Ma Folie Française (My French Folly)

BOOK: Ma Folie Française (My French Folly)
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MA FOLIE FRANÇAISE
(MY FRENCH FOLLY)

Marisa Raoul

 

 

 

First Published 2008

by Transit Lounge Publishing

95 Stephen Street

Yarraville, Australia 3013

www.transitlounge.com.au

[email protected]

Copyright ©Marisa Raoul 2008

This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Inquiries should be made to the publisher.

The characters and places in this book are all non-fictional, however, in most cases, names have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.

Every effort has been made to obtain permission for excerpts reproduced in this publication. In cases where these efforts were unsuccessful, the copyright holders are asked to contact the publisher directly.

Design by Peter Lo

Cover photograph by James D. Kelly

Map by Ian Faulkner

Printed by Everbest, China

This eBook published and distributed 2012

by DoctorZed Publishing

www.doctorzed.com

[email protected]

eISBN: 9780987345295 (ebk.)

National Library of Australia

Cataloguing-in-publication data

Author: Raoul, Marisa.

Title: Ma folie française = My French folly / Marisa Raoul.

ISBN: 9780980461626 (pbk.)

Raoul, Marisa.

Hotelkeepers-Australia-Biography.

Bed and breakfast accommodations-France-Treignac.

France-Description and travel.

647.94092

To Jean André Raoul

and

the men and women of France, who captured my heart one by one and made my life the wonderful ‘Folie' that it is! Je vous aime tous!

folie s.f.
1. madness; f.
à deux
, folie à deux;
accès de f.
, fit of madness;
f.du suicide
, suicidal mania;
f.de grandeurs
, delusions of grandeurs, megalomania;
être pris de folie
, to go mad;
atteint
de f. furieuse
, raving mad;
avoir un grain de f.
, to be slightly crazy, a bit touched;
aimer qulequ'un à la f.
, to be madly in love with someone, to love someone to distraction;
il a la f. des fleurs
, he is mad on flowers, he has a mania for flowers;
il a eu la f. de…
, he was silly enough to..;
les folies de la jeunesse
, the follies of youth;
dire des folies
, to talk wildly, extravagantly;
faire des folies
, to act irrationally, to commits acts of extravagance, to have one's fling;
faire des folies de son corps
, to sleep around;
chienne en f.
, bitch on heat.

Harrap's French-English/English-French Standard Dictionary

CHAPTER 1
Que La Folie Commence!
(LET THE MADNESS BEGIN!)

I had never intended on living a decade of madness. When I embarked on my adventurous folly, I'd forgotten that life rarely dishes out what we truly expect.

I no longer live in expectation of what tomorrow might bring. Rather, I choose to live in the enchanted madness of the present, with the knowledge of the past as my steady travelling companion.

I once lived in a place far, far away. A land where
‘les folies'
, were a regular and standard occurrence. Where each day presented new challenges and endless temptations sought to ruin me. My life changed dramatically and irrevocably in this place. That same life now seems aeons away. It comes to me in dreamlike flashes and haunts me with romantic nostalgia. That decade of unadulterated bliss took place in a land distant from my own, on the far, northern curves of this blue planet. A land steeped in history and renowned for its unique flair and style. The irrepressibly beautiful, irresistibly delicious and irrefutably delectable, Republic of France. The home of
Dom Perignon Champagne, Pâté de Foie gras, Chanel Haute couture, Cartier
, warm croissants, hot crusty baguettes and even hotter men. Hey, I should know. I've been married to one for over 20 years.

I returned to this beautiful land all thanks to my French love, and in doing so, fulfilled a schoolgirl fantasy.

I was blessed with a talent for languages as a child and the year I spent in Italy, as a wide-eyed adolescent, didn't hurt. In high school, French became my favourite and I excelled without even trying too hard. I adored the romanticism and gentleness of its poetic form. The way that every word rolled languidly off your tongue.

Ahhhh … Romantic France. Many years ago, seated at a graffiti-riddled timber desk, in my grey, convent school uniform, I daydreamed of the moment I would stand on French soil surrounded, of course, by doting Casanovas who whispered naughty French nothings in my ear, whilst serving me
pâté
laden toasts and endless glasses of intoxicating Champagne. Well a girl can dream, can't she?

Dreams become reality. Destiny finds a way. As we Italians say, ‘
Il destino
… it is written on the stars.' Four years after graduating, I met my French, husband-to-be on a Manchester bound aircraft and knew within hours, that he was the one I'd been waiting for. Our meeting in the troposphere was serendipitous and unforgettably romantic. Abundant flirting, gentle manipulation and textbook-perfect dating followed. And yes, the man involved did his country proud.
Jean André Raoul
epitomised the reputation of the amorous Frenchman in every respect. You know, slightly aloof to start with, then charming … disarmingly so. To the point where it was impossible for me to respond to anything he asked with a believable ‘NO!' He was convincingly handsome and remains so to this day.

