Travels in the Cevennes with a Gooner and his paintbrush


Welcome to the GunnersoreArse blog. Being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.


Scene 1: A bar in a small Cévennol village in a remote part of southern France. Sometime after Midnight.

Outside the mistral is blowing hard, gusts up to 60kmh, whistling through the quaint little streets of the village. Picking up the dust and gravel on the petanque playing area in the square and tearing at the limbs of the large plane trees. Inside there is a young couple at a secluded table, whispering sweet nothings to each other, at another table, four old men are playing cards and at the bar, an Englishman, head in  his hands. He is looking into his tall glass of pastis, watching the ice floating in the misty pale green liquid, he’s drunk, gloomy and depressed. The barman Philippe looks at him occassionally with sympathy, and tries now and again to break the silence with a small comment of consolation, but the man stays silent, oblivious to Philippes attempts at conversation. This Englishman has been in the village for about a month, an artist apparently, but Philippe has only seen him drinking at his bar, never seen him painting! The man gulps back his drink and finally speaks;

“Un autre Philippe, s’il vous plait?” he asks the barman. “Vous êtes sûr?”  replies Philippe, knowing that this so called artist has had far too many already. “Ouais, ouais” the man whispers. After living here for a month his French accent has already taken on the local southern twang. Philippe pours the golden liquid into the glass, tops it up with chilled water and drops two ice cubes into it. The man picks it up, feels the coolness of the glass in his hand, stares at it briefly, then puts it to his lips. It tastes good. His thoughts are a drunken hazy jumble, the sweet taste of  pastis in his mouth, the barman  trying to be nice to him but more annoyingly, the memories of how the evening had shattered his dreams and propelled him even further into a depressive tunnel. What the fuck went wrong he thinks, he empties his glass, looks at the barman…………. and orders another pastis.

Scene 2: The same bar, approximately 1 hour earlier:

Philippe had put the TV on earlier for the Englishman, a football match. Philippe followed Olympique de Marseille so enjoyed football, but the old boys in the bar were not so happy to have their quiet evening of cards disturbed with the noise from the TV and this bloody stranger, cursing when his team come close to scoring, shouting in his strange language and accent, “for fucks sake” and “you fucking wanker”. They carry on with their card game, trying to ignore him.

All of a sudden, the TV commentator is screaming, it’s a goal!  The card players watch the Englishman with amusement, turning away from the TV, turning back again, turning away again, both hands over his mouth, his shouts are muffled but the card players can see he is upset.  “oh No, Fuck….. fuck….. fuck”  he mumbles through his hands, “Come on, come on!”. But the referee blows the final whistle, the Englishman turns away from the TV, disconsolate and aggitated he walks to the bar, not interested in the celebrations being televised. He asks for another pastis, looks at Philippe and says, “Fuck”, the barman looks back with a sympathetic smile and a shrug, pours the drink and turns off the television. At last, the card players think, silence.

Scene 3: The same bar, approximately 3 hours earlier:

The Englishman walks into the bar, nods to a few people, shakes hands with some guys with whom he’d played petanque earlier that day and walks to the counter, orders a pastis and confirms with Philippe that it’s ok to watch the match tonight. Philippe turns on the TV and searches for the channel. The man is excited, since arriving in the village for a six month stay, it had been depressingly cold and the mistral had been blowing practically non-stop, adding to his depression. Not like he’d imagined the south of France  to be in April and May. To make things worse, his inspiration and creativity had deserted him. The main reason for coming to this remote area in the Cévennes was to paint, but he’d only managed a couple of pencil sketches in a month, the bad weather, his feelings of isolation and being alone, his inability to find inspiration, all contributing to his depression and so he had prefered to spend most of his time at the bar.

But tonight was different, football, his team are playing….. a chance to get out of his depression, confident his team will win this match. He is really looking forward to it. On the TV the teams come out onto the pitch…. he clenches a fist and mouths a little cheer, “Come on you gunners!”

Scene 4: The same bar, approximately 6 hours earlier.

The Englishman has just finished a game of petanque with some local villagers. The sun is shining and the mistral has taken a rare break. He finds a table at the  bar terrace in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth and relaxing. Philippe the barman arrives at the table, tray in hand, “Bonjour”, “Bonjour Philippe, un pastis, s’il vous plait”  As the barman starts to walk away, the man calls him back, “Philippe, le Journal des Sports aussi s’il vous plait?”.

Philippe returns with the drink and the sports newspaper. The man sips his pastis, cool and fresh, the taste of anise so much better when the sun is shining. He rolls a cigarette and lights it, taking the smoke deep into his lungs. What a life he thinks, playing petanque, drinking pastis and painting….. well, the painting was taking a bit of time to materialise, but it will come, perhaps when the weather improves. He picks up the newspaper and flicks through the pages till he comes to the football section, wondering if there will be any English football news. In his excitement of being here in France, enjoying the experience and being down and stressed about painting, he’d not given much thought to his team and is shocked to see that tonight they are playing. How could he have forgotton such an important game. He quickly checks the TV section, yes, yes….. it’s on French TV. Excitedly, he calls the barman over, “Philippe, c’est possible pour regarder le foot ce soir?””Ouais biensur, à quel heure?” the barman replies.

