Just back from vacation in Bordeaux. It was a good vacation, though brief. I think I even pulled down a bit of a tan, or at least a spot of darkening, in the sense that the sun no longer shines directly through me. But one thing about it was really bad, and me being me, I'm going to accentuate the negative at the moment, and let it be a cautionary tale tieing into my confrontational inabilities.
I love kayaking, and I love sea kayaking most of all the kayaking, and voted for Bordeaux as our destination in part because in a nearby town some fucking cockwanks calling themselves Arcachon Kayak Aventure started excursions earlier in the spring than anywhere else I'd seen, and I was able to book us an excursion date for this past weekend. Here was the sequence of events:
- called the night before to confirm reservation. No answer, left message
- called that morning to confirm reservation. No answer
- got on the fucking train for Arcachon at 7:41 in the morning. The morning of our fucking vacation, when I just wanted to stay in bed forever possibly
- get a call halfway to Arcachon from Arcachon Kayak Aventure, 45 minutes before it was due to start, saying the excursion has been cancelled, because other people who were going on it had cancelled the night before, and it was no longer profitable enough for them to carry it out.
When I pointed out we were already on the train heading towards the RDV, three bullshit excuses followed for not having cancelled, oh, say, before our alarms went off at 6:30:
- his computer wasn't working so he couldn't find my number (which was on his cellphone, as I had left a message)
- there was a touch of fog that morning (which had burned off completely by the scheduled departure hour, leaving an insolently hot and sunny spring day - fucking perfect, perfect for kayaking)
- didn't want to disturb us by informing us the night previous the other party had cancelled (which would have disturbed us so much fucking more than waking up at 6:30 in the fucking morning and getting on a train for some podunk bourgeois resort that stank of the neighbouring Smurfit Kappa pulp mill)
I was so bloody furious that as soon as he seemed to be wrapping up the final bullshit excuse I hung up. And here comes the cautionary tale: I stayed pissed off for hours afterwards. Part of it was an unavoidable sadness, of course, because a spot of sea kayaking was half the point of us going to Bordeaux at all, as far as I was concerned. But another part of it was sheer fury with the thoughtlessness and incompetence of the company concerned, and that took me a long time to shake off, because instead of roaring down the telephone, I hung up and let it fester.
Lesson of the story? Confront, don't hang up. Pass your bile onto the thing that provoked it. It's easier than trying to swallow it. Hanging up may feel satisfyingly rude, but it's not as satisfying as yelling at an asshole.
It didn't help that I didn't like Arcachon. Besides the revolting fart-stink of the nearby mill, which faded as the day wore on and the prevailing wind changed, it's the sort of artificially created upper-middle-class watering spot that makes me dislike European coasts as a generality. Lots of expensive boats and extravagant villas and overpriced restaurants. Lots of knick-knack shops. Casinos and a twee little 'market' selling artisanal goods at about four times the price they'd fetch here in Brussels, for example. 'Forests' with provokingly sandy walking paths (for keeping cars out, I suppose, with the corollary that it was a real pain in the ass to hike through - for hiking is what we did instead of kayaking, in the end) that were full of people and refreshment stands. My mood didn't lift until we got back to Bordeaux - which really is a tremendous city. More on Bordeaux later, when I'm more in the mood to accentuate the positive.
Re-read A Passage to India on the train. Liked it both better and worse than the first time I'd read it. I don't know how I'd ever got the idea in my head that the Indians in it were presented more like proper characters than a collection of archetypes forcefully combined to make a POINT than the Italians in Where Angels Fear to Tread, but I'd imagine it has something to do with me being Italian, and defensive. In fact, generally all the characters in A Passage to India started seeming wooden to me, relative to the first reading - and that's aside from Aziz suddenly coming off as a massive, hysterical stereotype. But in this second go, as much as the characterizations suffered, the descriptions of the landscape and the overarching ideas about friendship, love and nationality benefited. Still, I feel I'm hitting a wall with these Big Gay Brit Lit books I've been indulging in so heavily of late, what with the Maugham and whatnot. Their female characters are alienating - harridans, frigid, fluff, or Mother. I must look elsewhere at the moment for my fiction.