French Life – Mr Allen 4

The flight to Pau was a bit late leaving but we were in on time.

We got our bags and went to the car hire desk. The young girl had obviously been on a customer care course recently. She smiled maintained eye contact and was ever so helpful.

“Madame I wonder if you could help me. My uncle hired a car recently and has not had a bill yet could you make sure all the papers went through”

“Certainly what was his name.”

I gave it and the rough dates of the booking

“Ah yes he was taken ill and the car was returned by his daughter and she signed the documents. He had paid in advance, but he should have had a confirmation invoice. I will arrange for a copy to be sent”

“Did you see his daughter” I queried

“I am sorry sir I didn’t, it was my colleague who dealt with her, why?”

“Oh no reason I just haven’t seen her for a while I wondered if she still had her dyed red hair. That’s all”

“I will ask her if you like, she is in the office”

She stuck her round the door into the office and few seconds later an older woman came out. I went through the tosh about the red hair. The lady laughed and said no she is back to having short hair with blonde “flash” which is highlights to us Brits. Not that I have my highlights done very often, as I am pure platinum blonde – when I have enough hair for it to show!

So who was the mysterious daughter? Certainly not Amy, that’s for sure.

We picked up our car, which was a Ford Fiesta. It was small but more than adequate for moi and it had aircon, which was all that bothered me really as it can be bloody hot in the Pyrenees.

We set off for Lourdes, which is about a 30 minute drive from Pau. It was cracking day and the mountains looked good, with just the last remnants of snow on some peaks.

Scenery and weather aside now what? I had a few sketchy leads and ideas but nothing you would call a stone bonker. In fact after the car hire revelation I had more questions than answers. There was something not quite right going on I just couldn’t get feel for this job, I don’t know what it was.

Lourdes was packed, as I had expected, as the pilgrimage season was well under way. It is a funny place Lourdes, I don’t mean funny hahah but a weird combination of faith and commerce.

Apparently, Lourdes is visited by roughly 10 million people every year. It has more hotel accommodation per square metre than any other place in Europe (actually that may be the world but I am prepared to be corrected). The post office handles more out going mail (postcards I would imagine) than any other single post office in the world. Last and by no means least there are apparently more millionaires in Lourdes than anywhere else in Europe.

I had booked a hotel more or less in the centre of town for our first two nights and it turned out to be very plush and very reasonably priced. Sounds like I am practicing for a spot on a TV holiday destination programme!

In the absence of any better ideas, I decided to take the bull by the horns and go to the bank where Mr Allen may have had an account. It was in a small town called Lannemezan, which is East of Lourdes. We drove over there the next morning and I spoke to an accounts manager. I was fairly honest with her, and explained I had been asked by the family to come to France to see Mr Allen as there was some urgent business that required his attention. I struck gold, this lady knew Mr Allen well and his daughter. I asked which one and the Lady gave me a name Jenny. Daughter my fat arse I thought, the sly old dog has a bit on the side. The lady at the bank said that unfortunately she had not seen Mr Allen on his last visit, but she thought he was coming over again next week. He usually came into the back on Wednesday, which is market day. I left a card and asked her to get him to contact me should she see him.

So the lady in the bank was expecting him next week, but Amy said he didn’t have a trip to Lourdes planned until September. How odd.

I tried ringing the French man again but there was no reply but this time I did leave a message. I was in two minds about heading into the mountains but it was mid afternoon and I was supposed to be giving L a break. Besides which there didn’t seem much point driving all the way into the mountains to find nobody in.

I went to a café and sat in the sun and had a cafe crème and watched the world go by and reflected. By the time we headed back to Lourdes I had a plan. Go back to the hotel, get on the internet and search for a Jenny Allen in the Hautes Pyrenees. If I got a trace I would go and see her and the bloke in the mountains.

We got back to Lourdes for about 5pm and it was mobbed. I parked the jam jar at the hotel and then went up to the room to do my internet searches while L went for a walk around. I said I would meet her by the main entrance to the church in 90 minutes. I went on line and went to the France telecom site. The directory is in both French and English which is very helpful for all those Brits who chose to live in a foreign country and not learn the language. Funnily enough most have moved to France because of the immigrants flooding into Britain and who wont learn our language. I wonder how the French feel about these foreigners? I digress.

Any way I did some searches but drew a blank and then realised that I was searching for Lilly Allen not Jenny Allen. Silly sod. It made me smile. Actually it didn’t it. There she was Jenny Allen I had her telephone number and her address, which was the same village as the French bloke whose number I had found. Progress perchance?

I headed off to meet L. Now as I said before Lourdes is a melange of the religious and commercial. There is the Grotto and church, which is pure religion and faith if you like and then there is the town around the church which is hotels, bars and tacky souvenir shops. I have never seen so many flashing Madonna’s in my life. Not even Guy Ritchie would have seen as Madonna flash like this!

I wandered towards the Grotto and met up with L just as there was a procession coming towards us down the main avenue which is in front of the Basillica. As regular readers may have gathered I am not the most religious geezer on the face of the Earth. However despite my many faults, I am very tolerant of everyone else’s beliefs and feel that just because it aint for me that it shouldn’t be for some one else. Does that make sense? Live and let live, which sounds a bit odd from someone who is trained to kill people, but I think you know what I mean.

So anyway, there we were watching this procession coming towards us. People were singing hymns and carrying banners. The procession was made up of people in stretches and wheel chairs being pushed along and attended to by other people. It was only as they got closer that I realised that all the people who were sick were children. They ranged from small babies to teenagers. Some were singing away and others were barely alive from what I could see or so disabled or handicapped as to be almost vegetables. As I said I am a bit of religious sceptic, but it struck me how happy all these people looked and every man jack of them seemed to be having a bloody good time.

I know one thing it brought a lump to my throat seeing so many sick and handicapped children. It is easy to forget how lucky we are. I know my kids are dead but they did not suffer or live like this. I don’t know how people cope and I was humbled to see how they did cope and with such good humour.

It struck me, that irrespective of whether there is life after death or not, my little girls had lead healthy and had happy lives. Granted they were not as long as I would have liked, but they lived in an atmosphere of love happiness and security and they were healthy. They did not have to endure the pain and suffering of being ill or tortured. I then thought of poor old Joseph who at of 10 had had his teeth pulled out with a pliers, yet he is still a cheerful courageous happy lad.

I think what I am trying to say in a very clumsy way, is that it puts everyday problems into perspective.

2 Responses to “French Life – Mr Allen 4”

  1. dl says:

    Too right! We’ve got a pretty big family, and it often feels like more than our share of 21st Century strife (usually connected with money or, to be more precise, lack of), but every now and then we see or hear of something which really makes us count our blessings.

    The Mr Allen story is fascinating!

  2. We all need to stop and count our blessings, as me Nan used to say luv.
    She too made a pilgrimage to Lourdes and couldn’t stop talking about it. It truly was one of the highlights of her life.
    I think it has a lot to say about the power of positive thinking and Love.
    It has everything to do with Faith – in whatever it is you choose to have faith in.
    Fantastic post as always, Norman xx

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