Sunday, December 16, 2012

Les Rosbifs

Ah, the south of France...

The sophistication. The culture. The cuisine...

Imagine that it's the early 1980s and you are a bona fide member of the chattering classes. In the days before you had children, you wouldn't have thought twice about blowing a month's wages on a few nights at the Hotel de Ville, but times have changed. Jane is no longer working and the mortgage on your five-bedroom house in an 'up and coming' part of Balham has made a dent on your disposable income, so sacrifices have to be made.

Once, camping would have been an anathema to both of you, but now that Christopher and Emily are at kindergarten, you wonder if it wouldn't be rather fun to have an al fresco holiday. Not camping of course, but Le Camping.

One day in late July, you load up the Volvo (making sure that there's enough room to to bring back a few bottles of plonk for Tim and Amanda) and begin the long trek to the spiritual home of the cognoscenti: Provence.

The journey ends 36 hours later, just as the light is failing, in an idyllic rural setting where the air smells of pine needles and olive groves. It has been a long drive, but you are now certain that it was worth it. Exhausted but happy, you unload the basics and enjoy the sleep of the just.

The next morning you wake up and realise that you have neighbours. Like you, they are English, but...










In their Hillman Hunter, your neighbours have followed a similar trajectory, stopping en route to enjoy the delights of Paris:




But you sense that their tastes are different to yours and after hearing the same Kagagoogoo song for the seventh time, you decide to ask Yves about moving to a quieter part of the site. He'll understand - "Ah, oui, les rosbifs. Mon dieu!"

In the meantime, Dot, Ray, Kevin and Gary are having the time of their lives, although the boys have an unfortunate habit of clutching their genitals whenever a photo is taken:



Dot didn't want to come here. She would have rather gone to the usual place in Sandy Bay, but Ray had some funny ideas about the south of France and now that she's here, Dot reluctantly concedes that she's having 'a bit of a laugh'.



Although holidaying with three males is no picnic. The mess in the morning...


I'd love to know the real narrative behind these photos. They appeared at work last week and my first impression was one of disappointment - just a collection of blurry, Kodak Instamatic snaps. But then curiosity took over. Where did these people come from and what were their real names? What made them choose the south of France? Are they all still alive now?

Before long I was making up my own narrative, imagining them leaving somewhere a bit grim, like Luton, vicariously enjoying their excitement at seeing the blue skies of Provence for the first time. But that's probably all nonsense.

In the digital age, albums will no longer fall into the hands of strangers. Photos will either disappear into the ether or exist in the purgatory of cyberspace, forgotten and unvisited.

I think it's time to have a proper album again.

16 comments:

lucy joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lucy joy said...

They're certainly not a camera-shy bunch (but neither would I be if I looked that good on holiday).
It's like a budget National Lampoons spin-off.
I'm reminded of a time back in 1984 when my parents befriended a middle-class family who somehow ended up at Butlin's,Minehead.
They soon learned how to smuggle cans of Carling into the clubhouse and give their children a quid to "bugger off and entertain yourselves".
It works both ways, you know!

C.B. James said...

I love finding old photos like these, whether they relate to my family or not. Slides can be just as much fun, and tend to be better pictures, too.

You're right about this being somethign we're going to lose as we've gone digital. It's too bad, too.

Tororo said...

Oh my! Pictures of my hometown! (pics 9 and 10). I feel flattered that Dot, Ray, Kevin and Gary thought the place was worth keeping a souvenir from. It's a small world!

Steerforth said...

Lucy - I've been on Butlins holidays - those places were more like open prisons. One year I blew all of my birthday money playing bingo and came away with a Hay Wain and a broken mirror.

At Butlins, I used to be drawn to the people like Dot and Ray, who always looked as if they knew how to enjoy themselves. My dad, who desperately wanted to be middle class, would turn up in the evening wearing a cravat or bow tie, nervously sipping half a shandy. When I made him enter the Hairy Legs competition, he looked completely out of place.

I wonder how that family ended up at Butlins. I never saw any middle class people when I was there.

C.B. - Slides are wonderful and there's something particularly nostalgic about the blueish tints of the older Kodakcolor slides. As a child, I loved spending a dark winter's evening watching slides of summer holidays. Also, the warm air given off by the fan added to the illusion.

Steerforth said...

Tororo - Where is it? The photos don't have any information. Sadly, I've never been to the south of France. I don't know why.

One day, I hope.

Martin said...

Either it's time to have an album again or, you must carry out 'good works' to rescue those digital snaps from purgatory.

Tororo said...

Pics 9 and 10 were shot in Marseille... a rather crowded city (and, alas! a graveyard for deceased bookshops), yet a stop you could enjoy if on a trip in Southern France (pretty nice beaches).

Steerforth said...

Martin - I think the answer is a simple statue, or a portrait in oil on canvas.

Tororo - I've always wanted to go there, although I'm told it has changed slightly since the days of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.

Canadian Chickadee said...

That's wonderful. You really do have to soul of novelist, Steerforth! I realise that real life intrudes -- but have you ever given thought to writing a book? :o)

Happy holidays -- and I don't just mean in Provence!

xoxo

Steerforth said...

That's very kind of you Carol, but I know that the greatest contribution I can make to literature is to not write a book. After years of dealing with people who think they can write, I don't think I could face becoming one of them. I know my limits.

I like blogging because it's a harmless way of scratching that itch and I get to exchange comments with other people, which I really enjoy.

(Of course, in the unlikely event that I get a really good idea for a book, I won't hesitate to put pen to paper!)

Ms Baroque said...

Really vivid and poignant piece - as usual, of course. I'm not always commenting, but I do pop in and read!

Steerforth said...

Well, you'll always hold a special place in my affections as the first person to leave a comment on this blog.

Without that comment, this blog may never have progressed beyond one post, so it's all your fault ;)

zmkc said...

Have a very happy Christmas, Steerforth. I hope the New Year is wonderful for you and your family and that your blogposts keep coming thick and fast. Very best wishes (or very vest wishes, as I realised I'd just written - which might be relevant, given your working circumstances [didn't you mention it's freezing or am I going dotty?]) Zoe

Steerforth said...

Thank you Zoe. Yes, my new place seems to have its own microclimate that alternates between freezing and flooding, so vest wishes is very appropriate.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to reading more zmkc in 2013.

Rob Scovell said...

I had wonderful holidays in Butlins as a child. I was free to go on monorails, bumper cars, donkeys, boats and high-g-force rides all day every day without any parental bossing-around. It was bliss!

I'm sure I've got some Polaroids somewhere ...