Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The indestructible wife and other festival stories

Once a year our quiet little town goes fabulously festive. Every hay bale from miles around is commandeered to block off streets and provide impromptu seating; there isn’t a spare bed to be had for love or money in hostelries or private homes; supplies are trucked in for days before; artists beaver feverishly at their easels and pottery wheels; foodies amateur and professional slave over their stoves deep into the night; new outlets for plants, food, clothes, furniture, jewellery, tit-tat and bric-a-brac suddenly fling open their doors in previously unused corners; stalls appear where before there was … well, nothing.

What was once a humble annual display of the town’s arts and crafts (and olives, for that’s what the festival is nominally held for) has become something of a yearly juggernaut, and by the Friday evening – the day before the official start of the festival – the town is already overrun with hawkers and gawkers; by midmorning on Saturday it can take a visitor arriving by car a good hour to inch their way in, and a wander around the town square is fraught with both frustration (my deah! the people!) and temptation (ooh, the food! the clothes! the jewellery! the mirrors! the books! the… you get the idea).

Most locals do something to participate. My contribution is an olive-themed kick-off dinner at my home on the Friday night. I source all my ingredients from the locals, and having wined, dined and accommodated my guests, I then squire them up to the square on Saturday morning and insist they spend vast sums of money. It’s not much, admittedly, but it’s something.

Others are far more ambitious, and one of these is V, my friend Johann’s indestructible wife. (She’s not really his wife, although they do co-habit; but then, I’m not really his mistress, although any time he doesn’t spend with V, he spends with me. They’re only honorary titles.) V, who is a Woman of a Certain Age, has an extraordinary ability to work hard and party harder. While that’s not entirely unknown in this village (except for the ‘work hard’ part), most people need, after one of our infamous gatherings, to stay in bed for two days drinking bottled water and reading nothing more challenging than heat magazine.

Not V, who began partying in the simmeringly exciting run-up to the festival on about, oh, Wednesday, and whom I last saw on Sunday night, her hair exotically dressed in bright-green plastic curlers pinned with wooden kebab skewers, pole-dancing outside a local restaurant. According to Johann, she had not had what could be termed actual sleep for about five days, despite his sincere and well-meaning attempts to get her to rest from time to time. (During this, she also managed to organise, open and run a busy shop.)

The assumption was that by Monday V would be, if not dead, at least a little frayed around the edges. Not so! Johann SMSd me on Monday evening: ‘V has escaped. AGAIN!’ Astonishingly, she had taken herself off to the city for a spot of post-fiesta partying. Now, there’s a woman who simply has to leave her liver to medical science.

Our Friday night dinner was, while long-lived (it ended at about 5 on Saturday morning), remarkably tame. Or so I thought until Johann asked me if I’d seen the pictures, yet, of the ‘naked boys’. ‘Gosh, no!’ I said. ‘Where do I find them?’

‘On the camera!’ he said. ‘When you all whipped off your clothes and leapt in the pool, I started snapping.’

Whipped off our clothes and leapt in the pool? Surely, I thought, Johann had gone on to another party and taken the pictures there? After all, not only had it been quite chilly on the Friday night, my pool is simply not swimmable at the moment – the pump has been broken for weeks and frogs have begun spawning in it. And I can tell you right now: no way would I be whipping off my clothes and disporting my 44-year-old self with delicious 30-year-old boys. I’m just not that sort of girl.

Alas for the power of the digital camera, for on Sunday afternoon I was forced to face myself – and my balloon-boobs and my jelly-belly – when pictorial evidence was presented to me. How embarrassing! (But at least it explained why, when I woke up fully dressed in bed at about 10 am the next day, my clothes were wet. I had been wondering about that.) (And also the slimy stuff in my hair – that really had me going for a moment there.)

So while I don’t have the staying-power of V the Indestructible Wife, I can at least lay claim to the title of Muriel the Naked Mistress. Even if I don’t have the vaguest memory of it.

* Following Catriona Ross’s drubbing in the Sunday Times Lifestyle for writing an irreverent piece about drunk driving (after, coincidentally, a visit to our village), let me assure loyal readers of salmagundi, who I’m sure are generally sober and always law-abiding, that beds were provided for all revellers.

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1 comment:

Juno said...

Oh Mur, you've just graduated from terrible to incorrigible.