As I walked out one afternoon . . .

14th June 2021 |

Aspiran, where I live now, is an old wine-growing village in the south-west of France. Estate agents call it quaint and some visitors call it Aspirin as a joke or by mistake. It’s beautiful in the way that everything down here is beautiful because it’s made of stone, with terra cotta roof tiles. Some of the buildings were intended to be beautiful, but most are just houses that can’t help it. The streets are narrow – cars can’t pass each other and I wonder how they managed with horses and carts. I live on the Grand Rue, which was the village High Street once and has several abandoned shops along it. It runs right through the old village from one porch to another, half a kilometre or so with kinks in it. The porches were under the old ramparts because the village was fortified. The houses are three storeys or more, and because the street is so narrow it’s a bit of a canyon – like a New York street shrunk down to model-size – and noise reverberates along it.

The whole of France has recently been menaced by gangs of youngsters on scooters. I was unaware that it was a nationwide issue. I only knew that for weeks now some kids have been using my street as a racecourse, and that they were riding their scooters fast and revving them up to make the loudest possible noise, day and night. Some bigger villages have municipal police. Ours doesn’t. We have a town hall and a mayor, but he can only issue fines. I found it extraordinary that nobody could do anything to stop the little bastards.

A week ago my partner and I went for an afternoon walk down the road when something unpleasant happened under the porch, and it’s taken me until now to write about it. Two scooters came surging up hill towards us. Neither of us felt like stepping aside, and they were forced to stop, revving their engines as they manoeuvered around us.

“You’re making too much noise,” I shouted.

“We don’t give a fuck,” (on s’en fout) said one of them.

The other one raised his rear wheel and spun it at full throttle – How do you like that then?

I suppose I forgot I was a ninety-year-old gent, and put my hand on his saddle in protest.

He got off the scooter, put his face up against mine, and shoved me hard with both hands. I could do nothing to save myself. I fell downhill on my back and they rode off into the sunset.

It took the wind out of my sails, hit me for six rearranged my bones, put me out for a duck, threw me a curve ball, punched me below the belt, knocked the starch out of me, shivered my timbers and left me bushwhacked, prostrate, impotent, floored, flummoxed and forlorn.


Hope springs eternal, there’s a silver lining at the end of the tunnel, I rose again, Ted Simon Redux (with the help of ibuprofen), back on the horse, Carpe Diem, alive to fight another day and fly the flag – no, not that one, the other one; let no scoundrel claim me as a patriot.

I was the first physical casualty of the new terrorism, and with a medical certificate I could go to the Gendarmerie (which is the police force although it’s actually part of the army) and make a complaint. Now at last something is happening. A police car came with a whirling blue light. People are being shown pictures – Was it him? Or him? – There’s a petition up in the Café de la Poste and the owner, Hervé, gave me a free drink “for medicine.” People are talking about it and maybe something is being done.

My body still feels terrible in the morning but I believe it’s getting better and I don’t think there’s any way to hurry it along. I’m glad it served a purpose. The street is noticeably quieter. I just wish it didn’t have to be me.