The French like a little wager. They appear to be particularly keen on hippisme (horsey stuff). As well as horse racing, there are the less familiar (to me, anyway) trotting races whereby the drivers sit behind their horses aboard skeleton-like chariots racing round an arena. From what I can make out, the riders’ job is to make their horse go as fast as possible without breaking into something other than a trotting gait. (I admit to knowing v. little about horsey stuff but I can recognise walking, trotting, cantering and galloping gaits – he said, knowledgeably.) Trotting races are a little like Ben Hur but without the blood and guts associated with the Roman rotating-blade-equipped chariot wheels and swords. Actually, of course, it would be a lot more entertaining if the armoured chariot wheels and swords were reintroduced.
Anyway, one of the results of the French predilection for a swift wager or two is the reasonable prevalence of bars that double as betting offices. Along with McDonalds establishments (I absolutely refuse to refer to them as restaurants), neither Francine nor I would normally be seen dead in a betting office. However, both establishments here in France generally offer free wi-fi and so, for wandering bloggers, both establishments suddenly become very attractive places. On the road, Francine and I can often be found skulking in such places. Naturally, it’s still necessary to avoid the “food” (I use the term loosely) in a McDonalds but their espresso coffee is quite acceptable and is a reasonable price to pay for some Internet connectivity. Similarly, it’s necessary to avoid risking one’s shirt on a filly in the 3:30 at Royal Ascot but a beer doesn’t go amiss when checking email and posting blog entries such as this in a betting bar.
Speaking of Royal Ascot, there we were sitting in the local betting bar yesterday with the aforementioned beer and Internet connection. As usual, hippisme, in this case Royal Ascot, was on all the unfeasibly large TV screens scattered around the establishment. All seats can see a TV screen so that all punters can risk their shirt on the 3:30 and then watch as they lose it. Outside it was raining, which was largely why we were there in the first place. In between “Le Queen Anne Stakes” and the subsequent race, the TV broadcast cut to very pleasing shot of Her Majesty being driven along in an open carriage under blazing UK sunshine. Glorious sunshine back home in England – pissing with rain over most of France. TV is usually depressing but in this case it was particularly so.
It’s been pissing with rain over most of France now for 24 hours. Grump!