(From Brian Gibbons)

On a recent visit to my late wife’s family in Fontainebleau I stopped for an impromptu lunch at a bar-restaurant in the Place d’Etape. Somewhere I had often frequented all those years ago. Following my two years posting with the Royal Air Force at Camp Guynemer, I spent a further three years as a civilian working for the US Army at Caserne Lariboisiere, & enjoying such long lunch breaks would often eat in town.

Sipping my aperitif & glancing across the road I thought about how all the surroundings had changed. Of course, many of the shop fronts were different, but not the buildings themselves. Tucked away in a corner stands a relatively small bar & I was immediately reminded of an amusing incident that happened there just a couple of days after my arrival……………

Many of us, I am sure can recall the oddball plumbing & quaint toilets in France, & there at Chez Pierre’s, as it was then called, I had my first encounter! Shortly after ordering my first beer in France & so proud that my schoolboy French had been understood, I slipped in to the rather dingy toilet. To my horror when I pulled the chain the complete system came away from the wall splitting the water inlet pipe from the tank & ball-cock . In an instant the cubicle was transformed into a shower room ! What on earth was I to do ? Sheer panic was quickly replaced & thanks to my street-wise London East End upbringing, I managed to smile & squeak a hasty “Au Revoir”, leaving my half-empty glass on the zinc counter as I dashed out into the sunlight………..Never to return !

Another dark & grotty toilet actually came to my rescue a few months later but this time in Paris……at a club in Pigalle to be exact. I can’t quite remember as to why Terry Vine & I were there : we had probably been visiting churches or visiting educational museums or the like & got lost. On my return to the bar, having been chatting to a charming young lady upstairs, I ordered a round of drinks. Whilst in the toilet I checked my wallet & found that all it contained was my F1250 & a rail ticket. Quite a surprise really as I had just swapped a couple of cartons of cigarettes (surplus to requirement cigarettes you understand ) for an innocent few francs. The squaddies nightmare……………I had been “rolled”& couldn’t pay the bar bill! I could feel the beads of sweat forming on my brow as panic set in. Somehow I sensed a draught & looking round I saw an old ill-fitting door with three large rusting bolts. In a flash of inspiration I drew the bolts, gently pulled the door open & could feel the cold night air envelope me. I was in a courtyard & could see traffic passing close-by. It was a long walk to the Gare de Lyon. “What happened to you last night ?” But I was too embarrassed to answer truthfully. “Somehow I must have got lost……..!”