Chlamydia, to give her full title, and I were counting out our lives in
coffee spoons, as is our wont, outside Costamuchamoulah must-seen
That’s the umpteenth lorry to pass in under two minutes, Clammie
expostulated. This village is being ruined with congestion; is being shaken
by tremors which would register as peak on the Richter scale and is being
buried under a thick coating of diesel dust which is beginning to settle on us
like the petrified victims of Pompeii.
She put her cappucino down and the spoon rattled and reverberated for
a couple of seconds on the saucer.
Yes, I agreed. We will probably disappear down a sink hole in the middle of
High Street at any minute. I’m fed up breathing and filtering dangerous levels
of particulate matter. Maybe I could buy a mask like the Japanese wear when
there is smog.
Suddenly there was a violent shudder and we observed a particularly serious
case of Pantechnicon HGV coitus fixatus: ie/ two lorries had wedged
themselves together in a surreal parody of that legendary locked together
syndrome which allegedly is presented at A&E departments the world over.
Bonne fin de matinee, mesdames! I am in Suttonford-no?
The voice emanated from the cabin of the nearside lorry whose window was
down. The driver looked a little bit like Tony Christie.
Yes, we replied, but we sincerely wish that you weren’t! Nothing personal.
Desole, but I am seeking the bridge over the River Roach, he continued.
Well, said Carrie, rather sarcastically, you are nearly as far from
it as from The Bridge over the River Kwai.
Quoi? he said.
Kwai, she replied.
It was like that question so popularised by Peter Kay: Is this the way to
Amarillo? Someone could have asked if he meant ‘armadillo’, or Amontillado
and so on. Once I had thought of that fortified liqueur, my mind crossed over
to wondering if Ginevra had any in store and whether she would mind me
dropping by for an aperro.
Roach! We did not recognise le sujet de sa parlance.
Oui, he insisted. Suttonford-a village which is bisected by the River Roach.
It said that it was once called Rochefort.
This was becoming even more bizarre.
Non, stressed Clammie. Suttonford was once called Newtown, or
something comme ca. Are you pas certain que vous n’ avez pas lu
la carte sans vos lunettes? And Rochefort is in your neck of the EU,
I’d have said.
The traffic was backing up High Street. This was turning out to be no
brief encounter of any ordinal numero. The savvy locals sipped their coffees
and proclaimed that this was another example of how necessary the new
breed of Intelligent Traffic Lights was to the general well-being of their
Clammie put on her spectacles. Now she could see that the driver actually
resembled Mr Blobby rather than the other perambulant pilgrim in the song.
Mais, I used my GPS, he shook his head. I looked for Suttonford Bridge, as
I was warned that there is a double chicane- tres dangereux.
Clammie referred to her phone. She had Googled ‘Suttonford’.
Someone tooted impatiently at Monsieur Le Perdu, pas Depardieu,
Then my friend raised her voice as only the linguistically challenged can,
and do. This is Suttonford, she explained. But not in Essex. Not once
She turned to me: Rochford – that’s where Anne Boleyn was born. She
volunteered this pearl of wisdom while a suite of hoots, or a cacophony of
klaxons that might have characterised a Modernist symphony let rip.
She looked directly at the driver and credited him with not knowing combien
flageolets fait cinq.
Try using a carte and a soupcon de savoir faire, she advised. Tournez and
depechez-vous tout de suite. Immediatement! she shouted and stamped her
designer kitten heel in a fashion that any Gaul, including Asterix, would
Les autres Suttonfords are in Illinois, imbecile, she warmed to her theme,
Waikerie-South Australia-Texas and Tennessee, but c’est impossible to
The driver was now looking rather mouton-like.
Volte-face! screamed Clammie.
Bystanders applauded and started to film the 180 degree about-
face as I think this translated.
Two cracked paving slabs and an uprooted bollard later, he proceeded up
High Street, with a hanging basket like a Barbara Cartland or Fanny Cradock
millinery marvel on the roof of his cab. He had narrowly missed committing
manslaughter by his lack of observation of the jaywalking Big Issue seller.
Ville Fleurie, but not for long, I commented.
He’ll have to keep an eye on his tachograph, said Clammie calmly, now that the
situation had returned to whatever was regarded as normal.
And on his tachycardia, I added.
What about ours? she queried.
I know. Let’s go and see Ginevra. She can show us the way to a glass of
Amaretto, or whatever she has in her wine cupboard. Sha la la la la la.