106 – Summer

It hasn’t been a good year for suncream manufacturers. Or for the bar and restaurant industry along the Rhone. Frantic owners sucking on pink gins gazing at the litter blowing around the acres of expensively leased terrace. Feeling like they have been looking at the same rain splattered watercolour forever. Tables and chairs stacked up and chained together. Barrels of beer going sour. Wine corking. A million crates of ice cream going flaky at the edges. Rifle at the ready as the bank manager rolls up in this Merc. Two strong drinks. Two bullets.

Although saying that. There were some bars closed up on Friday night. Despite half of Lyon descending on the 1km stretch of riverbank with the sole intention of spending money. Perhaps, their nerve shattered owners had got the fright of their lives.


Or perhaps they didn’t want their brand new wooden furniture warping in the hot humid Lyon air. Or didn’t want to fire up their stoves. Or simply couldn’t be arsed. Things having already gone too far and nothing the first pure blue sky of summer could change.

But it was a delight for me. A box of chilled beers, a bottle of wine and a picnic hamper full of savoury French delights stacked on the back of my bike. I met up with a crowd and we shared a feast of stuffed pork, pickled beef, marinated salmon, foie gras, butter garlic chicken, quails eggs, green salads, saucisson sec, rose, white and red. Feasting like kings after a heavy week of teaching people stuff they could’ve learnt from a book.

I planned it this way as getting a seat in the riverside bars is impossible and the chance of getting a drink as likely as not getting ripped off for it. Much better to order a hamper, buy a bag of ice, beer and wine, and you’ve got yourself a mini restaurant and bar. Waiter service included.

When the ice and booze ran out we heaved ourselves up to a bar on Rue Sala and sat on the terrace cradling cold Leffes and eating cheap peanuts. By June the bog standard TEFL teacher is approaching meltdown and the phrase: ‘I’ll do anything’ is not uncommon. Prostitution, drug dealing, paid assassination frequently come up as potential career moves. Closely followed by tour guide, farmer, builder, street bum, busker.

It’s that time of year. Students desperately trying to cram all their remaining hours into May and June before the French holidays begin. Tempers frayed, anger bubbling, resentment rising. The constant cry of: ‘I never wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be an actor!’ ring aloud.

By the time the sun set on the first glorious Friday night of the year, we had all gone to bed to dream of ways to make a living other than prance around Lyon with a book full of verb tenses. Realising there’s an economical crisis, and that the world’s running out of ideas, and that a job’s a job. But understanding at the same time that if we’re not learning or gaining anything other than money, we’re wasting our time and may as well run a riverboat on the Rhone.


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