Post image for Bayeux – Crocodile Tears

Bayeux – Crocodile Tears

February 20, 2011

We couldn’t visit the Landing Beaches without sparing a day to explore Bayeux and particularly popping in to the Museum to see the Tapestry.

Popping in isn’t the right expression as, once we were in, at opening time, there was so much to absorb that we stayed all morning.

By 12 o’clock (closing time) we were more than ready for a snack, and both desperate to find a quiet little café-restaurant. Everywhere was full and we dived into the side streets where at last we spotted a possible watering hole. We went in and were directed to the far end where we had the choice between two diminutive tables tightly squashed together on a little platform that no doubt served as a stage for late cabaret sessions.

Moules Marinières

Moules Marinières

By then, we didn’t care much where we sat, as long as we had the promise of food and drink. The classic French restaurant smells as we weaved through the diners had whetted our appetite and we knew it was going to be “moules marinières”and a bottle of Muscadet. A short while later, two more diners settled at the next table, crammed very close to us or else they would have fallen off the dais.

Our new neighbours were a caricature of the French provincial “ petite bourgeoisie”, mother and daughter. Mother with a blond wig, both dressed in crimpeline dresses of the 1950s style, armed with patent handbags and stilettos to match, both overloaded with glittering jewellery and pervading our little corner with sickly cheap perfume. As Barry and I were speaking in English, they seemed to assume that we couldn’t possibly understand what they were discussing.

Very soon, as I was sitting closest to them, I got drawn into their little drama as it was unravelling right next to my indiscrete ears. Barry put my monosyllabic contributions to our conversation down to being very tired  and to my love of “moules marinières” (we had an absolute mountain to get through) and he let me get on with it. I had to wait till we had finished and left the restaurant to tell him the horror of what I had overheard.

“Poor Grannie”, they were saying in turn, shedding an unconvincing tear, or rather, rubbing their eyes with machine-laced hankies. Practically no eye contact between them but sideways glances towards one another to assess the impact. The day before, they had seen to it that the old lady was taken to a care home “for her own good”.

“Poor Grannie – and we’ve had to come such a long way to make sure she was taken good care of! She didn’t want to go, did she, stubborn old girl!”.

The “notaire” was putting the seals on the front door at the end of the day to prevent anyone from interfering until the legal situation was assessed. Mother and daughter had convinced the notary, not without difficulty, to let them have the key for the morning so that they could clean the house and empty the fridge. They’d had time to have a copy made so they could get in again later illegally. The mother had conducted a cursory search of the house in the morning while the daughter was sorting out the kitchen. She was looking for the jewellery she’d fancied since she was a girl. “She’s got it well hidden, but where? The old meanie just couldn’t bring herself to part with it! What use was it to her anyway, the mangey old thing?”.

“Poor Grannie!” The conversation was regularly punctuated by one or the other sniffling into her hankie held to her nose by rather masculine hands surprisingly sporting perfectly groomed long scarlet finger nails (one has to give the notary a good impression!). In the afternoon, the plan was to sort out the best linen, some ornamental china and silver dishes. They also needed to turn the mattress over just in case money and papers had escaped the first inspection. If only they could find a copy of the will, they could take away anything not specified on it or claim wear and tear for missing items. Above all, the mother wanted to prevent her male siblings from having first pick eventually.

“Poor Grannie, she always thought your uncles were more deserving than me” she said. “I’ve got to repay myself for all my troubles!” Admitting that she had not visited the old dear for two years, she lamented how stressful it had been to think of her on her own, at the mercy of her brothers’ wives. They, the sisters in law, were absolutely not having the jewellery, the silver or anything else she had her eye on. Grannie may not have passed on yet but it could not be long now.

We left at the end of our meal, not before I turned to the scheming harpies and said: “ Au revoir mesdames et bon après-midi!”. Their look of dismay was worth a picture! When Barry and I talk about Bayeux, we always wonder how Grannie fared in the end and also if, a generation later, mother and daughter were ever going to have a “déjà-vu” experience.

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