An Autumn evening in rural France.
Which took a turn for the surreal when I found myself standing beside a huge stack of old roof tiles with three French men who were discussing which ones they loved the most.
Unsurprisingly, Grand-peré owns a surplus of tiles, to go with his surplus of rooves.
Every now and again, a Frenchman would declare ‘C’est tres joli’ (in English: oh my, isn’t this tile so delightfully pretty). I never discovered the ideal shape and so ignored this factor. I simply stacked the non-broken tiles, and threw the cracked ones in the bucket of the digger. They made a satisfactory noise as they shattered.
The other component of ‘prettiness’ was the colour of the tiles. Here there was rather a lot of disagreement. One man liked the ones with more yellow, another preferred the ones with more pink. Nobody was a huge fan of the very orange tiles. They looked much too modern – although being modern they had fine shape because they probably weren’t made on some Frenchman’s thigh.
Yes, roof tiles are thigh imprints. Who’d have guessed that.
Once we’d put 500 tiles in the van, we went in for dinner. The visitors felt 500 was enough. They would come back for the rest later. Grand-peré had a surplus of roof tiles.
As she was stirring the soup, I explained to Grand-meré what had been happening outside. She smiled when I told her about my struggle to translate such an outpouring of affection for a roof tile. Her opinion was that what a man looks for in a tile is very subjective. There’s no point worrying about it.
Grand-meré has a surplus of wise advice.