Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Winning and losing at the shops

Our local supermarket is called the Petit Casino.

I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s because you put your money in and win whatever you want. Or maybe because, when it comes to being open, they’re a pretty safe bet. I’d say you can shop there from 7.00 or 7.30 until 12.00 or 12.30 and 2.30 or 3.00 until 7.00 or 7.30. Four days out of seven.

It’s the other shops that are a bit of a gamble.

What you expect to be grown-up shops (technology, insurance and the like) may be open from 10.00 to 12.00 or 12.30. Then 3.00 until 7.00. But there’s an equal chance you’ll find a note on the door saying: “Closed all day for a meeting” or “Closed Monday morning”. Or “Closed Wednesday”.

If those hours fit with when you’re in town (which for us, is only 50 metres away), or you don’t actually want to buy anything, it’s charming. Enlightened. Almost Spanish.

But sometimes you really need something...

If you’re about my age (I just turned 40. Excellent, thanks for asking – discovered a very good restaurant about 70 metres away and why a bottle of Pécharmant can be well worth opening), you’ll remember Sunday afternoons before the shops were open. This was when there was nothing on all three channels of TV.

For children, it taught the meaning of boredom. For parents, I suspect, preparedness. I suspect this because, on Sunday, we ran out of nappies.

As you’ll know from an earlier post, boy has been taking antibiotics. And as you’ll probably know from smoking-related chest infections, antibiotics can have an explosive effect on the digestive system.

Now, normally, this would not be a problem for us. Like many people, we’ve used the same set of re-usable nappies (Mother-Ease – highly recommended) for both children. Saved bags of cash and even more in landfill. But because we spent Sunday morning traipsing round three markets in search of gems with which to decorate our guest yurts (no joy – nearly bought a metal garden table and three chairs for 80 euros – should have laughed when invited to pay 200 for a 70s table worth ten times less than that – and would have had kittens in the stunningly beautiful town of Issigeac, but our litter tray is still in storage), we forgot.

So I spent much of Sunday afternoon driving round looking for an open supermarket, pharmacy, garage – anything – listening to an insane re-interpretation of Beatles hits on a French classical music station. We ended up making do with a single nappy discovered in the back of the car, before winning a whole new packet in the Petit Casino the following morning.

While in Issigeac, we saw a possible guest bed in an antique shop. Wise to the ways of French shops (or so I thought – this was minutes before the Great Nappy Famine), I asked the owner if he was open this week.

That would be ridiculous, he told me. Then he gave me his mobile phone number on the back of a business card and asked me to make an appointment.

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