“À huit heure, c’est bon?” Philippe nods a yes,  it’s more of that typical French type of shrug and nod all in one movement, plus a little raise of the eyebrows. The man orders another pastis and sits back in his chair, pleased and excited, brilliant he thinks. He stays at the bar for a while, enjoying the sun and watching a game of petanque in the square, and the occasional young woman walking by in tight jeans and T shirt. He  slowly finishes his drink, puts some money on the table in payment and leaves to have something to eat. Philippe watches him depart, observing that the man has a spring in his step. Philippe goes to the table, picks up the coins and the empty glass and glances at the open page of the newspaper……….



Date: May 10th, 1995.

Headline: European Cup Winners Cup Final. Arsenal vs Real Zaragoza.

Right, time for a glass of wine and some chorizo…… hope you enjoyed your visit. Until the next time.

à bientôt

And remember, GunnersoreArse goes out across the blogosphere every Sunday morning at 9am GMT.


43 thoughts on “Travels in the Cevennes with a Gooner and his paintbrush

  1. Morning Foreverheady

    I didn’t start drinking pastis until my first visit to the south of France in 1992….. it really is a drink to have with sunshine. I’d had a bad experience with Pernod when I was younger, but over that now 🙂

  2. 4th the new first
    Morning NB, what a debauched live you live and how envious I am.
    Any new paintings that you can share, I have to confess to liking your quirky work.

  3. Très bon, Norther, je l’ai bien aimé, merci.

    That read like something out of Graham Greene novel, and flowed very nicely, especially with the time cut backs.

    Artist, raconteur, blogger and chorizo lover – is there no end to your talents? 🙂

  4. Morning HenryB

    But here in France it is now afternoon……… already had a couple of glasses of wine and the Chorizo is freshly sliced and in the kitchen, ready to be consumed. Where were you on that date? can you remember?

  5. NB,

    I cannot remember where I was last week!! 🙂

    At first I thought the chances were that I was working in NYC, but I used to travel a lot at that time and it all blends and blurs into one.

    Come to think on it I was probably in Fiji, and with the bloody date line interfering with everything, I believe I asked my brother to record the highlights for me, while I was swimming with the beautiful fish and rather scary sea snakes.

    In the end I never saw the match, or the highlight and never really wanted to.
    Actually, it might have been Cairns in Australia — anyhow it was somewhere …. I suppose! 🙂

  6. It was quite a hazy blurred evening for me….. and apart from the actual experience of living in France at the time, the only thing I remember about the match …….. is that goal, a few seconds from the final whistle. Just couldn’t believe it went in over Seamans’ head. Gutted!.

  7. Michael

    “HenryB, international man of mystery and big too..”

    He probably worked for MI6! But the problem was, at 6’5″ and 20 stone, he was a bit too conspicuous when it came to survailance duty!

  8. Hi Rive Nord

    I was at that game. Which was awful, but so – to be honest – were the team at that stage. Managed by Houston after GG’s fall and with Keown in midfield… I think he and another Arsenal player collided and had to be replaced in the first half… and that fucking awful goal. We only got to the final because of Seaman’s heroics and expected at that stage for him to win us the cup again – and wallop!!

    Funnily enough – that year was my first wine excursion to Europe. I had been “studying” wine (as opposed to drinking, actually it’s really drinking with memory!) for about 3 years and thought it time to see for myself. So I and a mate (who was working in Mainz on the Rhine) spent time trying and buying in Germany, Alsace and the Loire around Chinon…. When we got to Paris we found a hotel walkable to the Park des Princes and asked the hotelier if we could put the wine in his cellar. He must have thought “English yobs, with a boot-load of cheap plonk”. But when we unpacked Alsace and Loire wines he became distinctly more convivial…. Didn’t drink much on the day though – the Police kept us in until after the RZ fans left – over an hour…. Stupid cos we wanted to leave and the RZ fans were watching the Cup being paraded…..
    Not heard of them much since though…..

  9. HTL’s… salut

    I wonder how much the sacking of George affected the mentality of the players…… because as you say, they played a terrible game.

