Blessed are the Cheesemakers

Today was a Gloria Sty. Blue skied and sunny, constantly teasing and urging me to slip off my jacket to expose my grateful skin to the delicious UV and top up my vitamin D, before the slightest breeze gently but firmly reminding me that it’s only 12 degrees.

London was pretty in the light – for some reason (I’m no meteorologist) there was little to no evidence of the hideous air pollution we bring upon ourselves in the name of progress, leaving the view down the river relatively smogless, and gorgeous. Canary Wharf was twinkling innocently in the light, trying to distract from how ominous its ever-expanding size is. It’s not a very young person thing to say, but it’s all skyscrapers now. Back in my day most of that was, well, roads leading to skyscrapers.

Conditions were perfect for a meander. As I strolled by the Thames I tilted my head back and enjoyed the sun on my face, and inhaled the familiar smell of London fresh air: doses of pollutants at the level that our nostrils now process as non-existent; distant exhaust fumes; and the intermittent wafts of weed. No matter what time of day.

I have such a deep-rooted fear of authority that I will never understand such brazen blazing.

I didn’t recognise the smell of weed until 2011, living in Lille. As university and life experience had yet to even loosen the stick up my arse, let alone attempt to remove it, it was utterly baffling to me that I would smell it at all. I was in public! The public could smell it! That meant the police could!

Sweet baby angel.

Even though I did a Big Shop yesterday, this seemed like a good time to pop in to an independent cheese shop I have heard good things about.

I perused the selection with relish (and pickle, and chutney. Sorry, that was cheap of me) and discussed the artisanal Maroilles (a reminder of my year dans le Nord) with the French cheesemonger. His accent was not too pronounced, not harsh, perhaps a semi-soft like the Morbier I ended up buying. Almost any accent will be appealing to me when discussing cheese, but there is a French lilt brings a particularly sexy authority on this subject.

Friendly, bespectacled, smiling. Thank god he wasn’t offering cheese samples or I may not have been able to stop myself from clambering over the display unit and demanding he take me atop a ripe, oozing brie. (For clarity – I would have been able to – I am a human and can control my urges. Christ.)

My reverie was, thank the lord, interrupted. Two children, seemingly his daughters, popped their heads around from the back of the shop to ask if they could eat a brioche. Savour that image for a moment – is there anything more idyllic, stereotypical and adorable than a small French girl asking a cheesemonger about brioche?

I sprang into action, slamming the snooze button on the dozens of biological alarms that had started to sound. I engaged the mental checklist of Things That Would Be Curtailed By Pregnancy/Kids: free time, booze, lie ins, booze, unpasteurised cheese, booze, swearing aloud whenever I want, booze, sushi, booze… Once I had completed the exercise, both my hormonal transgressions – the sexual and the maternal – had subsided, and I was free to eavesdrop and chat at my leisure (always in the name of improving my vocab). I completed my purchase and waved goodbye and à bientôt.

On my way home, I chastised myself for letting my French lapse – to learn and then forget is infinitely more blameworthy than to be ignorant – but reassured myself with the memory of how shocking my pronunciation was. The constant shame of my inability to do the French “r” had been especially galling (Gaul-ing? Geddit?) as I was studying “droit… non, droit. Droit! Drrrrrrroit! ….les lois”. I repeated “droit, droit, droit” under my breath as I plodded home, until I realised that my apparent hacking up of mucus was beginning to scare the locals.

An enjoyable day, all in all. It served as a reminder (and, in current times, and uncomfortable one) of how much even I, a self-proclaimed recluse, can enjoy (and some may say overthink) the most minor of social interactions.

Anyway, I think I will celebrate my ongoing childlessness and have a small house red with my Ossau Iraty. I don’t know about you, but cheese makes me thirsty.

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