Having been invaded by a swarm of Irish itinerants yesterday, I went down into St. Gervais to check out the local camping municipal site. As is often the case, it was somewhat basic but we don’t mind that. There was also a barrier and la guardienne was utterly charming and seemed to be related to a doberman, which is exactly what is needed when policing a campsite. Everyone else on the site was French, which we also quite like. We hitched up and moved.
Everything was going swimmingly. We had a bike ride in the afternoon through the lanes to Fromentine on the coast just by the bridge over to Île de Noirmoutier. We stopped swimming and started sinking sometime around 8:30 PM. Noise erupted as four of the Irish itinerant vans from which we had just fled swooped into the campsite choosing pitches that surrounded Billy and began to set up camp. This was becoming a recurring nightmare.
I have to say that, intimidating though they may be, they are very efficient at what they do. The towing vehicles and vans pull into a site at reasonably high speed and, before anyone draws breath, somehow the women and children (usually four per van) are on the ground like paratroopers. The drivers select pitches instantly and reverse expertly straight back into them, no juggling, no shuffling, all very smooth. Out come the electricity cables and they hook up. It’s all very efficient, in the same way that Hitler’s blitzkrieg was. Unlike Hitler, the same efficiency applies when they leave. They are hitched and driving out in the blink of an eye.
Madame Doberman had gone for the day but there was a contact number. I couldn’t make it work. I asked a Frenchman to try but he had no more success. One of our French neighbours had already asked me what was going on so I explained. His face fell. He eventually got through to the authorities explaining that the camping municipal had suffered un invasion des Irlandaises (an Irish invasion). Apparently the barrier, which had looked reassuring to us, does not get locked in case there’s a fire and a need to evacuate fast.
Unfortunately, les Irlandaises had seen me attempting to phone and they expressed their displeasure at my actions in no uncertain terms. Eventually the authorities turned up in the form of someone from la mairie (the town hall) and Madame Doberman. Les Irlandaises decided that there was “too much heat”, hitched up and left but not before their apparent ring-leader had blown his stack and threatened yours truly with physical violence. Essentially, I suspect that they lose their rag if their intimidation tactics don’t work. About two minutes after les Irlandaises had left, three gendarmes arrived. It’s good to know that it’s not only our police who arrive too late from too far away.
The French were great; very supportive. Half a dozen or so were hanging around together discussing the events of the evening in that typically animated Gallic way. We hung around with them listening and joining in where we could until gone midnight. Madame Doberman was profuse in her apologies to me. No need, it really wasn’t her fault. The barrier was eventually chained against a re-invasion and Madame has left the key with one of the French campers.
Les Irlandaises are not far away; we’re sure they are working around here. In case there is any substance to the threat, we’re off again tomorrow.