He literally charmed the pants off me. They seem to have an inherent way of doing that. What is it? Some kind of French voodoo? Or some ancient love potion that we mere mortals know nothing about? It's so powerful, that you feel your lace-trimmed knickers voluntarily melting at the seams, bewitched by this mystical
Gaul
enchantment.

Actually, I must be honest. In
Jean's
case, it was more likely a great deal of life experience, coupled with his boundless charm and cunning organisation that won my heart. I was to find out in time, that he had, in fact, been a
Conseil Juridique
or Legal Council for a major, private bank, in his former French life. Perhaps that explained his ingenuity.

In retrospect, his every move was calculated to win me. His every lilting word, to make me swoon. It was all extremely effective and completely unforgettable. I can recount every sultry moment with such vivid clarity that I remain besotted and bewitched to this day.

I was Europe-bound, my final destination Manchester, England. Not the most exotic of destinations for one's first international trip as a newly inducted, international flight attendant but I was so jittery with nerves, that final destinations were the last of my worries. If I could just make it out of Sydney in one, semi-sane piece, I'd be content.

As I sat in the crew office, anxiously awaiting my flight call, a navy blue uniform appeared before me.

‘
Bonjour. Je vois que vous parlez Francais
. (Hello. I see that you speak French.)'

‘I'm sorry … what did you say?' As I raised my head, a pair of smiling, green-gold eyes met mine. I was taken by surprise and my poorly muddled brain was incapable of bilingual mode, leaving his words pass over me in a sultry accented wash.

‘
Bien sûr
! That would be right,' the navy-clad accent declared. ‘They give people those language badges to wear, but the majority of them don't even speak the language.' End of conversation, handsome yet maladroit ‘blue coat' exits.

Oh my God … what was that? He didn't even give me a chance to explain, the arrogant so and so. Well this was certainly a great way to kick off my first day on the job. I hope he's not on my crew, I thought cringing. But that wasn't to be. As I entered the crew briefing room, there he sat, the smug, sultry eyed, ‘blue coat'. Bugger. Oh well … never mind, I'll just take deep breaths and give him a wide berth once we board the aircraft.

Wrong again. For some later-to-be-understood reason, the yet unnamed
Monsieur
decided he should pair up with the shy, new graduate. Show her the ropes, initiate her gently, etcetera. A novice to these pre-flight procedures and far too apprehensive to question their outcome, nothing he did or said during the meeting made any sense to me. I was told my workplace position and didn't recall much else. That was until I was safely perched on my aircraft jump seat, buckling my harness straps for take-off.

I squirmed in the restricted space of the narrow crew seat, my stocking clad thigh rubbing against his, through my flimsy ‘Emilio Pucci' uniform dress. I tried desperately to focus my attention on the three passengers seated directly opposite me, endeavouring to camouflage my physical discomfort. Three sweet-natured, blue-rinse, senior citizens, who were quick to spell out, that this was their first overseas voyage. They were elated to be here and their enthusiasm was fuelled by the prospect of spending their meagre savings during their brief, but hopefully exhilarating, Asian escapade. They fiddled and poked, inspecting every item in their seat pockets and posing incessant questions about the flight.

How long will it take to get there? What's Singapore like? What will the temperature be? How many times had I been there? And on and on the interrogation went. It was the perfect excuse for me to ignore my intimate proximity to my attractive, male colleague and concentrate solely on their enquiries.

Once the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude, I followed the instructions set out in the workplace manual, of service with a smile. Passing out salted peanuts, pouring generously alcoholic beverages and dishing out the economy class dinners with efficient poise and grace. I accomplished the job at hand, as best I could. Each passing hour, becoming more aware and surprisingly impressed by the efforts of my ‘blue coat' partner.

To my utter amazement,
Jean Raoul
, as his name badge read, proved himself an exceptionally charming and polite individual. He doted on the trio of senior travellers at every opportunity throughout the flight, wooing them with his
Gallic
whiles and pandering to their every ‘economy class' desire. Somewhere, high above the Central Australian deserts, he captured their hearts and little by little, he was stealing mine. He flattered me in their presence, offered me fragrant rose buds, which he had ‘borrowed' from the First class cabin and softly called me his
Petite Princesse
or little Princess, as we stopped to offer them coffee. This was becoming a true spectator sport and I blushed like a schoolgirl for the duration of our high-altitude, theatrical
tour de force
. In turn, our elderly audience cooed and tittered in their seats.

When the Boeing 747 finally taxied towards the glittering lights of Changi International Airport,
Jean
coyly divulged to the starry eyed trio that he and I had secretly married just prior to take-off and were on a ‘working' honeymoon. Before I had a chance to react, the nomadic nanas almost wet themselves in jubilant cheers of congratulations for our happy alliance, reaching out to shake our hands, wishing us every happiness and urging me to hang onto my hugely handsome catch. I smiled and nodded in bemused embarrassment. My tongue tied in so many knots that I barely managed to wish them well as they disembarked into the oppressive humidity of the Singapore night.

