Jo Ann is indulging in some property viewing at the moment. This is one of my favourite things to do, so I’ve been living vicariously through her visits to various home around the area. I check two property websites every day in the hope of finding a new possibility to make her go and see and then report back on. So off they went one of the evenings last week, Jo Ann and Louis-Pierre, her gorgeous French-Canadian husband. He finds it difficult to understand me sometimes when I’m speaking to him – different accent, rapid speech – and this gave rise to a memorable moment earlier on in the summer, when we were heading out to visit friends of theirs who live on a farm out of town. One of my children (I won’t say who) was putting on a remarkable display of pre-teenage angst, and eventually I stormed out the front door and marched over to Louis-Pierre to assure him that we would be ready to leave any minute ( as soon as Michael got the straitjacket and gag onto the little delinquent). “No problem”, said Louis-Pierre. “Can we do anything to help?” “Well,” I said, “could you take my brats with you in your car?” He looked puzzled. “My brats. In your car”, I repeated and wondered why he was looking at me oddly. There was no time to elaborate, as all the kids were finally strapped in and ready to go. We arrived at the farm, chatted with everyone and then went to see the animals in the barn – goats, pigs, kittens etc. Louis Pierre sidled up to me in the middle of the mayhem. “Barbara”, he began, “I misunderstood you earlier.” “Oh! about what?”, I asked idly, watching beg Michael to let her bring a kitten home. As if. “I thought you asked me to bring your breasts in my car”. Well. That certainly got my attention. “My breasts? In your car?” I repeated doubtfully. “Yes. Your breasts. I was a bit confused”. Light dawned. “No, no”, I said, “my brats. BRATS. So that I could have some peace in the car?” Cue explosive laughter. It’s one way to bond with Canadians I suppose. Here, take my breasts. Just temporarily, mind. I’ll want them back for the return trip.
So, back to the house viewing. They arrived, parked, meandered up the driveway, eyeing the garden, the exterior etc. Rang the doorbell. A man appeared at the door. “HI!” said Jo Ann brightly. He looked at her in silence. “We’re here to see the house!” Silence. “Your house?” she repeated. “It’s for sale? We’re here to view it”. “Oh!” he said, taken aback, and showed them in. Alarm bells were starting to ring faintly for Louis Pierre, and he started fishing out the paper with the house details on it. “Jo Ann?” he murmured. “I don’t think this is the right house.” Relief for the witless non-vendor (thinking “my wife has put the house up for sale?!?!?!”), confusion for Jo Ann. “We’re at the wrong address”, Louis Pierre elaborated. “Oh!” she said, and they exited rapidly. leaving behind a bewildered home owner. As soon as they escaped out of sight, the funny side of it all struck them. Through the laughter, Louis Pierre got right to the dynamic at the heart of the poor man’s marriage. “There,” he said, “is a man who does what he’s told”.
A couple of weeks ago, we spent a great Friday evening under the stars on the banks of the river. We sat with hundreds of other people, in camping chairs and on picnic rugs, with snacks and blankets, and watched “The Rise of the Guardians” on a massive screen. This outdoor cinema event happens every year, and it was such fun to be out in a park, laughing with the rest of the audience at the funny parts, and walking back to the van at 11.30pm, with tired children who were delighted to be out so late.
We spent one of our Sundays at another event along the banks of the river – Pets in the Park. It was scorching, so we found a bench in the middle of the park, and watched the world, and most of the animals in it, go by. I’ve never seen so many dogs in my life, from the ridiculously tiny to the absolutely huge. We were sitting in front of the dogs’ obstacle course, and after the first event was over, they asked for some volunteers from the watching children for the next event. Benjamin and Christopher were quick off the mark, and so a team of five was formed. They practised running up to a tilted wooden board, kicking it to release a tennis ball, catching the ball and running back to let the next team member go. The opposition lined up beside them. Five dogs, trained to do exactly the same thing at great speed. They took their marks and waited for the signal to go. It was hilarious. The dogs were blurry as they shot by, with incredible ball-mouth co-ordination and a neat turn and twist. The crowd were cheering on the kids, who were starting to get the hang of it. They eventually resorted to some minor cheating by leaving the blocks early, and the result was declared a draw. The park was teeming with all kinds of animals at this stage. A gigantic cat was being wheeled along in a cart; every dog around us stiffened and eyeballed it greedily. The cat was haughtily unconcerned, but we were bracing ourselves on the bench for a sudden flurry of skin and hair, which thankfully never came to pass. A man walked by with a ferret wrapped around his neck, and a lady stopped so that Rebecca could admire her bird on a leash. A dog the size of a pony scared the life out of her in an attempt to befriend her, and we started to notice how many dogs look like their owners.