Mon 23 Mar 2009 17:24 GMT
I have spent all of this morning and early afternoon in the office doing King of the Mountains admin'. All that remained to tie up the paperwork was a quick trip to the Post Office and bank.
Guy has the minibus all day today so my only form of transport was my bike. I don't often need much of an excuse to ride my bike and usually jump at the chance. Today however my ride to Bourg d'Oisans was hampered by very strong and very cold winds. My aerodynamics weren't helped much by my rucksack bulging with letters, parcels and paperwork.
Fortunately by the time I got into town the wind had abated and it was much warmer. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the bank is always shut on a Monday. Next stop the Post Office. Ah, the Post Office: 'Fermeture Exceptionelle'. Roughly translated this means 'Closed due to exceptional circumstances'. Unluckily for me, these exceptional circumstances had happened only 5 minutes before my arrival at their door.
I really hope that the phrase ''fermeture exceptionelle' is included in every French phrasebook ever printed, because a visitor to France - even on a day trip - is bound to come across it at least once. Customers (or should I say would be customers) are informed of a fermeture exceptionelle by a note taped to the door or window of the establishment. Sometimes these notices are not even printed, just a hastily scribbled couple of lines on the back of an envelope that may as well read 'we fancied the afternoon off'.You may be surprised to find out that the fermeture exceptionelle is not exclusive to small, family run or rural business, no! The fermeture exceptionelle can happen at even the largest of supermarkets, DIY shops, public buildings, sports facilities, etc. etc.
By now I should have become hardened to these little A4 notes, however, each time I see one and my shopping or admin' is thwarted I get just that little bit more up tight and angry. So, today it took a lot for me not to start jumping up and down and pulling at my hair like Basil Fawlty in Bourg d'Oisans high street. Instead, I hopped back on my bike and pedaled furiously to Allemont (just down the valley, after the right turn to the Croix de Fer and Glandon). Unusually, Allemont post office closes at midday every day and does not re-open until 8am the next morning - cue Basil Fawlty.
By this time the sun was out and I decided it was time to salvage my afternoon. I carried on riding (still carrying my backpack of letters) and did a 'tour de barrage'. This is a little loop of the lake at Allemont favoured by our cycling neighbours at this time of year because it's nice and gentle and only a 40km round trip. It was lovely, very peaceful and lots of beautiful primroses and catkins in full bloom. The second time today my heart rate was raised, but this time for good reasons!
Thankfully for my 'anger management', France has lots more in the way of beautiful road riding than it does 'fermeture exceptionelles'!