Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In memory

I have to be careful in what I write. I don't want to hurt anyone. So this, what I write is for me.
I remember you full of vitality. I remember you saving my ass in a manner of speaking when I was unjustly accused. I remember that sly secret smile you used to have around our family. The one that was truly diplomatic, where you thought one thing and knew better than to say it out loud and yet that thought made you smile, and I understood it. I felt your inner conflict. It frustrated me that the invisible wall of history was thrown up between us and we admired each other from opposite sides. Not condemning at all the other but neither capable to make the bridge over the political gap. I remember you as shorter and rounder than me. I remember you as sometimes very very deep, too deep, as someone aware, knowing perhaps more than people around you thought you knew.... I remember your voice, it would have been jazzy were you a singer, perhaps dare I say it, they type of voice white folk call black, raspy, like Louis Armstrong's voice. I remember you capable of taking a joke, of recounting a joke, of letting a guy know he was okay. I remember you being afraid. I remember the hassle when I went home to see you and everyone got upset that I was making a fuss. They told me you might only have six months, then you might not survive the operation, so for myself, for my purely selfish reasons, I left my dying marriage and found you frightened. I have no idea if anything I said made any difference. When I was home later, after your operation, to bury an old aunt, and you limped into the church yard looking depressed, it made me say to you 'hey how are you? Last time I saw you, you thought this would be you.'But you had perhaps rightly forgotten your previous fear as you struggled with your new incapacitating reality.
3 years later after the first discovery I saw you again. You looked the same as last time. Still afraid, still struggling and frustrated, understandable.
Now 4 months later, you need never worry again. My sister will be good. There are those who will take care of her. I am not her favourite and that is all I understand. I am glad you have let go, but I am deeply sad I wasn't there. I can't be there, I won't be there. I will visit where you lie whenever I get home, perhaps next year, who knows?
This is my small curse of never being home anymore, I cannot be there. I cannot mourn in real. I have to let go in absence. It is not too easy. It is difficult. It is the way of the emmigrant. I have to continue as if nothing has happened. I told my son, he is six, I don't think he even remembers you but he was sensitive to something being wrong. 'Papa why did Maman say OH no'? I am not good at keeping things from children, it doesn't help them grow to keep them too innocent. So I told him you had died. He was quiet. I asked him was he okay, and he said yes. I told him to tell his Mam he knew. She will flip out. Maybe that's just part of why she is my ex. You would hear me say that and smile.
I see that smile again now, like you understand but know something I don't. I know it is nothing compared to that which you have gone through. Your arm on my shoulder, that brotherly pat on the back. For we were brothers at one stage before we were in-laws.
I don't know why you went through it, nor why she went through it, nor anyone for that matter. My sanity and philosophy tell me it is just so.
So I excuse myself, I cannot be there. I cannot sing by your side as you lie at home, I cannot toast your memory, I cannot wake you, I cannot shed tears at your graveside. Thank you for not holding on too long, sorry I can't be there now.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rip Off France

Ripped Off AGAIN
Okay, I have been away longer than I thought. See I had an accident a while back. My scooter was written off. It's only a 50cc and I was only doing 15km an hour but I still managed to hit the guy who pulled out in front of me.
Now I could have been killed. I could have been crippled, incapacitated, truly fucked up and unable to work but I was lucky. I was in shock for a weekend. The front wheel was slightly bent and the forks unaligned. It was enough. No more independence. No more getting to the beach easily. Still have the insurance to pay even though I know the bike is useless.
Finally things get sorted out and I am told by my insurance guy to bring the scooter to the workshop. He will go down and assess with their experts.
I ring a tow truck company, they want 120 euros to call to my house, put the bike on a trailer and bring it a mile down the road. HOLY F@*K.
A friend offers to drive 20 miles/30km with a trailer attached to a small car, wait for the day, drive me home, pick up the bike and bring it to the workshop. It is done. The scooter is deposited outside, and the next morning I have to hurry down to ensure it is okay, drop off the keys and now it will be taken care of, right? WRONG.
I get a call two days later telling me it won't be repaired. The assurance company will buy it off me the workshop tell me. They order me to come and get it. Two days later they ring me again. They ask me when I am coming to get it. I have organised my friend again to make his 60km round trip to help me. We go to pick up the scooter and the main headlight is conspicuously absent. .... I ask the lady behind the counter, and she goes to look for it. She comes back telling me she can't find it. She will ring me when it is found. I know this sounds ridiculous but it's what happened. Remember the conversation is happening in French. Remember I am not too confident in French. Remember the guy with me is 6ft 6 inches tall, or nearly 2 meters, oh and is French. :-).
We load the bike and he is willing to drive off. I am perturbed. I go back into the shop and ask how it is possible to loose a headlight (which is set into plastic about 3ft, 1 meter wide and about 1.5 ft, or half a meter high) which was attached. She walks off and comes back with an explanation that the mechanic took it off and now he is not here. I go outside and explain to my friend. He comes in looks disdainfully at the girl. He questions her about what is going on. She explains the assurance company will buy the scooter off me for a sum of money, he explains it should therefore be in one piece non? She agrees and disappears again. A young man in his twenties comes out and immediately I know I am being ripped off. He refuses to look me in the eye. I flounder for the words that would come so readily back home. I am drowning as I am being violated barefaced and dishonestly. I can see it happening. They are stealing from me and they don't care.
He agrees to deliver the piece when it is found. He takes my number on a scrap of paper. I am getting more and more angry. I leave knowing there is nothing I can do at that point in time. I ring the next day I can't get through. I spend the weekend making myself ill at the thought of how I can burn the place down, break all the scooters parked outside, injure lightly the people working there, get the place closed down, force them to pay me for the piece........... I don't like being abused, I spent my life living in a country abused by it's neighbour, since I have been in France people have taken advantage of my inability to communicate and ripped me off and now well, to quote the newsman in the movie, I am mad as hell I won't take it anymore.
I rang 4 times yesterday no answer. Finally today I get through. I am in luck. The guy who answers the phone is the one who took my number, he tells me the mechanic has not come back yet. I tell him in French it's nearly a week what's the story? He says it's not a week it was last Thursday, today is Tuesday. Yes I tell him, NEARLY/ PRESQUE une semaine.... I inform him if the piece is not found I will have to begin a procedure of justice to get it back. He agrees. I will let you know what happens, but I have a question. If anyone reads this here is the question, Do I let it go, Do I get the piece back or thirdly do I wait till the assurance buy the scooter back and then let them deal with it. What would you do ?

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