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