I can’t recall anything scarier than being twenty… Seriously, it has to be the most over rated age apart from the fact that you are pretty much completely free from any commitments, bills, jobs… You’re broke, but you’re free. You need to find a place to exercise this freedom, a place of paradox, where one can reflect on ideals, but yet requires the company of similar frightened comrades putting on a brave face, a safe house for your music gigs, a place to drink a few beers at the weekend, a waiting room to that big ugly world out there, and it’s you and your likes that will make a difference, that will change all of this, you know it… Just maybe not right now, perhaps after another coffee at the bar…
Butcher Street was a narrow backstreet of my town, uncomfortably close to the Police precinct but conveniently leading to the train station where you could hop on a train to the vibrant city of Rennes or even Paris, only 4 hours away in the TGV… If you had two coins to rub together that is. It harboured a small dodgy looking hotel, with a very sober dark brown tinted glass doors and where the exit metal gates of the Royal Cinema above led you to… Not quite the underground here, but it very much felt like it. It was great. I had my first beer in “The Pandemonium”, a small bar across the road; a Grimbergen for 10 Francs a glass. The decor was “Banksy like”, covered with controversial stencilled graffiti all over its immaculate white walls. I recognised a few, cleverly displayed around town, some with evocative messages addressed to our friends from the “cop-shop” above…
A couple of years later, I made my way back into the infamous street with my oldest friend Sergio Corner; we just came back from a demonstration in town about education or something, to be honest, we just fancied a bit of mischief, nothing serious, but it’s part of the tradition over there. The “Pandé” to my disappointment was no more, replaced by a simple hand painted sign saying “Cactus”. “Shall we?” said my compañero, clearly thirsty. Little did I know this watering hole was going to become our home and social club for the next three years!
The set up of “Cactus” was pretty attractive; loads of Rock’n’Roll, a few concerts when the local authorities allowed it as this was squeeky clean “sleepy town” at its worse! The license of the premises was graded as “2”, which meant no spirits, beer and wine only and a great selection of loose teas for the afternoon while reading Charlie Hebdo by the phone corner. Simple sandwiches for lunch, but the attraction was more the giant fire place in front of the bar. In autumn, we would go to the local forests on Sundays, gathering chestnuts and wild mushrooms for a small feast by the fire. On market days, it wasn’t unusual to see Dan wrapping fresh fish in tin foil and place it under the ash, the romantic simplicity of papillote cooking! He was to become a top chef in France that fella.
But one of the fondest memories I carried with me all these years, was on a blustery November evening. It was the third Thursday of the month, and that could only mean one thing, “Beaujolais Nouveau” night! A bit of a “coup” from the northern region of Rhone, where one could enjoy, only on that date and only for a few weeks( the wine wouldn’t keep), the 8 weeks old Gamay. All in all, an excuse for a good night out before December; I call it “The French Thanksgiving”. Before 6pm, we decided to go down town, to the local Cheesemonger and to the charcuterie, as there was no delicatessen on Butcher Street. Every one chipped in for a small feast of cheese, patés and cold meats. “Big Dom” coordinating the loot while Marco set up a white sheet over the largest of his tables, his face and eyebrows clearly saying “this is not a good idea…”.
As predicted, the night was long, with laughter and plenty more Beaujolais, a table cloth turning less and less white, “Free” or “Led Zeppelin” blaring on the speakers… I can’t quite remember.
In my Irish nights out, I have often heard the expression “Eating is cheating”, what a bad advice! As “Beaujolais Nouveau” time is starting tomorrow, and until the 21st, I went to the local supermarket, hoping that a little miracle might have happen, and that even without the gang of friends we once were, I could re-enact this fine night; after all, a gentle soul might have brought in a few bottles of the “New Beaujolais”? I found some alright, and you have no idea how many times I got badly done in the past… Last year is not “nouveau” man, three years ago and you are just a ghost… Well, at least they have each other… Getting old in Ireland and unaware of how great it could have been…
7 thoughts on “Butcher Street”
Thanks Conor, all true… Even the hungover after that Beaujolais evening… Oh yes, all so true… Thanks again 😉
Thanks man 😉
Another great read Franck.. happy memories 🙂
Thank you Alan, true story 🙂
Reblogged this on Hungry Breton and commented:
Today is Beaujolais Nouveau day, here is a wee story I wrote last year about it!