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Saturday, 7 July 2012

A French Connection!


Come Friday evening the adrenalin of the week flows away and the thought of a relaxing weekend is usually uppermost in my mind. This Friday I needed a drink!
I don't often say that..more than once a night... but last night I needed the relaxing pleasure and invigoration of a small group of friends (2 as it turned out) and a couple of pints of really good real ale at a reasonable price. This was no wind-up. This was a major wind down!

Just over a week ago I was invited to a meeting in Paris to discuss a senior role. As the long list had been 17 and the short list 4, I was pretty pleased and the date was arranged for this past Tuesday. I was up ridiculously early to make sure I had everything ready for the day trip and left for the airport in plenty of time armed with my small wheelie cabin bag, an unbrella and a long coat. The forecast for Paris was 15 degrees and rainy.

We boarded the plane on time and at 7.15am we taxied to the runway. The turboprop engines accelerated and we started to move ....all of 100 yards, at which point the pilot throttled back and stopped the plane to say an engine warning light had come on. Probably nothing to worry about, he said, just a faulty light, but just to be certain he took the plane back to the terminus to get an engineer to look at it. 15 minutes later the pilot cheered us all up by telling us it wasn't a faulty light, it was a complete engine failure. He didn't point out that 2 minutes after takeoff we'd have been over the English Channel with no engines if he'd ignored the light SPLASH!

Back in the terminus building we were told another plane was being warmed up and we'd be off in half an hour. An hour later we boarded the replacement and had a trouble-free flight...
except...
... although my cabin wheelie bag had passed all the tests at the airport, there was no way it would fit into the tiny overhead locker so I had to have it on the floor and suffer cramp for most of the trip to Orly airport.

The direction to Paris when we arrived at Orly were complex to say the least and bloody complicated, verging on incomprehensible to be blunt. A taxi would cost around £50 to £70 depending whether you wanted to catch one of the unofficial rip-off cabs. The bus service went to Paris, but it didn't say which part and the driver just shrugged his shoulders in a very French way and drove off. In the end I decided to go by train, on the basis that a train will go in one direction and hopefully won't go off the rails  (unless we had another catastrophic engine failure!) and would probably arrive at one of the central Paris terminii....or Marseilles if I was really unlucky. Unfortunately Orly isn't on a main train line and it took some time and miming to find out that I had to catch a driverless 2 carriage shuttle train  (exactly like the one at Gatwick linking the North and South terminals) that would take me 6 miles to a small town called Antony where I could catch the main RER train to Paris. Tickets were a problem. The ticket seller wanted to sell me either individual tickets, or two one-way tickets to Paris and a separate Metro ticket, all of which would have cost more than 40 Euros. A UK guy travelling to Paris and in the queue behind me told me to ask for a 1 day travel card which would cover me for everywhere...and more if I wanted to tour Paris! That card was 21 Euros. The ticket seller didn't look best pleased.

At Antony I followed the signs for the RER blue line train to Paris. Antony may be small, but it's station is vast and on several levels. I walked up and down stairs following signs and  after nearly 20 minutes of getting lost and back-tracking I ended up on the same platform I'd arrived on and my train pulled in. I needed to get to L'opera and as I'd been to Paris several times I knew my way round the Metro, so getting there wasn't a problem. I emerged into daylight. I actually emerged into sunlight and a temperature of 23 degrees, armed still with my very British umbrella and long coat. Ah, les Anglais! I stood out like a sore thumb in a sledgehammer factory! Now I just had to find the offices where I was due to have a meeting in 2 hours. Plenty of time!

I stood outside the Opera, looking every inch a tourist with my wheelie by my side as I studied the map trying to find where I needed to get to. I'd been assured it was a 5 minute walk, if that. As I read the map a well-dressed man bent down by the side of my wheelie and when he stood up he had a very chunky gold ring in his hand. He offered to me, saying I must have dropped it, but I assured him it wasn't mine and he said it wasn't his either and proved it by trying the ring on, although it was too small. I suggested we give it to the local police to which he replied that they would only keep it. He then turned the ring around and showed me the assay marks inside the ring proving it was gold and therefore worth (he reckoned) probably £400 to £500 and probably more considering how heavy it was. He then suggested we shown take it to a jeweler and sell it, splitting the money 50 / 50. I still said we should take it to the police. His final attempt was to say he didn't have time anyway and had to hurry off, but why didn't I take the ring. I could then either try to sell it, or if I really wanted to (sneer, sneer) take it to the cops. Either way I might like to give him a finder's fee of £75 or £100. His expectation was that greed would overcome me and I would give him his finder's money and I would keep several hundred pounds. At  this point he had put the ring on the wall in front of me to whet my greedy apertite, but when I told him to go away he grabbed the ring and with a string of expletives he walked quickly away. It was, of course, a con trick.

The ring was real, although I was never allowed to actually touch it and was probably worth what he said, however had I agreed to his scheme he would have swapped the ring for an identical one made of lead covered in gold paint. Even the assay marks would have been the same. I would have given him £100 (feeling generous) for a fake ring worth £5 or less, and then looked like a complete idiot at a local jeweler having dropped a packet of money. I wouldn't have complained to the police because idiots don't like it confirmed by laughing cops.

I wouldn't have fallen for the con anyway because like most people I'm honest. However I'd also read of an almost identical con trick in Terry Pratchett's Going Postal . Thank's Terry!

I made it to the meeting, spent 5 hours with the directors and eventually retraced my steps to Orly, getting lost once more in Antony. I then had a 3 hour wait and a very expensive sandwich during which I read David Shaw's excellent horror story Voices, before we caught the plane (engines permitting) back to the UK. A very long day.

Did I get the job? Dunno...I'm still waiting!

Blog on, Dudes!

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