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At the moment of paying, I nearly fall over backwards: the price of this fondue is just exorbitant!
The noises of the jungle
Laurent, my new office colleague, has replaced the ‘boing!’ noise on his computer, indicating an error, with a recurrent ear-splitting ‘Alain on the guitar!’ immediately followed by the laugh of someone hearing it for the first time.
Well, what do you know? To add to that, I can now also hear the repetitive call of a tropical bird in the workshop... Where on earth is THAT coming from? Curious, I raise my head above the abundant plants in the workshop in an attempt to locate it... Pfff! It appears that Laurent has changed the ringtone of the telephone, too!
‘Hi Alain, Pastor Michel from Paris speaking!’ (to be pronounced with an exaggerated Parisian accent) ‘I’m in the area with two Americans... Can we meet up?’
I take advantage of the fact that the aforementioned Michel rattles off further uninteresting pieces of information to float a new one in my head:
Two Americans?... That just must be the Lord’s doing!
I therefore take the decision that chance has nothing to do with it (OK, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but hey). So I arrange to meet up with them on a nearby mountain!
A national anthem in the fondue
What a disorientating shift - to meet my Parisian friend in this idyllic, typically Swiss scenery. He is accompanied by a couple who are totally unknown to me and who are looking in the direction of his finger which is pointing at something in the distance. Michel has this ability to present this fantastic scenery a little as if it were his own.
I go over to join them, forcing myself not to laugh, and suggest that we eat cheese fondue in the restaurant towering over the summit. The view from the window over the lakes of the whole region makes your head spin, it’s so beautiful! The rustic Swiss chalet atmosphere and the folk-style music have something very appealing about them, but the bank card of my guests doesn’t work at such an altitude.
The lifestyle of the city hasn’t yet arrived in these remote places. Magnanimously, I reassure them, telling them that the bill is on me. Though, at the moment of paying, I nearly fall over backwards (and let me remind you that we are up pretty high): the price is just exorbitant! (Unless it is just that I am too out of sync, because of my lifestyle of ‘just getting by'.) In my pocket, I have all the money left to feed my family for one week, and it is the price of this fondue!!
However, whilst I am on the brink of cancelling the meal, I continue to believe that such circumstances must be directed by a higher power... and that in this case, paying for this fondue out of my pocket will, in the end, just represent a good investment. Right?
I chew the melted cheese with great care (you never know - just in case they have put some precious stones into it!). I didn’t understand who this couple were, but Michel, in the middle of a conversation that I was unable to follow properly because of the torrent of questions colliding inside my head, tells me:
’... so I’m leaving for the USA and invite you to come with me!’
My eyes open wide and I have the impression that I can hear the victorious French national anthem, “the Marseillaise”, ringing out, like the sort of music you hear at the start of a film, of which I am the hero...
‘But...,’ he adds, ‘you would have to pay your fare.’ (Picture the Marseillaise getting bogged down in the mud)... ‘Though it would be no problem for you to stay with the American friend who has invited me to come and then speak at a meeting for young people that he is organising and so present your work. It’s easy – we just need to convince him...’
And with Air-France, the return ticket costs ‘just’ 1000 euros!
A single shoe, afloat, surrounded by a few bubbles of air coming up to the surface – that’s all that remains of the corpses of that fanfare, drowned in my disillusionment...
My face, with an idiotic fixed smile, turns automatically towards the couple, who have their say:
‘Oh, really? A thousand euros, it’s a bargain!
It’s not a good idea!
When I speak about this to the saintly person who battles with my accounts, she looks at me with an incredulous expression which tells me, ‘What! Seriously?!’
What’s more, the departure date coincides with the publication date of my book ‘Willy Grunch’ (Volume 1). And it is a catastrophe not to be there to promote the book in the media, because it is impossible to interest the press in a new comic book that is older than one month (one month in press time corresponds to three centuries in human time !!)
It’s a bit much to go away just on an impulse. I need to clock in to Jesus’ office to sort it all out... I write to my prayer team who give it the OK, but, in this case, a voice from heaven telling me clearly what I need to do would suit me well... Once more, in this matter, I decide to trust the sign encountered on my way.
Reluctantly, my accountant, thinking that I must have lost my mind, scrapes some money together (to the detriment of the bundles of outstanding bills) and books me a ticket for the flight.