Before not getting my flight on Thursday, I took myself to the Bistrot du Boucher in Beauvais where I have eaten exceedingly well several times before.
As I was early, I sat outside in the sun nursing a beer the restaurant had given me.
A smartly dressed lady, at a guess in her early thirties, came towards me, and started pacing up and down, then lit a cigarette. She had a worried expression on her face. She tapped up and down for a bit on her heels, dragging on her cigarette, then angrily threw it away. The following was all in French, so forgive the rough translation.
" Monsieur, tell me, are these heels too high?"
" I'm sorry?"
" My heels - are they too high for my outfit?"
" Er no, no I don't think so...."
" This is most important for me - are you sure?"
" Yes I'm sure they are just right." She looked relieved, and as a young man came round the corner her face changed into a warm smile of welcome, followed by a lingering kiss when he reached her. He resisted, scowling.
The restaurant was by now open, and the couple went inside. I followed and was led to a table a short distance from them.
My meal was excellent ( Flan of courgette, crayfish and lobster sauce, followed by a magnificent pave de boeuf with salad, and cheese to finish, all washed down with a glass of rose, and then a glass of red) but the drama unfolding across the table opposite was riveting.
They were lovers who had had a tiff ( several over a period it would seem) and the girl was determined to get him back. He on the other hand had had enough - in fact, he had found someone else, and wanted nothing more to do with her. The look on her face was heart-rending. He said he had only agreed to meet, because he wanted her to know finally definitely and irreparably that it was over.
Whilst all this was going on, another man - at a guess 45ish, greying, receding hair, but as the French would say "soignee" - came in, sat down and the waiters rushed to provide him with a drink - he was clearly a regular. The girl glanced his way once, then ignored him. She launched into a justification of her position, how she always wanted to have his children - I did think a bit louder than was strictly necessary - how she would help him, love him, and lots of other things too.
The young man was unmoved.
He stood up.
" C'est FINI!" and walked out.
The girl promptly burst into tears and held her head in her hands.
The older gentleman had watched all that had gone before. He carefully finished his drink, then rose, and sat down opposite the girl.
He spoke very softly so I could not hear all that was said, but slowly the girl's sobs shortened, and after a few minutes she looked up, her previously perfectly made-up face now a Jackson Pollock of dribbled black lines.
A few minutes more and a little smile escaped.
The man put his hand over hers, still speaking softly.
A short while later, she got up and announced her intention to repair her " maquillage" and disappeared to the loo.
The man returned to his table and picked up his keys which had been on the table. As he passed me, I said " Well done, she was very upset."
He stopped and looked at me. He was deciding something.
" Monsieur, I have loved her for more than ten years, but I was always too old for her. She always wanted younger men, always of no worth, of no consequence. She thought tonight would be her last chance for happiness in the future. I have to tell you I would wait another ten years and another ten if necessary.
But I tell you frankly, monsieur, my whole being will be stretched to bring her the happiness in the future she hoped for tonight."