AND THEREBY HANGS A TALE (Continued)
The Odd Job Man (Continued)
Beside the shower block stood an old-fashioned white egg shaped caravan. Old it might be but it had been carefully painted and it positively gleamed in the mid afternoon sun. It was shaded by the massive cherry tree whose branches overhung the caravan in an almost maternal protective embrace. To one side of the caravan and along half of its front was a carefully constructed home made awning. Just beyond the awning was a barbeque made from a thick tin tray an old oven shelf and a few concrete blocks. Beside the barbeque stood a metal lidded dustbin filled with charcoal. Under the front of the awning stood an old deal table and four bentwood chairs all had been painted in bright canary yellow and sky blue colours. Also painted in similar fashion was the metal-framed hammock positioned under the side section of the awning.
Ross could be seen coming passed one of the three swimming pools. He was dressed in tattered shorts not fashionably tattered but tattered by use and patched with skill. He wore with them a glaringly white well worn tee shirt and dusty brown shoes. His sockless legs looked long and his whole physique lean. His age could be anywhere between thirty and fifty. He carried two plastic shopping bags one of which chinked invitingly, the other bulged with produce.
Under his arm was tucked the ubiquitous baguette. He dropped the bags on the table and entered the unlocked caravan. The caravan had a stable door and as he re-appeared he fastened back the top half of the door and closed the bottom. As he pulled the mosquito netting over the top half his grey cat appeared on the top half and nosed his way passed the netting. Felix shared with all his kind the infallible ability to always be on the wrong side of any door.
Ross laid a collection of cutlery on the table together with plates and glasses. The wine bottles for unsurprisingly it had been wine bottles that were chinking in the bag were stood carefully in the shade save for one which he opened and poured himself a glass before turning to Felix and saying “santé”. Needless to say Felix was not impressed he was far more interested in the contents of the other bag.
Ross tipped out the contents of the other bag and put a largish portion of liver pate on a plate mashed it and gave it to Felix who by now was doing his impression of a well oiled machine. Ross started to give his attention to the other contents, Cheese, pâte, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, rocket, chives, basil, red onions, garlic and mushrooms. With well-practised skill he swiftly made a garlic paste and constructed a superb Olive oil drizzled salad to be served with the pâte, cheese and bread. Meanwhile Felix having finished his meal had settled down in the deepest shade under the caravan for once with no door blocking his route to his destination.
Ross had come to France four years ago and almost by accident fetched up on this campsite. He had recently been made redundant and having no ties he had decided to wander around Europe.
Jobs were few and far between and the idea of frantically searching for someone willing to take advantage of him, his plight and the economic situation had had no appeal whatsoever. After little consideration he had sold his small flat on a falling market and got enough to pay off his debts and have a small sum left for himself. So armed his small funds had determined that the only way was to go from campsite to campsite. In his old but reliable Volkswagen Kombi he had made excursions to campsites in France, Spain and Italy and then back to France again where he had eventually arrived at the one he now called home.
He had run out of funds long ago but thanks to his odd job skills he had always found ways to provide the funds to feed himself and to continue his travels.
His travels around European campsites had made him something of an expert. He knew to avoid sandy sites and pinewood sites because they were difficult to keep free of dirt and sand. He had learnt that sites with horse flies and other bugs were best avoided. Cicadas he could tolerate in spite of the fact they sounded like a multitude of unanswered telephones.
This site twixt Tours and Saumur was ideal and it could have been fate that decided its choosing. Ross had decided to have an evening on red wine the same evening as the owner, an Englishman married to a delightful French Lady, had decided he deserved a night off. They had met, they had talked. Ross had told Paul of his travels, Paul had listened and was particularly interested in Ross’s escapades after he had run out of funds.
The following day Ross had been offered the egg shaped caravan and something more substantial off-season. He had accepted. OK he would be mowing grass, unblocking drains and attending to general maintenance but what the hell it was where he wanted to be the rest was a means of staying there. He by now had a reasonable grasp of French and most of the holidaymakers were English, his native tongue.
Ross finished off his meal with a third glass of red wine and a ripe, aromatic peach. Coffee would come later. He arose stretched, his arms flung wide and swung with practiced ease into the hammock. After a few moments he was joined by Felix whereupon they both fell into that delightful soporific half awake, half asleep state.
Ross was an enigma to his acquaintances, he could count on the fingers of one hand those he would call friend. The men he knew thought him to be a ladies man and the ladies thought he might be gay. In fact the truth was he much preferred his own company. To Ross being alone was not to be lonely. Those he invited to join him for a meal were invited for one of only two reasons in gratitude for a kindness or so Ross could indulge his love of cooking, always a waste, in his opinion, if there was only one to cook for.
The partitioning inside the caravan had been ripped out to make one large combined bedroom and studio. No need for bathroom facilities with the shower block so near and washing and washing up could be dealt with in the basins and washing machines on the far side of the block. The caravan was devoted to his two passions reading and music. They took up so much room there was only just room for his three-quarter-size bed and few clothes. Life was simple, life was good with little to cause him stress.
Most people where there for a week or fortnight and he could manage to be polite to even the most obnoxious for such a short time. The locals he greeted and treated with the camaraderie that exists in small communities everywhere.
Ross arose from his belated siesta and managed not to disturb Felix as he stood and stretched again. Felix slid with the minimum of effort into the warm spot that Ross had left and luxuriated in the newfound space. It was time for him to make his rounds checking that his high standards had been maintained. His two assistants were good workers but in their youthful exuberance the attention to detail was sometimes missing. But today he found nothing to concern himself with. Tomorrow the lawn by reception and outside the restaurant would need cutting. He checked the customer reports book and found only one fault not attended to but as he was checking for the number of the caravan with the broken television Phil drove up to the office. “Beat you to it and that’s my lot for today. Can you mark it off for me,” he remarked with a grin as he threw the keys of the service truck onto the table. “Mick’s on this evening,” and with that he was gone. Ross sighed when you have a good stress-free life why oh why did people sacrifice quality for quantity.
He shuddered as he remembered cold, wet and miserable Middlesborough days the stench of industry permanently in the air. The very memory seemed just part of a half-remembered nightmare. If there is a God he surely has rescued me he thought as he made his way back to his pleasing but basic home.