#10: The Scooby Doo Blues
I wafted my hand over the automatic bin in the kitchen of the chambres d’hôtes, and slowly, satisfyingly, the lid jittered open. After a few seconds it closed more smoothly, and I wafted my hand over it again. It opened again. I had been doing this now for some ten minutes or so. It’s not just the pleasing, soothing even, motion of the lid opening, it’s the sound too. It sounds like Scooby Doo and I find that oddly comforting. I think Scooby Doo is a ridiculously overrated programme by the way, I disliked it even as a child, but I find the Scooby Doo giggle on an automatic bin in the kitchen of holiday accommodation in the Loire Valley becalming, and if there’s anything I needed right now it was a bit of becalm.
La Rentrée in France is possibly the most important time of the year as August ends and schools and businesses fire up again. It’s a mindset thing too, a re-focussing, like the President has called up the tech department on August 31st and said, ‘it’s not working,’ and been met with the traditional advice of ‘turn it off, turn it back on again mate’. The official La Rentrée had been a couple of weeks earlier and had been the usual logistical and administrative drain. Maurice started at a new collège after coming through football trials and was now beginning at a specialist football school where he would be a boarder, an interne, as it was over an hour away. Obviously a mountain of forms had to be filled in, copies of existing forms supplied, photographs, medical certificates and so on. Thérence was starting his last year at his school and so obviously a mountain of forms had to be filled in, copies, medical certificates etc etc. Samuel was in the UK looking for work in his gap year, hoping soon to be filling in a mountain of forms and Natalie had finally, after three incredibly stressful years, landed her dream job as Professeur d’Anglais at the local school just five minutes away, and was gathering up everyone else’s mountain of forms and medical certificates and all of that. I had been mopping up the last of the season’s B&B guests and was about to go back on the road full time with new forms and new, more depressing, medical certificates. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
I know I dither between which job I’d rather not be doing but there’s a special anxiety that comes over a circuit stand up comedian if he hasn’t done a gig in even a couple of weeks. I hadn’t done a club gig in over three months and I ninja’d the bin again nervously, it Scooby Doo’d me back.
‘Would I still cut it?’ I wondered. Can I remember any of my routines even? Would I still be a maverick and a bit edgy? Christ, I thought, catching myself on, where did that come from? I’ve never even tried to be that.
Natalie opened the door, ‘Do you think anyone’s looking for Dick?’ She asked fervently and closed the door again. It had been that kind of week. I’d got back from the boulangerie to find two dogs suspiciously abandoned in the garden of the house next door, which is usually empty. I’d walked past them at first, then did a double take as two pairs of eyes followed me to my gate. Natalie rang the Mairie who suggested that one of them might be a dog called Dick, who had previous. Her quest for people who may be searching for Dick continued most of the afternoon, and I left her to it.
I had convinced myself that I was ready to get back on the road again. Firstly my behaviour towards some of the B&B guests was becoming more erratic, I accused one of a gross invasion of privacy as I found him making changes to how I’d arranged the cutlery in the dishwasher, yes I know. The look on the man’s face was utter bewilderment, but I mean, really. You just don’t mess with another man’s cutlery arrangements, do you? Do you? Anyway, I had assumed that I would be physically refreshed when the time came and I wasn’t, far from it and even though it was a weekend in Brighton to come, and I do like Brighton and I do like the gigs, I was dreading the travel, dreading the downtime in the hotel, dreading the convenience food.
There’d been a standard joke in the house before my diagnosis, I would fretfully pace the living room and quote Woody Allen from Hannah and Her Sisters saying, “Honey, I have a toomah in my head the size of a basketball!” I do a very passable Woody Allen impression that’s little called for these days, but post-diagnosis the emphasis changed. I’m so permanently exhausted by the illness, the medication and having three jobs that I began to declare, on a daily basis, that all I needed was a month in hospital. A pampered lie-down really is what I’m after. A bed, some peace, meals brought to me for once and the occasional bed-bath.
But going back on the road as a comic brought a new realisation. I knew what the problem was, I knew what was causing the exhaustion and the anger and the frustration that feeds my disease and my moods. It was and is me. I looked at Natalie sadly, as ever so grateful for her never ending support. ‘I need a month away from me,’ I said quietly, as she held my hand. It used to be quite a fashionable thing to take oneself off somewhere, traditionally India I believe and go ‘in search of yourself.’ Well, the thing is I found myself some time ago and it’s draining to be honest, I’m hard work. I could do with some form of temporary amnesia and get me some well-earned time off from me. Surely there are experts out there who could offer this type of thing? People who could administer a lightish baseball bat tap to a certain part of the cranium just to knock out your personal hard drive for a fortnight. There are probably drugs that would do the job, but one, I’m on enough medication thank you very much and two, I don’t trust drugs. Most drugs seem to be extolled for either their ability to clarify your thoughts or avoided because they open the door to your demons. Well as someone who walks around with both angels and demons as constant companions, like judgemental, emotional epaulettes, that’s exactly the kind of thing I don’t want. I’d like to be the human equivalent of a seashell for a bit, I’d like you to be able to pick me up and just hear gently rolling waves and not, for once, a floundering ship in a gale, breaking on the rocks.
Natalie left me to my brooding on the sofa. A few minutes later my phone pinged and I looked at it, a new reservation for the chambres d’hôtes for that night and I sighed heavily, annoyed that my plans, I had none, had been changed at the last minute. Then I got annoyed that I was annoyed at being annoyed for having a successful business. I looked at the reservation, the name on the booking was Moore.
‘Let’s stay in the B&B tonight,’ Natalie said, ‘it’ll be a change of scenery and a little mini-break.’
It was such a lovely idea, and it did indeed feel like we were going away for a weekend. I beamed at her, ‘thank you,’ I said. Then my smile faded, ‘But I get to fill the dishwasher, right?’
‘Yes Ian. You get to fill the dishwasher.’
‘Thank you,’ I said again and really meant it.
The ‘Monsieur So British…’ blog carries on from my two best-selling books, ‘À la Mod…’ and ‘C’est Modnifique!’ both published by Summersdale and available here. This blog will also appear as a podcast every fortnight. It’s here on itunes if you’d like a listen. they’re only 15 minutes long…
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