It’s funny isn’t it that we always seem to feel bad things tend to happen in multiples of three.
I’ve never really wondered why, but always wait for the third thing to happen when I seem to be having a run of bad luck. I thought it was a particularly British thing, but it appears that France have the same thought too… With the saying ‘jamais deux sans trois’… ‘Never two, without three’ and yesterday it became a saying that will be etched into my brain for a good while to come, more on that shortly.
This morning I’ve spent some time looking at why bad luck comes in threes and although there’s been lots of thoughts, one that keeps being mentioned is a connection to the Boer War. It’s suggested that British soldiers found themselves under fire if they tried to light 3 cigarettes with one match, as the light gave the snipers enough time to find their target and kill the third man. An interesting theory that has passed an hour of research on the sofa this morning and perhaps goes some way to explaining the idea.
Which brings me back to yesterday and why I began looking at it in the first place. It’s fair to say that so far, by any stretch of the imagination, 2020 has been a rather eventful year for me. It started in January, when after a lovely day out with a friend I was involved in a car accident on the way home, which although happily no one was injured, resulted in our French car being written off. Then in February, another moment when I was riding on the cycle path along the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice, when I hit a (very obvious) bump and did an elegant fall into a Palm Tree, immediately hopping back on my bike, leaving poor Andy to explain to the shocked passers by that I was fine as I cycled off nursing rather sore ribs.
To be honest since then I have been waiting for the third thing to happen and had hoped that confinement with the pandemic would have been it, surely that was bad enough, or perhaps Fifi’s clutch breaking on our drive through France … But no, life had other plans.
My problem always comes when I’m in a happy place, whether it’s after a nice day (car crash), enjoying being somewhere different (Nice) or simply thinking about the prospect of coffee and croissant whilst also taking in the view (yesterday). A momentary lapse of concentration, thinking about too many things at once or perhaps an in-built self-destruct button, whatever it is, I seem to have a knack for attracting disaster in one shape or another. I’m at my worst when I’m on my own, as generally Andy knows the signs and keeps me on track, although the fact that my oldest and dearest friend describes me as always having been a bit of a ‘mountain donkey’ probably says it all!
Yesterday started beautifully with a choice of rides on offer and after a few minutes deliberation, I decided to head out towards Reillanne for a coffee. The ride along the cycle path in the early morning sun was beautiful and the golden light on The Luberon deepening its folds with the shadows. Unfortunately it was all soon to go horribly wrong.
What went wrong, I honestly don’t know, although I seem to have hit something in the road that I hadn’t seen (as I said the light on the Luberon and the call of the croissant were front and foremost in my mind). All of a sudden I seemed to be flying then landing very heavily in a heap, looking back up the road thinking things hurt.
I’ve always had a worry in the back of my mind about how I would cope if I had an accident whilst I was out on my own and as I lay there, checking in with the various parts of my body to make sure I was still in one piece all my worries came to life. In that instance I felt vulnerable, isolated and to be honest a little bit old, realising that the days of just picking myself up, dusting myself down are long gone.
But then the planets aligned and I saw the legs of a jogger coming towards me, with the feet moving more quickly as he noticed the crumpled heap and abandoned bike in front of him. He stopped, checked I was conscious and could move, before helping me up, just as a man came out of a nearby house.
They helped me to the terrace of the house, where a chair was brought and I sat down trying to take stock of what hurt the most, whilst they brought my bike down and popped it in the shed for safe-keeping. The jogger, who I later discovered to be Valentin, a young mathematician based in a University in Paris, offered to run back to his holiday accommodation and bring the car to take me and the bike home and then onto hospital.
In the meantime Patrick and his mother, took me under their care, checking I was OK and starting to bathe my wounds, as it appeared I had resurfaced some of the lane outside with my skin.
They couldn’t have been kinder, making sure I was comfortable, keeping me in the shade, even lending me a little sun hat to keep the quickly warming sun from my head as we waited for Valentin to return.
We chatted about everything, from cycling, to the origin of my surname and even the difficulties of pronouncing it with a French accent. If I hadn’t been a bit of a soggy mess, we could have been just chatting as neighbours and it passed the time, taking my mind off the sore spots until Valentin arrived back and took me to the local Urgences department at the hospital in Apt (only then realising I was still wearing the sunhat… What a sight I must have been)
As he dropped me off I thanked him for everything he’d done and he just said ‘ C’est normal’… That wonderful French phrase indicating it’s just what anyone would do… Although picking up a total stranger, running back to your house collecting your car and driving the bleeding, woman to hospital 15km away, all whilst on holiday seems a step beyond normal to me, but his kindness spoke volumes.
By this time I’d managed to let Andy know what had happened, although in some ways I wish I had waited. As being back in the UK at the moment, all he could do was worry from a distance and I have done this to him far too often. Also friends were rallying round offering lifts, help and any other support they could give. I may have been on my own, but I felt far from alone and that meant so much.
Our local hospital in Apt is superb and within an hour, I’d been assessed, x-rayed, and had a consultation before my wounds were dressed and a sling fitted to support my damaged collarbone, before I was released and collected by friends, with a prescription to collect from the local pharmacy, managing to get there just before they closed for lunch.
On our way back my friends took me via Le Cabanon so I could stock up on fruit and veg, only to have to recount what had happened to the lady there, who offered any help she could give too, then back to collect my bike from the man and his mother who had cared for me so well earlier.
Once again I tried to thank them, only to hear again that wonderful, almost throwaway phrase, ‘ c’est normal’, I don’t think they realised for one minute the impact that their kindness had had on me, when I felt at my most vulnerable.
Back at home my friends helped me in, cutting me out of the clothing that I really couldn’t remove myself and made sure I had everything I needed, with instructions from them and others to call if I needed anything.
So here I am a day later, tired, sore and a little bit broken, but on the whole, OK. This morning my neighbours in the hamlet rallied round too offering any help I need, even shutting up the house each evening if I can’t manage it, with my 83 year old neighbour offering to help me carry anything up the steps to the house.
I’m in touch with Andy, taking my painkillers and have support on hand from friends and neighbours if I need it. I’m sat on the sofa, or resting in ‘Conversation Corner’ on the terrace where I find I’ve been having a serious conversation with myself about the trouble I get myself into on a far too regular basis and what I can do to try to reduce the occurrences… Although changing the habits of a lifetime isn’t an easy task.
The main thing is though that I’m in one piece and I know that I will be able to manage with a little help from friends as long as I need to. I don’t have to worry about what I would do if I had an accident as it’s happened now and I wasn’t left alone at the side of the road, I was picked up, dusted down and helped out by strangers who just considered it was the normal thing to do.
Since buying the house, both Andy and I have had to spend far too much time on our own in France, in pursuit of our dream to make this our home, but although we’ve been here ‘tout seul’ we certainly don’t feel alone or isolated and this minor little blip has been another example of why we feel so at home here.
So fingers, toes and everything else are now well and truly crossed that that is the 3 episodes of bad luck done for the year…
And I’ll be back on the bike again exploring the area again soon as I’m already missing it as it’s so much a part of our life here Exploring by bike in Provence
In the meantime I’ve got a long reading list, so you’ll find me buried in a book…