POLICE, POLICE!! In which yet another bureaucratic nightmare unfolds.

Alas and alack, I really thought everything was settling down at last… I was even halfway through a post about my busy but wonderfully predictable schedule. Why then, might you ask, am I not writing said happy missive? All will be revealed in this EMERGENCY UPDATE POST which, due to the massive overdose of adrenaline my body decided I needed at the time of writing, may be the tiniest bit all over the place.
           
To set your minds at rest, here are some things that have NOT happened:
  • I have not been arrested.
  • Duncan has not been arrested.
  • Nobody I know has been arrested.
  • I have not become an undercover policewoman (although I may have angered one.)
  • I have not been in any way injured or maimed.
  • I have not missed (or caused anyone to miss) any trains, planes or other expensive pre-booked travel arrangements.
  • Voldemort has not returned to take out the rest of the Weasleys.
  • I have not caused any physical harm to our landlord.
I realise the last two may not be strictly relevant to the current drame, but I thought I’d set everyone’s minds at rest anyway. Now for a brief chronicle of recent events.

Chapter 1: In which Duncan is robbed, and becomes very sad. 

So, all this really began when my brother and his girlfriend came to stay. I should add at this point that it was overall a great visit, despite me failing at the last minute to book a planned laser tag trip, leading to a very disappointing evening for lots of people (Apparently my laser tag endeavours are forever cursed to end in failure or injury.) We resolved this by going to a jazz bar, which is a good solution to a surprising variety of problems.

Here they are on the tour
The next day, I irresponsibly left Duncan and Alice to wander round town during my classes, and came back to find them 35€ worse off, thanks to what Duncan described melodramatically as a “mugging”. This was carried out by the notorious “Association des sourds-muets,” a large group of teenagers who target tourists for fake charity-collection. Incidentally, I had until last night been pronouncing muet as muette, which means “seagull” rather than “deaf.” You can extrapolate the consequences of this at your leisure.
I should clarify that most (if not all) of the people in this group are neither deaf nor mute, and become very unfriendly once they realise you’re not playing – they never target locals, and the association is clearly a ruse. Their tactic of choice is to suddenly approach, smiling sweetly but sadly, and point insistently to a clipboard with a sign-up sheet for “donations.” Should an inadvertent tourist or newcomer agree, they demand the money straight up, and usually manage to confuse people into handing it over. I’d discounted them as annoying but harmless, so it didn’t occur to me to warn Duncan. When approached, he kindly (if naively) decided to donate a fiver, at which point the woman made off with most of the notes in his wallet.

Chapter 2: In which we all commiserate, but decide to do nothing.

Duncan was obviously rather upset at the loss of both 35€ and his faith in humanity, so we went to the zoo and were cheered up by the guépard and the fossa. We wandered round town to try and spot and photograph the women involved, but to no avail. Then we discussed the possibility of going to the police, but decided against it, due to a lack of evidence and time – after all, Duncan and Alice were only staying two more nights, and even without accounting for French efficiency, that would be tight. Little did we know that the world had other plans…
The Guépard looking glamourous. Not actually from Duncan and Alice’s visit but it’s a blimmin great photo.

Chapter 3: In which all hell breaks loose. 

I’m beginning to think that I’m actually starring in a reality show based on the works of Kafka, and that, in order to make it more realistic, nobody has told me. The timing of the following events has only added to this suspicion. After a leisurely wander around the old town, we arrived at the Place de la Comédie in perfect time for Duncan and Alice to get the tram to the shuttle to the airport, and for me to get my advance-ticket train to Chambéry.
Just then, (and this is the specific point at which the proverbial hit the fan) Duncan
spotted the two thieves from yesterday, and Alice tried to get a photograph. Thief #1, who’d decided she wasn’t deaf-mute any more, accosted us, and I hesitantly said to her in French that she’d stolen 35€ from my brother. At this moment, unlike at nearly all other moments in history, the universe decided that it was time for laws to be enforced in France.
All of a sudden, a random woman emerged from nowhere and started questioning me about what had happened, then dramatically grabbed and restrained the thief, yelling “POLICE! POLICE! POLICE!!!!” I tried unsuccessfully to find out what on earth was happening and why she’d called the police, but she aggressively told me to stay where I was, and then shouted at me to answer some question I hadn’t heard, even though I was trying to explain to one of the newly arrived police officers that a totally incomprehensible thing had just occurred and that we really had to leave. The first tram toddled off and the tight schedule became rather more so… 
 

Chapter 4: In which negotiation (and a smidgeon of begging) occurs.

After quite a lot of me frantically trying to find out a) why this crazy vigilante was shouting at me, b) why she had Duncan’s passport and c) why we couldn’t go and get our flight/train, whilst simultaneously explaining everything to Duncan and Alice, even more police officers, this time from a different unit, turned up and proceeded to ignore my increasingly desperate pleas to be allowed to leave, along with my explanation that we really hadn’t planned to go through court proceedings at this particular juncture. I eventually ascertained that the vigilante was in fact an off-duty policier, which somewhat explained her anger when I said she had no right to tell us what to do.
           
By some miracle I got them to let Duncan and Alice catch the tram in time. The momentary relief of this disappeared when I realised I had about 20 minutes to get to the station, which was 10 minutes away on foot. I politely indicated this to the police, who less politely indicated that I’d effectively volunteered myself as tribute for my little brother and was therefore obligated to stay and witness, despite having reported the accursed theft by accident. Due to my effective detention and the disgusted looks of passers-by, I began to feel as if I was the arrestee (or worse, some horrendous evildoer who’d tried to frame an innocent deaf woman).

Chapter 5: In which Rowan secures her release and catches her train.

Much gesticulating, shouting and confusion ensued, after which I was escorted to the police station with 15 minutes to go. To demonstrate my haste, I sprinted all the way there (following the officer on his bike) despite my large weekend bag. I then waited for approximately 12 minutes, had my passport details copied down for the third time (and the document itself photocopied twice), and was repeatedly told “This is France; there is a procedure that must be followed!” Finally, I was released, told to go immediately to the police station when I reached Chambéry, and driven down to the railway station, where I managed to catch the train with seconds to spare. Here are the factors that contributed to my escape… 
  • My absolute insistence that I had had no intention of reporting this crime and that I really, really had to get my train.
  • My promises that I really lived in Montpellier and would come back and testify on Monday.
  • The sudden appearance of
    • Bonnie with my going-away bag (adding weight to the train story) and
    • My slightly concerned choir leader (adding weight to the “I LIVE HERE” story as she is an Actual French Person)
  • My bursting dramatically into tears in the police station due to a combination of anger, confusion, getting shouted at in a foreign language, and being totally out of my depth.
  • The nice man who sidled over to give me a tissue and say that at least I had my health, thereby making me feel better and usefully drawing attention to my distress.

Chapter 6: In which Rowan makes it to Chambéry.

I got off the train and went straight to the police station, where I was told that I couldn’t report the crime anywhere but Montpellier, AND that I couldn’t have reported it on behalf of someone else, AND that Duncan couldn’t have reported it anyway because of being a minor. They appeared to be rather angry with me for asking such a thing, and said I needn’t do anything else. I expect an angry phone call from Montpellier police on Monday…
 
Fortunately I got to Kate’s intact and we went skiing today – here’s a fabulous selfie of me at the top of a black run (which turns out to translate as “terrifying vertical death-wall of lumpy ice”)

 

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