Sound of silence is not to my taste

I THOUGHT the world had ended.

James Marston

I THOUGHT the world had ended.

As I woke from my slumber on Saturday morning in my Toulousain apartment with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high), I had a terrible thought. Perhaps I was the only person left in the world?

The reason for this startling thought was the silence. Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France was strangely quiet. I could hear no traffic, no sirens, no passers-by.

Even worse was the realisation that if I were the last man alive I would be condemned to talking to myself about myself for the rest of my life - I was, dear readers, despite what you may think, a little scared at the prospect. So much so that I abandoned my Saturday morning lie-in with an Englishman in France breakfast of four croissants and a cigarette while trying to make sense of whatever was on the television and got out of bed.

As I approached the window and opened the shutters the silence was almost deafening. It had, as I soon discovered when I popped my head into the street, snowed.

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Now I know nothing compares to the covering experienced recently in the Edwardian seaside town of Felixstowe where I had made a home before upsticking to the continent, but a significant snowfall here in the south west of France is apparently not that normal, with the obvious exception of the Pyrenees.

Indeed, according to the local news, the Haute Garonne, the area in which I live, together with 27 other areas of France, is on orange alert which, according to one friend, is just short of red alert which translates as total panic.

As I ventured outside later that morning to experience the experience, I was struck that even at 11am the normally bustling streets were almost deserted.

The statue of Joan of Arc was covered in three inches of the white stuff. Fountains had frozen, the cobbled streets utterly treacherous. Even the museums were shut due to "intemperate reasons" as one notice pinned on a door said.

The Place De Charles De Gaulles (Charles of Gaul Square) was carpeted, the trees were hung heavy. Even a few shops were shut as retail staff took the opportunity of a snow day. It goes without saying that the schools would have shut had they been open - teachers the world over never miss a chance.

Eventually, I did spot a small gritter making sedate way along one of the city's thoroughfares and by the afternoon Toulouse had got a little busier though the snow fell, snow on snow, for the rest of the day.

Apparently the canals of Amsterdam are frozen, Germany is in the grip of traffic chaos, temperatures are positively arctic and in Britain there is much discussion about gritters and salt.

Snow, this year, dear readers is the only news anyone is talking about.

PEOPLE often ask me how I'm getting on with the language here in France. Well the answer is I am managing and most days I learn a little something.

This week I picked up an "aspirator" which, though it sounds like something you might give an asthmatic, is, in fact, a vacuum cleaner.

NOT that I'm too bothered, but I am somewhat relieved to hear that the pontificating of Jonathan Ross will no longer be filling the TV screen. I was never much of a fan mostly because, it seemed to me, the BBC had to keep justifying his large salary far too often.

I bet there's a few who'll not be too upset to see him go. Let's hope it's America.

JUST as I beginning to understand the minefield of greetings and dismissals here in France I heard another to add to the list of "Bon journ�e" (have a nice day), "Bonne soir�e" (have a nice evening), "Bon dimanche" (have a nice Sunday) etc etc etc. "Bon fin de matin" has now come my way - it means "have a nice end of the morning".

WHERE do big boys buy their clothes in France? It has been a question that I've been wondering about for some time. Large here is petite in the UK so a gentleman of my stature has no hope.

Not until the sales that is.

The annual post Christmas sell-off has just begun here and I have discovered all the big sizes, that no one buys because everyone is small, get marked down and thrown on the racks.

What a relief, I was worried I might have to diet.

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