Meeting Monsieur Richard - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2007

Meeting Monsieur Richard

In the village of Magny, which isn't anywhere important enough for you to worry about, I was just wiping skin cream on my legs when a voice said "Are you Austrian?"

A thin man stood before me with pale blue eyes and the usual lack of French taste when it comes to carpet slippers (which elderly French men so often wear whenever they go to the shop, the bar, the post office or anywhere else).

"No," I said. "Why?"

"Because that's what they do in Austria to make themselves go faster."

This seemed such an improbable opening for a conversation that I decided not to pursue it. I didn't need to, anyway, because he changed the subject himself and said, "I'm 89. And you know what? I still walk seven to nine kilometres a day."

He set off in his carpet slippers to demonstrate the way he walked seven to nine kilometres a day, which was with exaggerated long steps, like a child avoiding walking on cracked pavement stones. "It frictions the muscles, you see."

The man's name was Jean Richard. He told me that. He also told me he was the oldest person in the village.

"There was a woman of 93 and she died. And then there was another..." He waved his hand in that vague French way that suggested almost anything could have happened to her but obviously I was supposed to understand that she'd died, so I understood that she'd died.

"And that makes me the oldest. I'm 89 and in November I'll be 90. The doctor says there's no reason I won't make 100."

There was a pause, which he filled by retrieving his slipper, which had fallen off during the long-walking exercise.

"I can touch my toes, too," he said, and he bobbed down instantly to touch his toes. Or almost touch them, anyway. I took a picture of him doing it and promised to send it to him.

"Where do you live?" I asked.

He pointed down the road and said, "In Cemetery Road."

At least he could see the joke.

AFTERNOTE: Sadly, I never did send him his picture. A good third of the pictures I took during the ride were lost when bad roads wrecked the CDs on which they were stored.

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