The French

95 – Five packets of Gerblé biscuits and a box of Bavarian Gold

After my trip to Annonay last Friday to see my dieting biscuit friends at Cereal & Santé, I fancied a pack of my favourite beer: Pelforth Ambrée. It would have been an easy trip to the supermarket if I hadn’t seen Bavarian Gold on special offer:

LIKE PELFORTH AMBREE?

THEN

YOU’LL LOVE BAVARIAN GOLD!

I was in such high spirits as I watched the pallid check-out boy ring through the box of six Bavarian Gold bottles – ‘Imported from Holland’ boldly stamped on their backs like patriotic tattoos – that I almost collapsed with shock when the check-out guy asked me to show him the insides of my rucksack.

‘Ha ha ha,’ I laughed weakly. ‘It’s a joke right. Good one…’ I could feel my heavenly mood slipping into the silage trough of despair.

‘Monsieur, your bag please,’ he impatiently demanded, firmly holding my beer with both hands. I then realised my mistake. It wasn’t my face, my clothes, my haircut, or my accent that had prompted him to ask for my bags. It was the beer.

If I’d chosen Pelforth Ambrée as normal, I’d have been back at home by now drinking the damn stuff. But Bavarian Gold isn’t normal.

I pictured the guys where I live drinking it from long cans, wandering around the streets late at night smashed out of their heads shouting in a strange language. I remembered the ‘Imported from Holland’ label lit up by their cigarettes. What an idiot I was. Conned by a cheap advertising trick in a cheap supermarket in a cheap part of town.

Despite the near freezing weather, I was sweating buckets, for I knew that whichever way I sliced it, it was going to be difficult to explain why I had five packets of Gerblé dieting biscuits in my bag.

I unzipped it halfway and then stopped. Hang on, I thought, who in their right mind would steal biscuits and pay for beer. Wouldn’t it be the other way around? What civilisation is there where people go around late at night smashed out of their heads on dieting biscuits? Somewhere I’ve never been.

Simple logic dictated that I was going to be in the clear. Any reasonable minded person would understand the situation immediately. So it was unfortunate that as I started emptying my bag, a weasel-faced woman with hair tightly pulled back into a grenade shaped bun appeared from nowhere. The words ‘Supervisor’ branded onto her supermarket issue fleece like an army rank.

‘I work for them.’ I started my defence. ‘I’m their English teacher. Cereal & Santé. The manufacturers. They give me them to taste so we can talk about them in the lessons. It’s part of the course.’

We argued for what seemed like forty years. She asking me for the receipts for the biscuits. Me telling her I didn’t have them. And on and on until it was clear neither of us were going to back down. We had too much to lose.

The Supervisor: her authority.

Me: my Gerblé biscuits.

At 2.79 a pop, I wasn’t going to lose next week’s lesson material. Not when Bavarian Gold was on offer. Maybe that was her suspicion: that I was flogging dieting biscuits to passers-by on the side of the road in exchange for booze and drugs. A likely scenario.

In the end, it was only because half of the population of Lyon were waiting to be served behind me that she finally ‘let’ me go. Albeit with a warning.

‘Next time show your bag to the security guard.’

‘Next time darling,’ I said clapping my hands. ‘I’ll buy Pelforth!’

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