83 – Lunch in Annonay

I had great plans for the weekend. A skiing trip to Sept Laux on Saturday, followed by a walk through the Chartreuse on Sunday. Snow clad France and bright sunshine.

So it was a major disappointment that I found myself spewing my guts up on Saturday morning two hours before the bus left.

‘Thanks a lot,’ I congratulated my stomach after it had finished. ‘You really know how to pick your moments.’

I never made the bus and spent the morning lying on my bed wondering how this had happened. I couldn’t for a minute believe it was my world famous Spaghetti Carbonara that had taken me fifteen years to perfect. Pasta, ham and eggs is as benign as porridge. You can feed it to a newborn and it wouldn’t moan. My finger was therefore firmly pointing at my dieting biscuit friends in Annonay that I teach on a Friday.

One of my three lessons there involves having lunch while running a mock business meeting that I photocopy from the amusingly named, Fantasy Business Meetings. It’s a great book. Not because I grade EFL books under whether they’re any use to students. Simply if they reduce my planning time to zero. Feed the book into the photocopier. Press START. Lesson done.

The only downside to this class is that I have to watch everybody talk with their mouths full. It’s quite uncouth but there’s no way round it as the lunches are simply too long. If we just sat down to eat, we’d only have about five minutes at the end to do any learning.

But anyway, back to the food question. It was hard to imagine that the meal on Friday of chicken salad, beef, cheese and apple tart would have given me such bowel trouble. It wasn’t the tastiest meal I’d ever eaten, but it would have had to have been a damn sight worse to upset the famous Ogley Bowel: A cast-iron seal of intestinal tranquillity for over thirty years.

Unless that is. They were trying to poison me. Kill me off. Replace me with another teacher. Maybe Fantasy Business Meetings wasn’t going down as well as I thought.

‘Wonder what old Oggers is going to come up with today,’ they all snigger as they watch me drive in. ‘I’ll bet you a poisoned slice of chicken, it’s another helping of Fantasy Business Meetings. Oh la la. Boff.’

I eventually drifted off to sleep at around ten. Only to be woken up an hour later by the sound of somebody upstairs moving anvils. Such was the excruciating noise of somebody playing some very heavy metal. But it did make me get up. I felt better. But not at full tilt. My cup of tea tasted metallic for one. Always a sign. I looked outside. Rain and fog. I bet the Alps were perfect.

For the rest of the weekend I ate eggs, drank tea, read an intensely boring book on economics in the 1990s and listened to endless football matches on the radio. Not the most productive weekend of my life, but given the conditions outside and my fragile stomach, it was the best I could do.

In the end, I reasoned that I’d probably picked the bug up at school. It only takes one person in the basement to have a mild cold and to sneeze once. By the time it’s been flushed around the ventilation system a few times, it’s mutated into an alien. Which is then puffed out into my classroom along with some artificial lavender fragrance, just as I’m taking a very deep breath at Monsieur Loraine’s inability to tell the time.

This all happens on a Friday, so that by Saturday morning I’m ill and miss my ski trip. If I was American, I’d sue. Who? I have no idea. Maybe Lance Armstrong. Why not?


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