And I thought all I had to worry about was my sociopath of a husband

Share

The husband and I have sloped off to France to spend our sixth wedding anniversary in our accustomed manner. All around the farmhouse, Provençal vines droop with heavy fruit while the soft hum of bees serenades us from the lavender beds. Ripe figs loll in a come-hither way on the ancient pine table.

The husband and I have sloped off to France to spend our sixth wedding anniversary in our accustomed manner. All around the farmhouse, Provençal vines droop with heavy fruit while the soft hum of bees serenades us from the lavender beds. Ripe figs loll in a come-hither way on the ancient pine table.

Yes, it's the epitome of romance, and it's just the four of us. Did I not mention my uncle and his friend Leonard? Oh, and Robert, who did the flowers for our wedding, is arriving tomorrow midday. The rest of my family are perplexed at the arrangement. "Don't you want to be alone?" they often ask. But when you're married to a sociopath you have little desire to play Garbo yourself. A gang of committed bachelors is in many ways the perfect choice of chaperones. My husband, who used to publish military history, gets to talk battleships and Cathars and I have some fellow naturists to gossip with round the pool.

We have been married six years, so the heady days are over. The anniversary just provides the perfect excuse to escape the hysteria of GB not-quite-at-war. It finally got to me when a friend forbade me to go on the Tube, on the grounds that there would definitely be a gas attack within the next three months. This to someone whose livelihood depends on a twice-daily flit between Oxford Circus and King's Cross Station. Burdened with unwanted intelligence, I felt it was my duty to make other people as paranoid and tetchy as me. So I told my younger sister, Dorcas – in the same sisterly way that I once informed her about poltergeists, spontaneous combustion and the Ebola virus. What I hadn't counted on was Dorcas conveying this doomful prophecy to my mother. Mum immediately stated fretting about my older sister, Holly, who, believe me, this is true, spends her entire working day taking pictures of ads on Tube trains. But here's one comforting thought for you. If you see a cheerily loony lady photographer on the Underground, stick close by her. My sister Holly has always had a fleet of guardian angels working overtime on her case. She is the only person I know to have pulled off the cartoonish feat of inadvertently whooshing down a black run and over a ski-jump on her first attempt at skiing. She landed head-first in a snow drift to the horror of all onlookers, but was totally unscathed. Follow that woman.

My dreams of lolling by the pool, far from the harbingers of war, turn out to be optimistic. The French, as it turns out, are being every bit as hysterical as we Brits. It's just that they're enjoying squeezing every last ounce from the agony, as is to be expected with the Gallic temperament. Marseilles airport had a near-party atmosphere compared with the ghost town of Stansted, even though a local group of fundamentalist bovver-boys has threatened to bomb it. The usual pageant of hotly embracing relatives was given extra colour by the soldiers who self-consciously adjusted their sub-machine-guns before helping you steer your wayward airport trolley.

The already febrile atmosphere is enflamed by the fact that the French are spoilt for choice in the doom stakes: the domestic catastrophe of the Toulouse explosion provides as many column inches as les attentats. In this part of Provence the possibility of a disaster combining both elements is hotly discussed: the nuclear power station at Pierrelatte glowers to the north. Why Islamic terrorists would seek to flatten Marseilles, the Arab stronghold of France, doesn't seem to enter the rationale, though Front National supporters on the councils of nearby Vitrolles and Martigues provide ample provocation. A British friend who lives near Apt reports that French hostility to Arabs, always fomenting away nastily in this area, now threatens to bubble over.

The day after the twin towers disaster she was shopping in her local butcher's when the man with the cleaver blurted out, "That'll teach us French to be nice to those fucking Arabs." That's the poison that hangs in the scented air here. More menacing than the phantom gases that threaten passengers on the London Underground.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Retail Sales Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fragrance store are looking for enthusias...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting and rewarding role ...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Executive - UK / International

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a long-established, renown...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Signs and Graphics

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The key requirements of the rol...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Old London Bridge; how to fight UKIP; and wolves

John Rentoul
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible