Sunday, 25 July 2010

School Trip To Poitiers: 3. There's A Big Stink At The Gare

My poor uncomplaining co-driver and colleague looked knackered.

It had been a long day off. We had decided not to lurk around the theme park and headed into Poitiers for sampling of French life and culture. It began with a French lady bus driver who looked like a middle aged version of Brigite Bardot. She was immaculate in her short black skirt and white blouse, leaning up against the front door of the bus, smoking a cigarette. Her blonde hair was artistically tied up in a bun and held in place by a pair of Armani sunglasses. How very different to the counterparts in England.

The style continued throughout the day. Excellent salads, cheeses, sandwiches and French beer. We walked round Poitiers, stopping occasionally to look inside a church or a park or a shop. It was a perfect antidote to the last 24 hours hard slog down the autoroutes.

Everything had that certain French je ne sais crois. Everything except for the behaviour of the station cleaners. Before returning to the theme park, we stopped at the central station for one final beer and a little trainspotting, which my colleague was keen to do.

When we returned to the concourse from seeing the TGV's and the SNCF diesels, there was the most horrendous smell. Commuters and other travellers were running through the station, holding their noses. The strange thing was when we got outside the main doors, into the open air, the smell strengthened.

There, in front of, was a cleaner with a trolley. She was brown from head to waist. Her glasses were covered in a brown viscuous concoction. Her hair had turned brown. In one hand she held the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner and was sucking up what seemed like a constant stream of brown liquid. Her other hand was busy picking white tissues out of the top of the nozzle and placing them in the bin liner mounted on the trolley she was pushing.She wore no gloves, her fingers were encrusted with the brown liquid.

This was the termination of stylish France. The primitive way of clearing the drains was peculiar. It is one of the few downsides to France. Their sewage system has always been inferior to the UK. But the woman didn't seem to mind. She noticed the bewildered look I was giving her. She raised her nozzle and grinned, baring her yellow teeth through her brown lips, before carrying on and coontinuing to fill the air with this foul odour.

Ah....les Francais.

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