Saturday, 9 October 2010


I suppose when people think of the French Riviera they imagine a carefree bohemian existence of artists and beach living. Strangely, life here can be remarkably formal.

I help to run a local social group, which sometimes involves emailing en bloc the membership list to let everyone know what's happening.   A few weeks ago I sent out a link, but then realized it wasn't the right one, so I hastily composed another email, which I entitled I'M SH*T AT *T.

You know you're in trouble when you receive back a missive which begins:  Kindly refrain from sending me vulgar headlines.

I don't think I've once seen the words 'kindly' and 'refrain' next to each other during the past several decades, and even historically without being followed by an instruction about not putting feet on seats, or lighting a cigarette in a public place.  

The author of this email ought to be called Brian.  I've never met him, but I'm betting should-be Brian has a moustache and a secret fondness for cravats.  I, of course, wrote back disputing his assertion that any vulgarity had occurred; for one thing, there was an asterisk in place of the vowel in the word he took exception to (I'm guessing it wasn't IT), and for another, it was a satirical joke, which had plainly gone straight over his empty, obviously-Brylcremed head.

There then followed several email exchanges between us, which were eventually curtailed once I had achieved the verbal equivalent of strangling Brian with his gaudy cravat and shaving off his bristly (and bristling) moustache.  

Serves him right.  

Even on the Riviera, the French are very formal in their communications.  Except when they're not.

Yesterday, I had a two-hour inteview for the position of teaching presentation skills to business people.  Now I could be wrong here, but, casting my mind back, I'm pretty certain that I've never before had a meeting about a tutoring job in which we exchanged lines from Pink Panther movies.

'Have you got a rheum?'

'A rheum???'


'I thought you said your derg didn't bite?'

'That, monsieur, is not my derg'.


On the other hand, I had another interview the week before last, in which the young headmaster was sporting an open-necked shirt and a gold chain atop his hairy chest.  He appeared to be extremely impressed with my CV, and told me I would definitely be called back to a second interview, which should have taken place last week.  When I hadn't heard anything by Thursday I sent off a (polite) email asking if this was still likely to happen, only to receive no response whatsoever.  (I still haven't).  (A cravat in his case would have been marginally more attractive than an 80s Tom Jones look, even to my sensitive tastes).

There are, from copious personal experience, countless ingenious ways of rejecting someone.  Years ago, when I was heavily involved in broadcasting, I sent around my CV to various media companies, along with a voice tape.  My friend was trying to interest assorted publishers in her novel at the same time, and we decided to have a competition to see who got the rudest comments back.  It was all going pretty well, we seemed to be neck and neck; she would receive some particularly pithy comment about the shortcomings of her prose, I would get a cassette back with 'No thanks' scribbled on a compliment slip, or perhaps just someone's initials - or even just a compliment skip with nothing written on it.  This could have gone on for years, had it not been for the time I opened the envelope to find just my cassette residing within it.  No compliment slip or other communication in sight.  I thus had no idea who had hated my work so much, they deemed it not even worth the inclusion of a third of a piece of A4 to let me know who they were.

(But hey, I won!  I had less talent than she did!)

What (also) seems to have escaped Brian's intellectual rectitude is that for every email he sent me, I replied mimicking his style.  I can't work out whether it's more fun taking the piss out of Brians when they just don't see it, than if they do.  But you know, I quite miss responding to this Brian's haughty wrist-slapping.

Of course, if people don't get back to you at all, it's another story.

Oh, by-the-way, I got the job teaching presentation skills.  Doesn't come with a derg or a rheum, however.  


Boyfriends:   Still 0       

Moustaches:    -1  (Yay!)   

Italian decorators addressing my chest:   0  (Yay!)   

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Please be nice, but not funnier than me. Thanks.