Saturday, September 4, 2010

30 - Of Napoleon, Waterloo and Joan Of Arc

Interior of St. Anne Basilica

I’m watching the England-Algeria game on the giant screen in the hotel's open-air restaurant in great pain, anguish and suffering when two seriously drunken Frenchmen plonk themselves down next to me.

'Look at your team,' quoths one, a hydraulic engineer working on Brazzaville's water supply. 'They're just like the French team, all bougnoules and bicots (the nastiest N words in French). Mark you, Monsieur, I'm anything but racist. It's just that I want a French team to look like me. I'm sure you feel the same about England. I'm not racist at all. It's just all these hoodlums from the suburbs who think they're stars. They're all shit. We should kick them all out.' All this followed by an idiot laugh.

'Hm,' quoths I, 'well...'

'Yeah, all I want is for the team to look like me,' Idiot laugh.

He must be in his 60s with a weathered face crevassed like the canals of Mars. All I want, meanwhile, is to nurse my agony at England's poor showing in silence. Now he throws Joan of Arc in my face.

'You English burned her.' Idiot laugh. And Waterloo. 'You name your stations after our defeats.' Idiot laugh. 'What's more, if Napoleon hadn't sold Louisiana, the whole world would be speaking French today.' Idiot laugh. 'Then of course there are the Chinese. We are enemies of the Chinese. They must all be destroyed.' Idiot laugh.

Poto Poto town hall

Please let me suffer in peace, Monsieur.

'No, I'm not racist, not at all.' It so happens that his second grandchild was born this morning. 'And you know what Sir Winston Churchill said? I don't mind being a grandfather, I just don't want to sleep with a grandmother.' Idiot laugh.

HELP! Is there no end to my suffering? Isn't England's performance punishment enough for one night?

Given its French antecedents, Brazzaville has its fair share of French pastry shops. And what better way to drown or rather gorge my grief after England's terrible showing than with fruit tarts and millefeuilles and Napoleons (the other type, not the one who could have had the whole world speaking French) and madeleines of Temps Perdus? That is, after gorging myself at a river bank restaurant at the end of the Corniche, looking through the branches of a tall cactus at fishermen in pirogues casting nets in mid-stream. That is, before going back the hotel to watch Ghana v. Australia. That is while trying to forget all about England. That is... That is... So much for pastry Saturday!

View over the Congo from the Corniche towards Kinshasa

And from another vantage point

And through the cactus branches

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