Call this a sop to my American past, but I think that, in everyday life, a baseball bat offers certain ballistic advantages that a cricket bat doesn’t.
The cricket one is heavier, but, since the force of impact equals mass times velocity squared, it’s speed that’s at a premium. And, when swung with grim intent, a baseball bat travels through the air so much faster.
What does this recondite information have to do with the price of tea in China? Nothing. But it has something do with my Christmas shopping.
We always spend Christmas at our little house in the Burgundian woods, out of range for some essential supplies. So each time we go we stock up on some condiments unavailable there and, at Christmas, also Bramley apples, essential to stuffing a goose (the French have no equivalent).
However, before we get to that stuffed goose we have to drive halfway across France, and that’s where the baseball bat comes in. As another sop to my American past, I’d prefer a gun but, France being what it is, I’ll have to settle for a palliative.
For there’s a distinct possibility that our way may be blocked by rioters taking a dim view of les anglo-saxons motoring through their beautiful countryside. I, in my turn, will definitely take a dim view of louts endangering my vehicle, person or wife (not necessarily in that order).
Hence I’ll have to stock up not only on marinated grape leaves, Stilton and sumac, but also on the aforementioned piece of sports kit. This although my only previous experience buying one was as embarrassing as it was comic.
It was 1984, and I had just moved from Houston to New York, where I found that my car, and by extrapolation my person, was a target for abuse.
The car itself, a much-dented Chevy, was unremarkable, but the word ‘Texas’ on the number plates clearly had a vast offensive potential. People hissed Oedipal m-words, flashed obscene gestures, spat on the car’s bonnet in slow traffic.
Impervious to Tolstoy’s sermon of non-resistance, I finally had enough. Fearful of carrying an illegal pistol, I bought a baseball bat and stuck it under the bench seat. But the weapon never saw the light of day because soon thereafter I got a company car.
That left the Impala sitting idly in the driveway awaiting a buyer, or perhaps a wreckage crew. But then my company car broke down just when I had to drive out of town to meet an IBM client. So the Chevy had to be brought back into life.
Realising that the sight of the jalopy would permanently damage my company’s reputation, not to mention my own, I parked it as far from IBM’s front door as the spacious car park allowed. That way, I figured, we’d have to take the client’s car when we went to lunch.
Now I don’t know how IBM is at present, but at that time it was the most conservative company around. Not only did it have the strictest dress code of suit and tie, but white was the only colour acceptable in a shirt.
The executives’ monochrome personalities tended to match their attire. Their idea of a joke was to ask “Warm enough for you?” on a sweltering day. A real knee-slapper, that.
Anyway, come lunch time I suggested we go out for a bite, and my earnest client readily accepted. “But,” he said, “do you mind if we take your car? Mine’s being fixed.”
My ploy having failed, I had to offer a lengthy explanation as we walked half a mile to my banger. “Sorry about the state of the vehicle,” I said, “but my company car is being fixed too. This one’s my wife’s.”
The client assured me he understood, and off we went. Alas, I had to brake rather sharply at one point, and the baseball bat rolled out from under the front seat.
“Your wife must be one tough lady,” remarked the client, perfectly deadpan. I must have turned beetroot red, not something I do often.
The embarrassment was such that in the intervening 34 years I never once have been tempted to shop for a baseball bat again. Until now.
On the remote, nay practically nonexistent, possibility that potential French rioters are reading this, I’m hereby putting them on notice.
If they block my way in a threatening manner, I won’t even slow down – human flesh actually improves traction. And if they do force me to stop, I’ll come out swinging, putting Babe Ruth to shame.
My priest will approve, and if he doesn’t, I’ll quote Augustine’s De Civitate Dei on the subject of just war. The French police may be less forgiving, but, as Teddy Kennedy once said, I’ll drive off that bridge when I get to it.
P.S. Brigitte Macron’s family owns the Jean Trogneux chain of sweet shops started in their home town of Amiens. The original shop is known for its macaroons (macarons in French), which delicacy is almost a homophone of Manny’s surname.
Could it be that it was this phonetic affinity that led Brigitte to commit that famous statutory rape 26 years ago?
Anyway, having tried those celebrated macaroons at Amiens, I can testify to their superlative taste. It would be a shame if the rioters razed or torched those outlets, as they’re trying to do. France’s First Foster Mother would be upset.