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How to keep smiling amid the storms of life.

Byline: Peter Collins

Well, Meano," I said, as I guided her gently into the dry and safe surrounds of our shed, "at least we have one thing in common with Francois Hollande, the new president of France."

"What's that, then?" asked Meano, in that tired tone that suggests she's not really interested in the answer.

"It's the ability to look reasonably presentable when soaked to the skin," I explained.

You will probably have seen pictures of the hapless Monsieur Hollande as he was paraded down the Champs Elysee in torrential rain during his official investiture as president. Close-up photographs show that he had probably ruined a perfectly good suit and had run the risk of catching pneumonia.

He looked particularly impressive as he stood sopping wet at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

Unfortunately, during my many years on the street I have also arrived at several appointments soaked to the skin.

One occasion sticks in my memory.

It was many years ago now and I had been tasked to cover a public inquiry at the historic Llantwit Major Town Hall.

When I set off on a smaller version of the Mean Machine, the weather was set fair. But as we chugged past Cardiff Airport, the heavens opened and I suffered a Hollande-style soaking.

It must have been a very important inquiry because I rejected the option of returning to the office and instead pressed on to Llantwit.

Sitting in the warmth of the town hall, my trousers began to let off steam.

As is the way with these inquiries, there was soon a break in proceedings during which an elderly lady who looked like Miss Marple approached me.

"Excuse me, dear, are you wet?" she asked, with all the perspicacity one would expect of Miss Marple.

"Just a bit," I confirmed. "You wait there, dear," she said before bustling away.

She returned some 10 minutes later clutching a bag from which she produced a towel, a pair of her late husband's trousers and one of his shirts.

"They've been dry-cleaned," she emphasised while directing me to the lavatory where I might like to change.

By then I was miserably damp and gave serious thought to wearing a dead man's clothes.

But it was apparent that her dearly departed spouse must have been a powerfully-built man. I could quite easily have camped out in his trousers, while if I'd tried on his shirt I'd have looked like a babe in swaddling bands.

I endured the inquiry until lunchtime before returning home for a welcome hot shower.

I sympathise with Mr Hollande and wish him well in the future when he is almost certain to face storms of a much more serious nature.

I fear that unless others, including the dry-as-dust Angela Merkel, listen more closely to Monsieur Hollande, we could all face an economic drenching.


* Francois Hollande refuses to let his spirits be dampened

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 22, 2012
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