It’s hot for the time of year. Twenty-one degrees if you believe the electronic thermometer above Bellecour. If true, it’s the hottest beginning to March I can remember. We must have had a thirty degree shift in temperature over the past three weeks. In mid February I was running along the abandoned banks of the Rhone with a wind from hell obliterating my once youthful looks. Three weeks later I’m doing the same run trying to avoid the myriad of pushchairs, scooters, bikes, children, dogs, cats, rollerbladers, ice cream sellers, musicians, stoners, alcoholics, and madmen all enjoying the sun.
What a contrast. If I had sat on the grass by the Rhone in shorts and a T-shirt three weeks ago, I would have died. No exaggeration. Now it feels like a summer festival. Girls and guys strumming guitars and singing terrible French songs. Arabs standing around smoking dope and looking cooler than everybody else. African dudes dancing along to hip rhythms while being watched by cynical stodgy middle-aged French men playing pétanque. Families blocking up the path with monster pushchairs accompanied by the odd early drinker smashed out of his head on 8.6% Kronenberg – a strange drink indeed. And then there’s me, old Oggers, pacing up and down the Rhone trying to sweat out last night’s famous bottle of Cote du Rhone.
But I’m not complaining, it’s bloody lush. Not a word I use regularly, but it sums up my mood. And if I’m happy, the homeless man I mentioned earlier in this rambling diatribe, is even happier. I passed him as I walked back from work on Friday evening, relaxing on the wall outside ‘his’ shop. He couldn’t have looked better as the sun beat down on his grizzled face.
‘I’ve been waiting six sodding months for this,’ I bet he’s saying. ‘Payback time.’
For me, yesterday was quite memorable for doing nothing at all. I woke up, ran for an hour, ate a huge breakfast of Tortilla, sausages, kidney beans and drank unusually good coffee. After listening to half of the Liverpool Arsenal game on the radio, I sauntered down to the Rhone to read and lie in the sun for three hours, falling asleep twice. At five I returned to eat more and then went to meet my French friends in the pub, returning at twelve for another ten hours sleep.
A lot of people my age now have children and might read this and think you lucky sod, Ogley. Bastard even. But I can’t help that. I have to take the time while I can. There will come a time no doubt – or hope – when lazing by the Rhone for three hours dozing and reading and not doing anything in particular won’t be an option. ‘Daddy, what are we going to do today?’ ‘Err, son, how about we just laze about by the banks of the Rhone and do bugger all.’
No, I would be a good father. I would run with them and ride bikes and do all the things the people on the banks of the Rhone do at the moment to annoy me. Like make noise and shout in raised voices while I’m trying to sleep. Have some respect! Next thing you know they’ll be a madman kicking me in the shin for no apparent reason and then running off down the road laughing. But that’s another story…