Day Seven: Je Suis Charlie.

In Mourning.

In Mourning.

Mrs Playmo left home with a band-roll and two pencils last night. She asked me to help her to put the pencils upright in the grass, then taped her message to them and asked me to take the picture.

Playmobilia doesn’t have this kind of bad guy. There are pirates, and warriors, and Greeks in strappy sandals toting shields and arrows, and Amanda Shacklebottom, who goes for dates with other people’s husbands. But only Policemen have guns on Playmo Street. Nobody has ever been worried about a fundamentalist with a Kalashnikov pelting into their office and shooting everyone in sight.

When the two terrorists came out of Charlie Hebdo’s premises, they crowed that they had avenged their prophet and that Charlie Hebdo was dead. They could not be further from the truth. What Charlie Hebdo stood for is more alive than it ever was before. Did they really think that killing people could restrain freedom of expression? The exact opposite has happened. Pencils and pens were immediately unsheathed and social networks overflowed with cartoons that condemned and mocked their behavior. An overwhelming sea of support for France rose in countries all around the world. Three words, “Je suis Charlie”, were translated into a multitude of languages and so many black and white copies of it were printed that the shops will be out of new cartridges next week.

The staff at Charlie Hebdo were armed with nothing more than pencils, yet pencils appear to be a far more effective weapon than guns in the fight for democracy and freedom of expression. Snap it in two, and we will sharpen each part and continue drawing.

At the aptly named Place de la Liberté this evening, the mayor of our little village was visibly moved to see the number of inhabitants who had turned out in memory of the victims at Charlie Hebdo. Hundreds of them. School children, their parents, their grandparents, all holding signs and candles. The retired lady beside me was close to tears. She told me that her husband could not bring himself to attend; he was still affected after being in the train that was blown up by Carlos in 1983. But she was there to show terrorism that it could not win. Proof that humans are resilient and determined in the face of brutality.

The terrorists wanted to bring France to its knees, but they have achieved exactly the opposite. The French are standing tall, united and determined that terrorism will not result in a meltdown of the principles on which its society is built. I am proud to live here.

Aux crayons, citoyens! Take up your pencils… and fight against intolerance.

 

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Day Six: Feeling Small

"As a tear rolled down Mrs Playmo's cheek, I realized that she  was a romantic at heart."

“As a tear rolled down Mrs Playmo’s cheek, I realized that she was a romantic at heart.”

We were late leaving the house yesterday, and the sun was setting as we hit midpoint in our daily walk. The colour of the sky slowly built up from apricot, to salmon, to vibrant orange and pink tones, and Mrs Playmo scaled the nearest tree and settled on a branch to  admire the view.

The black silhouettes of the motionless trees contrasted starkly with the breathtaking hues behind them. Mountains cut a soft line across the tableau. The birds had stopped chirping. Then Mrs Playmo’s voice cut through the silence:

“I’m a Playmo, and you’re a human. But we are both tiny compared to all that, aren’t we?” She extended a claw to show the spectacular sunset. “Sunsets make me want to cry. I will never see the same sunset twice; each is unique. Just like us. And like us, this one will only live once. How long will I remember it? Maybe until another one, bigger and better, comes along, dethroning this one. Such a waste. And one day, without knowing it, I will see my last sunset. This is the last sunset for somebody, somewhere. That makes me so sad.”

Smelly dog wriggled impatiently at my side, but I was fascinated. There was more inside that hollow Playmo head than I had imagined.

She wriggled down the trunk, dragged her dress back down to her knees, and wiped her nose on Smelly Dog’s fur. “Right, let’s go. Don’t want to be bumping into Marcel in the dark, now, do we?”

Day Five: The Cabbage Patch

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“After several rehearsals, Mme Playmo gave up on the idea of dancing with a cabbage leaf stuck down the back of her knickers. Even with her eyes half closed, it looked nothing like those feathers at the Moulin Rouge.”

On day five of the Outdoor Challenge, we wandered past a vegetable patch. Mrs Playmo climbed into a cabbage, and with a lot of grunting ripped off a leaf. She proceeded to stuff it down the back of her corset, and after wriggling uncomfortably for five minutes she pulled it out and gave up. “It looks nothing like the feathers at the Moulin Rouge!” she grumbled, pulling her dress back on and stomping out into the sun. “I’ll have to think of something better”. I suggested her feather duster, and she immediately perked up.

Affaire à suivre….

 

 

Day Four: All Roads Lead to Roam.

"Mrs Playmo sold the incriminating evidence to the local ecologists. Marcel the mechanic was going to stop burning those tyres in the countryside sooner than he had anticipated."

“Mrs Playmo sold the incriminating evidence to the local ecologists. Marcel the mechanic was going to stop burning those tyres in the countryside sooner than he had anticipated.”

… or to Rome. Or in our case, yesterday, to roam in Roman ruins in and around Nîmes.

