This must be the most travelled kid I have ever known he`s of on holiday to the Canaries today! How times change?
I hadnt gone continental until I was seventeen years old, when I hitch hiked around the continent on £15 I fell in love, and met a man who owned a block of flats had the croix de guerre and was the Inspecture of the poste de secours of the croix rouge de france (whatever that means )a Messeur limouzy or Le mouzy, she was his secretary, her name was Anne Marie and boy she was beautiful. I slept under hedges and on one occasion was awakened from my sleep (in a walled cemetry, the most safe place for a lone traveller to sleep in, during the Algerian crisis) whith a loud crackling and dawn coming early 02.00????, it turned out to be a raging fire all around the cemetry.
I managed to get packed up and out down the single track to the gates, having climbed back over the wall, just as the pompiers, gendarmes and army arrived. I dissapeared into the night having thought that my camp fire might have strayed. but no the local vinyard owners were burning their own crops because of France`s importation of cheap wine from Algeria.
I treckked alone as I was a fairly solitary character in those days and enjoyed the country and its people. I passed a couple of kids selling peches and purchased a carrier bag full of them for one franc and spent the day walking and eating peches. at about 18.00 I secured a lift from a french woman who was keen to practice her french and after about two hours she asked me if I wouldnt mind stopping and sharing her Dinner. I gratefully accepted and we stopped by a stream and ate bread and chese drank red wine and (you guessed it) more bloody peches. The next day I was "severly indisposed", the richness of the gorgonzola type chese and the peches brought about, what can best be described as a "festering stomach" I "parped"....and squelched... all day and walking with great caution taking in the sights of the Hostel de dieu never far from "lifes conveniences".
My travelling life changed when I got a lift from a couple of french paratroopers in a deux cheveau, on leave and heading south for the sun, we stopped at every routier on the way and drank wine until late into the evening when we arrived at Toulon. I thanked them for their lift (in very bad Franglais) but they insisted I accompany them on a tour of the bars of Toulon which I did. What I didnt know at the time was that the paras are known to be hell raisers and tough and the french fleet lived in Toulon. we entered the first bar and as we got seated down to our first drink the door opened and an unceasing stream of very noisy and drunken Matelots entered, it looked like it was their favourite watering hole as they were very friendly with the people behind the bar. The two Paras were no more than about five feet five in height but in stature they were well developed, extremely fit and proud of their regiment, it became apparent that they had no time for the slovenly Matelots. after a time I went up to the bar to get a round of drinks only to be jostledof this happening the Paras were amongst them and bodies were going everywhere. as I straightend up from picking up my change a fist passed my head and struch a sailor who kneeled at my feet and fell over sideways. His friend standing behind him hit me in the face I recovered my posture and with hand to my now bleeding nose I decided it was time to go I could hear sirens and I guessed that France wasnt a good place to be banged up in. I collected my rucksac and made towards the door. The mele was still going on and the paras seemed to be the only ones standing I waved goodbye as they passed me at speed in the doorway and dodged a couple of gendarmes about to enter the bar. I was grabbed (I couldnt run with the heavy rucksac and I was roughly taken back into the bar. I had a ripped shirt a bruised face and a bloody nose, but when I looked at the demolition job that had been done I was flabergasted. Nineteen Matelots had been involved, nor more than five were standing and the rest were being tended to by bar staff in various states of "damage" The shorter of the two gendarmes spoke to the nearest Matelot who immediately pointed at me and I was, unceremoniously, taken back to their car (which had been abandoned with the doors still open and lights and siren still running) forced to sit in the back, with handcuffs firmly attached, and locked in.
The abulances arrived and the french version of the shore patrol arrived. I felt that they wanted to take me back to their ship but the Gendarmes wouldn`t let them (thank god). I spent the night( rest of the morning) in the cells at the local Nick and was turned out at six oclock just after sunrise and continued my journey, during that day I developed a beautiful black eye which I carried like a badge for nearly a month after. I decided to buy some food for breakfast and walked to the shopping area. The bread smelled good and I indulged along with more chese, life was good!
As I left the shop the same 2 CV citreon with the paras hanging out of the windows screeched to a halt in front of me. they called out "hey english get it we are going to Port Grimaud youll like that!!!" (or something similar). I took exactly a second to decide where my fortune lay and it wasn`t more drinking with them. they inquired as to how I had got on with the gendarmes and were really concerned, we exchanged stories of our experiences of the evening before,I thanked them profusely and waved goodbye. I was seventeen years old in the middle of a foreigh country was sporting a black eye and had just got out of clink..........Believe it or believe it not? as the trip went on it got worse, ending in my being taken to london from the Dover ferry with an official office escort!
I do hope that Gnasher doesn`t take after his Grumps... they say that they mature earlier these days,dont they????? now Im worried really :o))