120 – Christmas in Queaux

This week I’ve done two things I’ve never done before. Chopped down a tree with an axe and looked through a Lidl catalogue.

Two very contrasting pictures. One moment a warrior felling a mighty oak to cut into blocks to heat up my house to fuel my fire to cook my stew. The next, a hapless consumer sitting in his armchair nursing his amber beer flicking through a cheaply produced Lidl brochure.

Yet both necessary. As this year we’re spending Christmas alone without family or friends. No lazing around getting drip fed prawn vol-au-vents and turkey dinners by your ma. No getting sloshed on your father’s whiskey, soaking up his heat and warmth. This year it’s up to us to put on a party. A party for two. We may even treat ourselves to some telly, which we have yet to turn on, except for fifteen minutes of Have I Got News For You, or as I’ve renamed it, Have I Got Some Tedious Tired Gags For A Programme That Went Shit Years Ago.

Having never owned a TV, I’ve never been much of a TV watcher. It’s kind of boring don’t you think? All those effortlessly dull reality shows that make idiots into celebrities. And celebrities into idiots. Period dramas with everybody dressed in costumes that look like they’re made out of icing sugar. Game shows hosted by TV’s once bright stars who have sunk so low they even have to sweep up their own misfortune once the contestants have gone home. Sitcoms whose writers’ have misunderstood the basic tenet that they should be funny.

And of course, there’s the crowning turd in the water pipe, the soap opera, which, if you’ve got a minute, is by far and away and without a shadow of a doubt the most obnoxious junk to come out of Satan’s backside in the history of everything. There I’ve said it. I can rest in peace.

But maybe, just maybe, there might be something worthwhile watching while I chew on a bloated duck’s liver. Reruns of Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf for instance. Muppet Show Christmas Carol. Zulu.

Anyway, some choice items I’ve ringed in my Lidl catalogue are: Bretagne Oyster, Boudin Noir au cognac (blood sausage marinated in brandy), acorn fattened pig, Arctic salmon, Dutch caviar, German venison and even Australian kangaroo – true! It’s amazing what you can get these days, and even more amazing, is that only half the catalogue is devoted to food. The rest is wine. I’m sure my Bristol Lidl only had two types: red Australian, red South African. Ditto white.

Here they have so many, it’s difficult to know which crate to drink first for Christmas dinner. Most likely the crate of the Haute Medoc Château AOC for a snip at 17 euros for six. I’ll consider the other meals later.

But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa and because I live in a house with particularly large chimneys this year – last year I lived in a Lyonnais apartment block with all the chimneys blocked off – I’m expecting a bumper selection from the old man. I’ve suffered enough these past few months from the draughts blowing down these cavernous flues like water pouring down a plughole, stiffening my back into a plywood board as I work on my ever lengthening book.

So don’t forget us out here in France, Papa Noël. Go to the church in Queaux and look due west. First house on top of the hill. I’ll be waiting for you with a bowl of stew cooked on an oak burning stove that I cut myself. Joyeux Noël.


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