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Chris Slatter

My Blog


Empty August

Rune of the Day: Fehu, wealth

Everyone knows that Europeans flee their homes in August. I once spent half-an-hour tramping around Rome looking for a coffee and cornetto before giving up. This in a city where every second shopfront is a bar. But they were all shuttered, their staff vanished, just a note saying "Ferragosto", which is Italian for come back in a month. But if Rome was bad, then Lyon is worse.

Between the last week of July and the end of August, almost the entire population of the city pack their cars and head for the autoroutes, destination the south, the north, the east or the west. Anywhere, but Lyon. For the few of us who stay behind this has several advantages: you can park anywhere you like, the Piscine du Rhone pool on the banks of the river is deserted as is Carrefour, the giant supermarket chain. If you want a meal though, even in the gastronomic capital of France, you can forget it. All the restaurants and bars, as well as the tabacs are shuttered and the apartment buildings are almost completely empty. The Lyonnais do not take their cats with them when they go on holiday, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Our next door neighbours, whom we have never seen let alone spoken to, own a cat which moves in with us for the entire month of August, departing when it hears their front door open again. I've often thought that August would be a wonderful month if you were a professional looter. You could back a fleet of furniture trucks up to Lyon apartment buildings and clean them out. Lyon is a very wealthy city, so the looters could supply Europe's art and furniture markets for months, making a very nice living. But, Lyon is a very law-abiding city, and in any case, I suspect that the furniture van rental companies are closed, too. The television station where I work has to maintain a service throughout August, because it's a 24-hour news channel broadcasting all over the world. But it's a skeleton service – features is closed, marketing has gone, management too, together with accounts and three quarters of the journalists.

I am alone in the magazine section and often do not bother to turn the lights on. My only companion in the vast office complex is Celine, our production assistant. Why do I stay when so many others are on the Cote D'Azur? There's a certain perversity in the Australian character that recoils from mass activities. The French have their animateurs, Australians have their vast and empty bush where you can be alone for months if you wish. This year though, my fourth in Lyon, I'm starting to feel as if I am in the bush. I find myself looking wistfully at holiday websites and imagining golden sand and the thunder of the surf. I have two choices, I suppose, if I do not wish to feel like this next August: follow the crowd, or become a professional looter.

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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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