Lyon

34 – Flies

Yesterday morning, I noticed a cloud of tiny flies on the ceiling near the window blind that I leave half open at night to let the light in. It gives me an idea of what time it is without having to look at my clock: If there’s only a faint glow, I’ve got half the night left in bed. If there’s just enough light to make out my wardrobe, I’ve got about two hours. If I can make out my hand, my alarm will go off in about five seconds. If I can see sunlight streaming onto the door of the bathroom, I’m late for work. The system works quite well. Like a sundial with a built-in alarm.

On waking and seeing this invasion above my bed, I was worried, but on further examination noticed they were only simple fruit flies: Drosophila I remembered from my Biology days. Lyon’s new fruit waste disposal centre outside my window had created the perfect breeding ground for these small, flimsy creatures. Despite being harmless, I didn’t want a kingdom of Drosophila setting up shop in my already crammed flat, and as I didn’t have any fly spray handy, I employed the second best option, hoovering them up with my Carrefour Discount aspirateur.

Pleased with myself I ate a breakfast of grilled Emmental on German rye bread and hurried off to my stagnating pronunciation class with Madame Bisou and Madame Leurent. Two elderly ladies who natter in French throughout the class. If I manage to get them to string two sentences together in English, the lesson’s been a success.

However, returning at five o’clock yesterday, I saw the Drosophila were back. A black nebulous cloud in the corner of my window exactly where they had been in the morning. Whether they had miraculously found a way out of the hoover bag, or were simply a new batch from the rubbish pile, I didn’t much care. Rushing down to Monsieur Al-Hahdid’s non-stop-24-7-we-would-never-close-even-in-nuclear-Armageddon, I purchased the strongest fly spray he could legally sell me: Mister Doom.

‘It Goood,’ replied M. Al-Hahdid, through his impressive collection of crooked and yellowed teeth, as he gave me my change (not much from a 10 Euro note). I smiled showing off my own collection of recently polished white teeth and pelted it back to my flat to commit ‘insecticide’.

Within a few minutes my carpet was littered with the dead bodies of Drosophila. They were clearly no match for Mister Doom, I thought as I hoovered them up for a second time that day. I’m not sure what else may crawl out of the rubbish pile in the next few weeks, so I think it’s best to be vigilant. Rats are almost guaranteed; cockroaches too. Cholera, Typhoid, Dysentery, and Malaria are distinct possibilities.

But it’s not just here. All around the city there are heaps of rubbish sometimes metres deep sitting on every street corner. Quiet leafy streets of the middle class overflowing with pile upon pile of rotting Foie Gras and Roblochon. And the bizarre thing is, nobody seems to mind. As though there are street decorations or art. Part of modern France.

In a nutshell the council want to give rubbish collection to the private sector: Veolia Environment and Suez Sita namely (French companies I also happen to teach). They privatised rubbish collection in Bristol years ago, with Suez Sita collecting our rubbish long before the French government let them loose on their own binmen. Only, they must have forgotten that fiddling with the French public sector is like pulling apart a bomb. It’s going to go off in your face and the result is all around us to see: Endless bags of rotting waste strewn like carcasses after a shootout between the binmen of the Republique and the gunmen of Suez Sita. And all that is standing between them is old Oggers armed with a Carrefour Discount hoover and a can of Mister Doom fly spray. Let battle commence.

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