The small village we live in is dead during winter. There were a couple of restaurants open on certain days, and no bars. In France if your business is dependent on tourism, like a restaurant or bar, the government gives you a subsidy of two-thirds of your summer income during the winter to keep you going – so most of them close of course.
So when the weather started picking up in April and some establishments showed signs of preparing to open I was excited. I knew it wouldn’t be the Manchester scene exactly, but I was hoping for a decent night out past midnight with a bit of a boogie. One of the first restaurants to show some life was Chez Minou’s, which has live music monthly from March and weekly from June on Fridays. A poster went up in the village announcing a French Rolling Stones tribute act – Ah Non, Ze Satisfaction, I Cannot Get Non – for the following Friday, causing much excitement. We booked a large table to include the boyfriend’s mother, who lives round the corner, and some retired family friends. In this area it’s either retired English people or younger French people who don’t speak much English, so my friendship options are limited. But we went round to the retired couple’s house before the “gig” and they kicked us off in style with a few bottles of champagne.
By the time we got to the restaurant we were all very merry. As usual after the meal we were offered a free digestif – their speciality is a “prune”, which is a small glass with a prune soaked in alcohol and a spoon. In high spirits I requested a jaegerbomb. The waiter didn’t understand. I tried it in all accents, word combinations and explanations, and wrote it down on his pad, before sadly concluding they don’t have jaegerbombs in France.
My spirits were lifted again, though, when one of the girls from behind the bar got on the mic and started to sing the Amy Winehouse song You Know I’m No Good. She had a great voice but in a French accent the line “I cheated myself” sounds hilariously like “I shat on myself”, and I will never again listen to that song in the same way.
I thought I had a weird case of de ja vue when the tribute band played a few Rolling Stones songs, then played the same set through again, but it turned out they’d just run out of numbers. Anyway, we danced the night away, had a bit of a lock-in with some free after-hours drinks and some indoor smoking – another thing I love about the French, their defiant rebellion.