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Thought I'd post an exert from my website blog http://www.anglophone-direct.com/rubrique237.html as in retrospect, it was really quite amusing!

Yesterday morning, I got breathalised! Pulling into Gifi carpark on the outskirts of Le Boulou, to look at some of their classy pool accessories (4€ for a lilo but you get what you pay for) the ’Gendarmerie Nationale’ were out in force. I believe that it was much to do with the festa major (three days of festivities over the weekend) which must have meant that a large percentage of locals and tourists alike, were still driving around the next morning with blood in their alcohol! Anyway, once the gendarme had cleverly assessed that 12 year old Lulu was not the driver, and had made his way round to the other side of the car (we are 66 registered but still right hand drive in order to confuse the police!) the conversation started off like this.
Gendarme: Bonjour (unsmiling)
Kate: Bonjour (smiling)
Gendarme: Gendarmerie Nationale (very unsmiling)
Kate: Enchanté! Kate (slightly giggly - holding out hand politely for hand shake)
Now I didn’t see the problem with introducing myself, but Lulu was cringing and the gendarme did not want to shake hands with me. How rude. Doesn’t he realise that he is in France and that it’s the custom? Instead he gave me a sealed plastic bag, asked me to open it, fit it to his appendage and blow in it. Unfortunately, by then I had a bit of a problem with the giggles, and the machine kept making the wrong noise, so he asked me to pull off the road, park up, and sent an older and hairier gendarme to try and shock me into blowing instead of sucking. Success - faced with the size and threatening stance of the hairy one, I managed to produce a large puff, proving myself to be sober, if slightly dizzy! What an adventure, spoilt by the fact that, when asked if they would remain there until I came back with my camera, they sent me packing!



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Kate, perhaps your accent wasn't good enough...

One Saturday evening coming back from Niort (the day I found an old dog on the supermarket carpark) in our old BX break for the animals, I was stopped for a routine check as I came up to a roundabout just outside a very good restaurant at Melle.

The gendarme came up and said "Bonsoir, Madame, voulez-vous souffler dans le ballon?"  Then in French he said "Have you been drinking?".  I answered in French "Non,not since lunchtime.  I haven't just come out of that restaurant!" (with a lovely English smile).  He looked at me and said "Vous avez un accent".  I said "oui".  I don't know what went through his mind, whether he thought this poor English lady, coiffée comme un Baudet du Poitou, trying to speak our language, in her old car with that old dog next to her, I can't do it.... for he looked at me again and then said "C'est bon, allez-y" (go on your way).  And I never did souffler dans le ballon.


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Hi Christine,

Many years ago I taught in that area (in the collège in Surgères in fact) and several of the boys in one of my classes wanted to be gendarmes - I used to tell them that the 'British Bobby' was a great institution, known for his tolerance and patience, unlike the french gendarme, known for his unsmiling temperament and habit of placing his speed traps out of sight to catch you out! They all agreed that the BB was the one to emulate. Maybe he was one of them? Did he have a lisp and wear glasses?




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On Wednesday afternoon I had a visit from the Gendarmes. Two uniformed officers, a rather young and attractive lady Gendarme and a miserable old git ( who never uttered a word) in plain clothes.

They rang the bell perhaps 5 times whilst I came downstairs, and were obviously very excited.

As the gates opened the dogs rushed out and jumped up to welcome them. The lady Gendarme was scared and didn't like being licked on the face by dogs bigger than her ! She hid behind miserable git, and the other two were fighting off the dogs when I arrived.

The garbled message was "What car do you own ? (answer = Ford). "Were you driving a Peugeot 406 in Lunel last night". Answer = no. Then "do you have a Peugeot 406 ?"  When I answered no, the excitement mounted. They showed me a piece of paper with my name and address, plus various versions of registration numbers. I said " I had a Peugeot 406. It was stolen & burnt out in 2001".

Excess excitement now "was it a red one ?". Yes, I said. At this point, it looked as if I might be helping them with their enquiries, so I said "I have a file".

Once they saw the carte grise, and police statements concerning the theft and recovery of the wreck, they actually ran back to their car and shot off.

They had driven 10 kms to ask me if I was driving a car that their own gendarmerie had issued the PV's  recording the cars destruction.

A pink panther type mystery ?

Haven't they paid their phone bill? Computer virus ? Incompetence ? And why four of them?


Still free !





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obviously essex trained gendarmes---

why? you may well ask --3 to do the job of 1.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 to drive car.

1 to carry papers. 



1 to ask difficult questions.

cest la vie.p.s. better news here ---------------a few spots of rain have arrived.last month we had an orage after my outside windows were washed -so beware.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Still free for the moment Peter but your time could be limited!
I have a very good friend in our village who is the 'policier municipal' and he says that, not only are the gendarmes trained not to smile, but also they have a 'quota'!! Have you looked out of your window? Checked for strange cars in your mirror? It all sounds very suspicious to me. Today, 4 gendarmes, tomorrow the CRS!! We have a small wood and will hide you - but tell nobody!

Christine, we came here for the dog actually as she is a pyreneen shepherd and we felt she should be aware of her roots. I loved Charente when I lived there and hold some of the best memories, but the pyreneees Orientiales is pretty special too.



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[quote]Hi Christine, Many years ago I taught in that area (in the collège in Surgères in fact) and several of the boys in one of my classes wanted to be gendarmes - I used to tell them that the 'British Bob...[/quote]

** unlike the french gendarme, known for his unsmiling temperament **

At our first house we had two neighbors on one side of our property. One couple came over and greeted us the second day we were there. We asked about the other and was told that he was a retired Gendarme. They have lived there for over 20 years and have not gotten closer than an occasional 'Bon jour' from him. Very strange!

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Hmm, I trust that you aren't confusing Mademoiselle Doggy - last time I was in Gifi's car park at Le Boulou it wasn't very mountainous!!

From the REAL mountains in the P-O....(when I'm not, as now, in darkest Hackney!!)

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