“One small step for Mrs Playmo, a huge step for Playmo kind, hey?” I joked as she stumbled along the Via Domitia in her little red dress. Mrs Playmo was nervous, and did not seem to appreciate the singularity of walking on a real piece of Roman road, lost in the French countryside.

“I’m not interested in visiting your Roman Papadum,” she snapped.

“It’s an Oppidum, not a Papadum, Grumpy”, I answered. “Who’s eaten your porridge this morning, anyway?”

Mrs Playmo explained with a glitter in her eye that she had a VIM (Very Important Meeting) with Laurelle Leef, President of the regional Underground Ecological Movement. By selling yesterday’s compromising snaps of Amanda Shacklebottom’s secret riverside rendez-vous, she would not only make herself a bit of extra cash, but could finally sort out the problem of drying her washing on the same day that Marcel burned the tyres behind the village garage. The chance viewing of two lovebirds in the bush had quickly become an ecologically sound way to kill two birds with one stone.

On our arrival at the meeting point, we were instructed to hide in the bushes (this explains the blurred pictures; unlike Mrs Playmo, my paparazzi skills are limited). Laurelle Leef viewed the contents of the memory card on her iStone (an ecological version of the iPhone) and paid up, satisfied that she would now be able to put a stop to the acrid fumes that Marcel sent into the air.

Mrs Playmo hooked her handbag over her shoulder and sashayed back down the Roman road, a noticeable spring in her steps. ‘Now let’s go to Nîmes and find ourselves a Roman lion tamer dressed in leather”, she chortled. “Is there a Chanel store anywhere close?” she enquired, thumbing her way through the wad of 100 euro notes and stashing them away. She patted Amanda Shacklebottom’s handbag with affection. “I want to buy myself the matching shoes”.

If you are new around here and don’t have a clue what this is all about, please read “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge“. Yes, I am crazy, and yes, I’m happy this way.

A Compromising Photo of a Compromising Photo

"It was with immense satisfaction that Mrs Playmo immortalized the proof of Amanda Shacklebottom's infidelity. Finally she had a means to get her hands on the pink and cream Versace handbag she had coveted for so long."

“It was with immense satisfaction that Mrs Playmo immortalized the proof of Amanda Shacklebottom’s infidelity. Finally she had a means to get her hands on the pink and cream Versace handbag she had coveted for so long.”

Yesterday Mrs Playmo and I decided to bite the bulllet, and stepped out for a five kilometer hike. On our journey, Mrs Playmo heard mumbling behind the rocks and beckoned to me. Creeping up through the bushes, we spotted two inhabitants of Playmo Street doing their best to hold hands as they watched the waters of the Hérault river tumble past their feet.

“Wait for me here!” Mrs Playmo hissed. “Nobody believed me when I said that Amanda Shacklebottom wasn’t as chaste as her name implies!” She pointed a manicured claw at the couple, sitting on a blanket on the rocky shore. The man was fast discovering that offering flowers to a woman on a bent knee is only something that happens in films in Playmobilia.

“It’s Marcel, the village garage mechanic!” Mrs Playmo gabbled, her eyes wide with incredulity.  “I don’t understand what she sees in him. For lack of a better word, the man’s a complete tool.”

She rummaged in her lurid green handbag and pulled out her camera. Then she was off, creeping up behind them to immortalise the moment on her camera. She returned through the grasses and hauled herself to her feet. “At last. A means of persuasion. See that cream and pink Versace handbag? I’ve been after it for months.”

I made a mental note to confiscate her camera in case she knows any human journalists on the local rag. I am starting to discover the darker side to Mrs Playmo. Under the presentable red dress and string of pearls lies an extortionist and a contortionist. And it’s only day three of the challenge …

If you are new around here and don’t have a clue what this is all about, please read “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge”. Yes, I am crazy, and yes, I’m happy this way. 

Day Two: Open-Air Pole Dancing

"Open air pole dancing"

“Open-air pole dancing.”

It is somewhat paradoxical that the outdoor exercise part of my dry January Challenge takes Mrs Playmo and I through numerous local vineyards. Mrs Playmo asked me to hold her dog’s lead then stripped off, placed a feathered hat at a rakish angle on her head and proceeded to practice her pole-dancing techniques on a vine shoot, singing an off-key “You can keep your hat on” that would make Joe Cocker turn in his grave.

She confided on the way home that she sneaks off on Friday nights whilst Mr Playmo is asleep to work in the sleazy joint down the road. It pays for her Tupperware party addiction and her (equally secret) rosé consumption. But don’t tell anyone, or she’ll be struck off the board at the local WI.

 

The Morning After the Night Before…

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“When she woke up on the beach the following morning, Mrs Playmo couldn’t remember much of the New Year’s Eve party. It was, she admitted, as good a time as any to sign up for Dry January.”

As promised, here is Mrs Playmo on day one of my January Challenge. A compromising photo of Mrs Playmo in the great outdoors will be posted every day until the end of January.