WHAT MAY APPEAR TO BE FRENCH, IS NOT ALWAYS FRENCH.

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It’s cold. The sun, a spent force, has disappeared over the horizon and in its wake a few sullen grey clouds edged in magenta are left scudding before the encroaching indigo of night. A mean-spirited breeze inserts icy fingers under collars and in between the gaps of tightly buttoned jackets.

Merthyr village is bustling with people purchasing last minute items for dinner. All are anxious for the warmth of heathside and home. In front of the New Farm Deli, vehicles circle like carrion-eaters in search of vacant car space. The impatient toot of car horns rend the cold night air.

Making our way past the optometrists, Beau and I are suddenly waylaid by two conspicuously soignee young men. Their manner of dress, even by New Farm standards, could only be described as astonishingly exotic.

Both are encased in buttoned up, full length velvet coats. The taller of the two in vermillion, while the shorter man is breathtakingly adorned in rich cobalt blue. These splendid jackets, bedizened with gold braid and buttons fall in graceful folds over skinny black jeans. On their feet they wear matching gold sneakers. Reluctantly dragging my eyes from the wonder of their aureate high-tops, I am next transfixed by the arrangement of their hair.

The men’s tonsorial affectations are so acute in execution it’s enough to cause one’s eyes to water. Hair the colour of a raven’s wing rise from pale foreheads in identical vertiginous quiffs while the sides and back are clipped so close, naked scalp is painfully visible.

“Oh look more French,” exclaims the shorter of the two in accents so fruity it sounds as if he may have swallowed an entire orchard of plums.

“We just saw a Renault and now we come across a French Poodle!” he cries excitedly and waves a languid hand in the direction of Beau. Beau, normally insouciant in the face of admiration, is suddenly shy and darts behind my legs.

Turning to me the taller man fixes me with an assessing eye and says, “You’re French also.”

It’s more a statement than an enquiry.

“No I’m Australian,” I feel compelled to correct.

“But you were wearing a trench coat this morning at Chouquette.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“So you are French!  At least your parents are French?” interjects my relentless inquisitor.

“No, my father is English and my mother was four generations Australian,” I say, growing more than a little bemused at the Dadaesque direction this conversation was taking.

“Oh really! You’re really quite ordinary then?” says the shorter one looking unbelievably disappointed, his countenance an exercise in peevishness.

Feeling by now, slightly prosaic, if not resentful and put upon, I respond: “Well, I’m more than ordinary. I rather see myself as extra-ordinary.” The play on words and my feeble attempt at hauteur are met with the most crushing disdain.

“Extraordinary?“ they bleat in unison. Their carefully manicured brows form perfect exclamation marks, a reaction to the temerity of my over-confident observation.  “We certainly don’t think so!”  they sniff dismissively and then with a theatrical flourish of their velvet coats they are gone, leaving behind them the distinct waft of Christian Dior’s Poison and a faintly disturbing miasma of ill will.

Later that evening, at dinner, I tell Hebe about my bruising encounter with the two sartorialists. She is quick to explain, “Darling, obviously not New Farmers. They must be some dreadful tourists from the outer suburbs!”

“Oh?” I say perplexedly. “Why do you say that?”

“People from New Farm would know that Poodles are German, not French!” says Hebe with annihilating certitude.

I do adore Hebe. So clever for her to see immediately it was all about Beau and nothing to do with me whatsoever. I really must stop thinking that it is always about me!

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