community; it knows what it is – the heart-beat of the village. Madame “Lolo,” – Laurent, Francis’s wife (in Las Vegas t-shirt) checks the train time-table for me, shakes my hand. I explain the trip, Tom Coryat, walking (in the modernist manner – sometimes on trains). “Ah, you are crazy,” Francis says. “Now I understand.”
I shake everyone’s hand again. Francis gives me a house pen. “For the writer.” On the train to Amiens everyone in my compartment – everyone – is plugged into an I-Pod. Some even share.
Must be a student town, Amiens.