    I can imagine a Parisien hotel patron, when asked to store wine by a couple of Brits……. plonkers he thought, along with the plonk you wanted to put in his cellar! 🙂

  10. HTL’s

    It’s always best to go to a match independantly. When I went to Montpellier a couple of seasons ago, I drove from Avignon early afternoon and spent some time in the large square, Place de la Comedie, having a drink and talking with a few gooners. I asked them what advice they’d been given for going to the match and they’d been advised by the Tourist Board to get a tram from the center of town to the station just after the stadium where they would be escorted by the police to th ground.. I thought bugger that, so got my car and then had a very stressfull drive through Montpellier , plus a traffic jam, until I was practically driving into the stadium gates. Found a very large car park (very cheap, just 2 euros for the evening) and walked through all the beer and food stalls to the ground. On my left, I could see the police escorting Arsenal supporters to the ground. My ticket (bought at FNAC) got me into a section of Montpellier supporters, but despite me jumping up and down for the 2nd Arsenal goal, they were friendly. At the end of the game, there was an announcement for all Arsenal supporters to stay where they were until the ground emptied. I was able to leave the ground five minutes before the end, get to my car and get out of Montpellier within 10 minutes. Home by midnight. The poor gooners, probably didn’t get back into Montpellier town centre until well gone 1am.

  11. Never had much luck in Paris! Arsenal I mean, I have been lucky a couple of time – another story….

    I was at the Copenhagen win and the Brussels (Heysel!!) defeat too – never got to Copenhagen the second time….

    Anyway – time for tennis

    See you at ACLF or here next week

  12. I like the story Nb, haven’t got a clue where I was for the match, living in Wiltshire though, a week before my 17th wedding anniversary, probably choosing a suitable restaurant for a suitable meal!!

  13. Only just discovered you’d entered this blogging lark, Northbank.

    #Outside the circle of trust#

    Hope there’s no initiation ceremony involving sausages before you are allowed entrance here..

    Anyway, that was a lovely read mate. Cheers. And good luck! stick with it and you might eventually become a, umm, blogging institution (in more ways than one) like ACLF.

  14. Hello Clocky, managed to get out of the pool and tap a few words on the keyboard 🙂

    Harry, welcome….. I do have the moderation mode on at the moment! Ya never know what type of radio rental comments I may get….. and this is a family blog 🙂

    Sausage tasting could well be a future initiation cefemony….. now that’s a thought. Lol

  15. Grand Prix about to start soon….. should be a good race between Rosberg and Lewis, fast track and the Mercedes should dominate. But will Rosberg and Lewis get team orders to calm it? Failing any bumps or engine problems…… I’m going with Lewis

  16. Thank you NB, it’s a bit “cheeky”, as you can tell I’m not an art critic by occupation.
    Do you paint to order or what you like, and hope someone with readies does too?

  17. I’ll continue talking to myself. Nice to see Harry drop, in I always enjoy his offerings.
    I wonder how J”no grey area”J would get on in your living supplement.

  18. Michael

    I realised that I didn’t fully answer your question yesterday. I do take orders, but it has to be a subject that interests me and the customer has to accept that I’ll do it it my style. I prefer to just do what I like and hope that someone likes it enough to give me money. 🙂

  19. Right last orders, the bar is closing. Anyone leaving a comment now, I’ll respond tomorrow. Any newbies, will unfortunately be held in Moderation jail until tomorrow morning when I can post your bail bond. 🙂

  20. Really enjoying these posts, and the lifestyle too. Pastis and gouloises: my madeleines. In Northbank we Proust as it were.

    Fun memories from HTL too – connected to the Yapps by any chance given those regions?

  21. @Michael

    Lock ins are at the weekend only! Monday nights are far too quiet 🙂


    Really glad you are enjoying them. This week was travel and alcohol…… plus loads of disappointment. Next Sunday is all about Loyalty, food and the temptation for forbidden sauces! 🙂

  22. Wait until Sunday! If you post early, all and sundry among the Arsenal blog commentariat will be clamouring unreasonably for a post on Sunday too. We are an ungrateful and insatiable rabble, NB!

    Feed us content and make it a chorizo of a post, on the double!

    There would be no end to the demands. Keep us wanting more–the key to desire is the anticipation. We can sit around in the Internet ether limbo lounge imagining what salacious double entendres are coming our way, what new insights we can glean and vicariously enjoy of your glamorous and debauched life as an expat artist in sun drenched Southern France! Ooh to be a gaulois smoking Gooner, eh!?

  23. I was using my iPhone to post here for the first time and misspelled my own name! I think that was the issue… I’m just having sme fun on the posting schedule–you should do as you like and when you feel the inspiration. We’ll adapt and enjoy it whichever day it comes out. Perhaps unpredictability will keep us checking back in more frequently? Who is to say. I can argue any side of this. I should have been a lawyer!

  24. You would make a good lawyer Limey….. you’ve argued a very good case to be unpredictable…. keep everyone on their toes! I’m getting a backlog of mini-essays because the creative juices are flowing. I’m also up this late because I’ve got a painting on the go which I want to finish. Anyway, I think I’ll publish tomorrow morning, see what happens. 🙂

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s