Jean
skilfully pursued his program of seduction at our stopover locale, by cleverly convincing the hotel receptionist that he, and that pretty young hostess over there, needed to lodge in adjoining rooms. I remained totally oblivious to his plans and never questioned how or why the ensuing events unfurled. To my innocent mind, everything appeared normal and perhaps coincidental, but never orchestrated. It wasn't until years into our relationship that
Jean
made admission of his cheeky ruse. How naïve I had been. So besotted was I with this handsome Frenchman that thoughts of schemes or deliberate preplanning, never once occurred to me.

It was mid-morning on our first day in Singapore, when my bedside-phone rang. I had returned from my morning swim and was wondering what to do with myself next. It was
Jean
, inviting me to go on a private shopping tour of the city. His voice was like velvet and I hung on his every well-chosen word. He vowed to introduce me to the best shopping malls, the cheapest orchid markets and world's finest seafood laksa and mango juice. I was starting to believe I'd met the man of my dreams. This man wanted to take me on a shopping spree with sustenance included; did that classification of male actually exist? Apparently so, or at least that's what I was being led to believe. We chatted for a while, making arrangements and planning our afternoon when he asked me for my room number.

‘Um … its 604,' I answered shyly. ‘Why? Do you want to meet me here?'

‘604. What a coincidence,' he lied expertly. ‘I'm in 602. Is there an interior door in your room?'

‘Why yes,' I replied naively.

‘Knock on it,' he said. I put down the receiver and tapped lightly on the door, hearing his voice from beyond call, ‘Come on in, it's open.'

I gingerly turned the handle, a little shocked to find it unlocked. I slowly entered the wolf's den. Instead of finding my tour guide dressed and eager to leave, there he lay; tanned back propped casually against the European pillows, half naked under the light, cotton covers. My God, what kind of idiot was I? And what a clever operator he was. I stood by the bed, my awkwardness clearly painted on my cheeks. I knew only too well what he was up to but my feet remained involuntarily glued to the spot, unwilling to flee, and the pulse in my temple pounded wildly.

‘Why don't you sit down? Here …, ' he gestured smiling, patting the crumpled bed covers next to his thigh.

‘I'm fine really,' I replied. ‘Aren't we going shopping? I thought that we'd made plans. Maybe I better come back later?'

‘There's plenty of time
Marisa
. You know, the shops are always open in Singapore. Why don't we talk for a while?'

‘OK … I suppose we can shop later,' I replied, perching myself stiffly on the very edge of the mattress, all the time desperate to avoid direct eye contact.

We never made it to the shops that day, or the next, or the day after that, as a matter of fact. By the time we'd arrived in a winterised Manchester city, the view had taken on a rosy, romantic hue. I noticed no sleet or rain through my pheromone-generated reverie and every day thence, spent on or off the aircraft, dissipated into a bliss-filled haze. I was wrapped in a soft, white robe of contentment and whether events had been arranged or not, now no longer mattered. Our destinies were now intrinsically linked.

Through
Jean
, my childhood fantasies became adult realities. I later married my charming ‘frog' prince and merrily pursued the happy-ever-after. For several years we lived a euphoric existence. Travelling the world together on someone else's business expenses. Overnight stopovers in faraway destinations; sleeping between high-thread-count sheets, ordering room service in fluffy bath robes and living each day in Utopian rapture. At the end of each journey, we returned to
Jean
's little ‘one-bedder' in Manly, enjoying our time off in a quasi -holiday mode.

That first summer we made our first joint purchase, a timber sailboat. She was a sturdy, old lady named ‘Sea Legend 2' who had sailed the Pacific Islands several times. No matter how stable or heavy keeled she was, I soon made it quite clear to
Jean
, that I was frightened of the slightest ocean swell and only enjoyed the sport when the mast remained perfectly perpendicular to the horizon. No matter how desperately he encouraged and cajoled me or patiently explained that sailboats were meant to lean in the breeze, I squealed every time she did. He graciously surrendered to my cowardice and we spent our days wandering aimlessly around the quieter corners of Sydney harbour, where the waters were calmer and no true yachtsman would have been seen in a pink fit. Life was kind to us and we couldn't have asked for more. We lived simply and never saved much but we were content and insanely in love.

Our happiness endured, however my health did not. Travelling the world for my profession reeked havoc on my physical health and assorted cases of Bombay belly, Spanish influenza and generalised jetlag took their toll. Countless doctors' appointments and hospital tests soon shattered our blissful existence. The more the health professionals prodded, poked and pricked me, the weaker my system became.
Jean
remained steadfastly by my side and endured the monotony of medical mayhem, to my astonishment and great relief. We had been together such a short time and my concerns about our relationship weathering such a massive storm, left me stressed and despondent.

BOOK: Ma Folie Française (My French Folly)
10.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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