Saturday 21 July 2007


My colourful neighbour and I planned our next excapade. The swaying, scary suspension bridge above Saillon in the Valaise. To avoid the “difficulties” experienced on the train/bus journey last week I insisted that I drive, after first removing the ski rack that was still on our car. When we were last here there were a few intrepid glacier skiers with racks on so we weren’t particularly out of place, but now, in the heat of summer people (and the police) are laughing and pointing at us, so off it had to come.

I struggled with it for a while but I am deliberately not very practical, particularly when there is a man in the vicinity. True to form (and to my great relief) my friend roped in the assistance of a young male neighbour who was playing on “the parking” with his son. Before he could say “Jack Robinson” he had the ski rack key thrust into his hand and he too had taken up the struggle. The rear rack eventually lifted off, but the front rack remained obstinately attached to the car. No matter, we would deal with that later and off we set. My rational was that people would now only laugh and point half as much.

On arrival at our destination a kindly old gentleman who was washing his car gestured where we should park and out we climbed. To my horror, my friend asked him if he knew how to remove a ski rack. He said with a Gaelic shrug and in French “but of course” (I translate).

With the ski rack key now thrust into his eager hand he continued the struggle. Eventually he managed to loosen one side but this left us with an even bigger problem. We now had a flapping ski rack that had reached a point of no return. The other side had to come off too, come what may. The inconvenient, laughed at but safe ski rack had now elevated itself to the dangerously flapping ski rack.

Not to be outwitted in front of charming ladies he went to his Cave (this is what the Swiss call a ground floor storage room) and returned with a wrench. This was serious stuff. Many “sacrer blurs” “bon débarras” (good riddance) “ne faites pas l'enfant” (act your age), embarrassed grins (that was us) and grunts later the battle was won and amid great fits of laughter and loud cheers the ski rack was lifted off of the car. My friend then asked if he would wash our car. Oh how we all laughed!

My friend offered to pay him for his troubles but he adamantly refused and demanded, instead, a kiss. He must have enjoyed the kiss because he invited us into his Cave to partake of a glass of home made grape juice. It was a blisteringly hot day and, with girlish giggles, we accepted. Poor innocent fools that we are, it had not occurred to us that we might have been entering a den of iniquity. But drat, he was quite harmless and after refreshing ourselves we bad farewell and went on our way.

On returning to the car there he was again with a lady who was marginally smaller than a house. She was hosing herself down after working (on crutches I might add) in her very steep mountainside vegetable patch. She asked if her husband had looked after us well, and when we said he had she grinned and said with a wink that he looked after her very well too.

As he had, indeed, washed the car, my friend insisted that he must take some payment for his troubles. He again refused and his wife laughed. “He won’t take payment but he will ask you for a kiss”. So the old rogue must make a habit of waylaying good-looking gals and luring them into his Cave with the full complicity of his wife. Perhaps we had stumbled on a den of iniquity!

We are now planning to re-visit our new friend with a bottle of wine as re-payment for his extreme generosity.

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