jeudi 22 mars 2012

C'est une petite touche de Maigret et le film noir

I can honestly say that I've never been much of a car nut. So long as my dear old delinquent Kangoo continues to go from A to B without pathological expense, that'll do me.

Given the general state of the world, the economy, and my humble bank balance, I can only pray that the aforementioned ageing heap manages to keep it together for quite a while longer.

But a mate of mine the other day posed the question: What would be your dream car? And, leaving aside the obvious retort of anything with cheap spares and no bloody awful modern electrics, I have to admit that I'd really like one of these lovely old Citroëns.

To us anglais, the car is inextricably linked with L'Inspecteur Maigret, as one of them had a starring role in a famous Beeb version of Simenon's 'tec stories.

They actually made the Citroën Traction Avant from 1934 to 1957, and it certainly is a classic. For a start, as is usual with Citroën, it's technically intriguing. As the name suggests, it's front-wheel drive, which was deeply exotic in 1934, and still by no means standard in 1957.

Along the way, the car gained associations with just about anything dangerous - gangsteurs françaises, Le Résistance and the Gestapo: the full two-reels-worth of film noir.

Girlfriend Claire and I came across this immaculate example, appropriately parked in front of one of Canet's wonderful art deco seafront houses, and positively reeking of atmosphere. Bien romantique!

It's all a question of four-part harmony, you know

I have to admit that I've started singing again. And why not? It's a harmless activity that costs nothing, and isn't as bad as it sounds.

I'd been feeling the urge for quite a while, so I quietly slipped back into the august ranks of mes amis de Deux Pics En Choeur. They're a stalwart and cheery bunch who make up for, with warm-hearted good humour, any occasional frayed-ness at the edge-ness that may creep in technically.

Actually I can't now recall any good reason why I stopped going to choir in the first place, because after only a few weeks back in the fold, all is as it ever was.

As always, each rehearsal before a gig is an unmitigated disaster, and as always, the gig mysteriously comes out alright on the night. Our sopranos still possess their unique ability to drift down by a semi-tone and a bit, thus eviscerating the harmony. I never have worked out quite how they do this, but this sacred skill continues to be handed down, yea even unto the seventh generation.

Our regular suspects hail from all over the haute vallée. Most are still wanted by the gendarmes for cruelty to decibels. We're mostly French with a sprinking of English, German, Dutch, Danish, and my old mate Stan, cellist extraordinaire, representing the Nicedays Murca.

The choir has a nicely varied repertoire of our local traditional occitan music, chanson française and negro spirituals. I'm glad to report that an unfortunate infiltration of Andrew Lloyd Webber has been surgically removed from the programme during my absence.

Instead, we're learning some gorgeous Renaissance riffs by one Orlando di Lasso. These harmonies really are sublime. It's truly amazing just what you can do by means of the deft manipulation of a floating C sharp. Nearly 500 years old and so cool it's not true.

I suppose that all sounds a bit anorak. But basically, if these sounds don't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, you may well possess all the musical sensitivity of an autistic house brick.