Injuries: none… well nothing physical, anyway.
Life Satisfaction Index: down 18%
I should’ve known that a holiday would be a bad idea. But it’s not everyday you get invited to Paris by a generous brother, and we all need a shot of Paris once in a while.
It’s maybe my 4th or 5th visit to the City of Light but every time I’m spellbound by how beautiful it is. And I swear it’s getting more Parisian all the time. It’s as though every ordinary cafe has been retro-renovated to look like it was always a classic old French joint. Or maybe the rest of the world is getting more modern and bland and Paris is still as cool as it always was. Maybe it’s me who’s changed. I know I’ll sound like my mother when I complain about how expensive it is. Café Portugal: 50 cents. Café Paris €2.50! And to use my Portuguese friend Tania’s words “and it’s shit coffee!”. I’m not one for definitives when it comes to films or coffee, but I’m certainly used to the smooth, caramel flavour of Portuguese coffee. In contrast the french cup tasted like a burnt chop.
After waving my family goodbye on the train to the south of France I wandered dreamily around Montmartre without realising that the mobile phone that just died was the one with the correct time. My other phone was still on Portuguese time. I woke up to this ten minutes too late. Thus, I missed my flight home. After forking out for a new ticket, I bedded down at the airport, along with half a dozen other jet-set refugees.
Thanks to Ryanair, who will provide almost free flights for those desperate enough to want to check in at 4am, I am accustomed to an airport sleep over. Me and the world’s backpackers. I laughed out loud the first time I saw Stanstead airport after midnight. It turns into an industrial sized dormitory, with thermarests and sleeping bags lined up in orderly fashion along every available wall. Numerous times I have carefully selected a quieter, darker, sneakier spot, only to wake up sharing the bed with 50 others. The really professional air-slumber-party-goers carry eye-mask and ear plugs, courtesy of some airline, but at Paris Orly they were truly a cut above : they were watching tele on their laptops and portable DVD’s.
So anyway, I arrived home tired and emotional. The cat wasn’t at home. He hadn’t been seen by my house minders for two days. Panic. Just as I’m on the hotline to sympathy sister, he comes slinking in the door looking as fat and content as ever. Then I realise the reason he’s been out: the neighbour’s tom cat has been in and has pissed all over the house. It reeks. Mao not happy, me not happy.
And now to the dogs. Wookie has lost his voice from crying after being tied up 24/7. I appreciated his enthusiasm to see me but this was overshadowed by Babywookie’s absence. Where was my Babywookie? No one had seen him for 5 days.
Could it be that my neighbour’s threats to get rid of any dog of mine not leashed have been realised? According to my neighbour, all dogs are potentially bloodthirsty sheep massacring psychopaths (except his dog). Even the toy poodles that another neighbour keeps are lethal teeth-gnashing werewolves. I’ve tried explaining that in Australia dogs work with sheep and we also employ a concept known as a fence to protect our warm investments.
Another neighbour firmly believes that my over-fed, one year old playful pups are going to kill their goats. Goats: 120kg, Dog: 12kg. Goat: horns. Dog: bark. But forget logic and commonsense. “We know dogs here” I am told. They know maltreated dogs, more like.
At this moment I can’t help see the significance of the arrival of two lambs and two goats since my departure a week ago. Coincidence? Or motive?
However, as my ex-policeman neighbour pointed out, you cannot know for sure what you haven’t seen with your own eyes. And there it is. And I’d prefer not to know for sure. I’d prefer to believe he has charmed his way into a nice home a few villages away where they have taken him for an abandoned dog. Now that the truth is subjective, and I can choose what to believe.
Meanwhile I’m trying to occupy myself with the immediate reality. Wookie hasn’t eaten anything for three days. It seems he’s on a hunger strike until his little brother comes back. So I’m tempting him with things formerly forbidden. Cat food, fresh meat, vegemite toast… so far he’s only taken a toffee caramel, which we can’t count as any kind of victory.
I pacify my mind with sweaty hard work. I’m digging a trench down one side of the annexe to seal the lower part of the wall against water. My good neighbours, who are very very good, drop over to see how I’m holding up. We get talking about an overgrown patch of land that is standing between me and fire safety. And wouldn’t you know, they own it. “Want it?” she asks, in that off-hand portuguese way. “For how much?” I ask. And in a nice piece of circular symmetry she wants the same amount as the flight from Paris cost me. Either the flight was very expensive or the land is a bargain. But just like the truth, the value of things is completely subjective.