I have become part of an annual tradition with a friend (and a selection of her friends, which varies from year-to-year), whereby we visit Brasserie Zédel, ranged deep beneath Piccadilly Circus, for a pre-Christmas lunch. Well, I say lunch but it is more an excuse to drink and talk which is occasionally interrupted by food. This event starts at lunch time, but often goes on for quite some time and often adjourns to the adjacent Bar Américain where any food-related pretense is dropped.
Both brasserie and bar have a very strong Art Déco vibe, dating back to their original opening as part of the Regent Palace Hotel in 1915. I feel that the bar, in particular, is (or was) used to a rather better class of clientele than the author. When, I was there on Sunday, I couldn’t help feeling that Cruella de Vil would have fitted right in and so I shall be trying to channel my experience when sat at the piano (it is either that or some very dodgy interaction with – and the risk of being outwitted by – a sizeable pack of spotted dogs).
This year’s gathering had a particularly international vibe but, as the title might hint, this post will focus on the French member of our party. Rather gloriously, he attended clad in a Primark sweater adorned with a less-than-zoologically accurate representation of a reindeer and a range of flashing coloured lights. He was trying it out in London – where it proved very popular with those partaking of lunch – before inflicting it on his French mother (who once modelled for Chanel): where it is likely to receive a less positive reception.
He it was who revealed a couple of French alcohol-based superstitions with which I had previously been aware. I cannot speak to how widely these beliefs are held or to their antiquity but felt I should share them just in case any readers should happen to find themselves drinking with our friends from across the Channel.
Apparently, when saying ‘Cheers’ to another in France it is important to look them in the eyes as you say it, otherwise you will be cursed with seven years of bad sex. While this would be a major upgrade for me and my own participation in the world of gland games, for the broader public it does seem rather a severe response to (at worse) a minor social faux pas.
It would also seem to be a French belief that whosoever completes a communal bottle of wind, by dint of the waiter placing the last of the bottle into their glass, will marry in that year the year. As a form of augury, this does avoid the unpleasantness of animal entrails and is more compatible with a (mostly) vegetarian lifestyle – even if it can only be used for a rather limited from of prophecy. I’m also not sure the marriage statistics, even in la belle France, entirely support the hypothesis – particularly, when considered in conjunction of the number of bottles of wind consumed in company. Nevertheless, I am somewhat concerned to report that the Norns may have determined my fate and that I am to marry in the next 12 days. This strikes me as something of a logistical nightmare to organise – I suspect both the church (busy elsewhere) and the civil authorities (on holiday) may be reluctant to formalise any knot-tying on my part at this late stage in the year – even if we discount the challenge of finding a third party willing to participate in the process on a longer-term basis.
No evidence was offered by our French companion to support either of these beliefs, but any prospective spouse should probably be aware that seven years of bedroom (and indeed more general “room”) disappointment may be on the cards. I can’t say I really place much credence in either of these croyances populaires (and they do rather speak to stereotypical French preoccupations) but come the beginning of 2018 my mockery may look particularly ill-advised. Still, it is probably my best bet for freedom of movement in the EU and, should Clotho have decided to spin my life in that direction, I shall try and accept her decision with good grace. You heard it here first and may wish to start looking for your hat now, just in case…