An unexpected advantage of owning an old automobile is that it often needs to be repaired, or at least undergo its obligatory annual checkup, and this means that the owner is forced to wander around for an hour or so in various dull urban environments where he wouldn't normally set foot. Consequently, one often makes interesting discoveries.
Yesterday afternoon, at St-Marcellin (home town of the famous cheese), I wandered down an unfamiliar lane in order to visit a big nondescript warehouse that is totally specialized in the sale of cheap and nasty goods made in Asia. If I understand correctly, the lady behind this enterprise had been an enthusiastic tourist in lands such as Indonesia. One day, she decided to pay cash for a container of assorted merchandise that would be delivered to St-Marcellin. That must have been several years ago. Since then, has she purchased further containers full of this stuff, or is she still trying to find buyers for the initial delivery? I really don't know… but I find it hard to believe that many of the sturdy local folk would be tempted to track down this out-of-the-way warehouse and buy goods there. But I may be wrong. After all, I've never been inside the homes of many citizens of St-Marcellin. Maybe, if we were to conduct a rigorous survey, we would discover that there's an amazingly large proportion of Asian junk decorating the local living rooms.
Be that as it may, the part of the warehouse that fascinated me most of all was a tiny corner holding an upright pile of objects that appeared to be Australian didgeridoos… which normally look like this:
Now, the didgeridoos on sale in the warehouse at St-Marcellin didn't really look much like that. First, they were almost perfectly cylindrical, from one end to the other, rather than tapered. Next, when I picked up one of them, I found that it was quite light: not at all what you would expect in the case of a hollowed-out eucalyptus sapling some 2 meters in length. Then, the decoration had a glossy plastic look, as if it were composed of sheets of industrially-printed fake-Aboriginal graphic designs that had been glued onto the surface of the cylinder. Finally, the price of these objects was more-or-less standard, no matter what the size and decoration: a couple of dozen euros. It was then that I noticed, on a price tag, that these didgeridoos were in fact made out of bamboo and manufactured in Indonesia. As the lady at the sales counter put it, they were purely decorative didgeridoos. Instantly, I started to wonder whether there were many families in the St-Marcellin area that boasted the presence, hanging on a wall, of a fake decorative didgeridoo.
An unexpected advantage of not having many local friends (in my case, not a single individual living in St-Marcellin) is the negligible likelihood of receiving this kind of object as a gift from a kind-hearted person thinking that it would bring me warm memories of my distant land of birth. Today, of course, if such a calamity were to hit me, I could always hand the object over to my dog Fitzroy. All I would need to do, then, is to leave the chewed remnants of the instrument on the kennel roof, and inform my kind-hearted friend that a slight but unfortunate accident had occurred when I was teaching Fitzroy to play the didgeridoo…