The new boulangerie has created a frisson way beyond the simple appreciation of its tempting tartes and perfectly crisp baguettes.
It's not just that the shop itself has a saucy 'Allo, 'Allo feeling with its little wrought-iron tables and chairs, and hand-written descriptions in manly black script. Nor the fact that it opened without fanfare and did not find itself the focus of seething jealousy and open warfare when, as previously recounted, the formidable Madame Boulanger daubed the windows with graffiti telling the new man to stuff his yeast and run.
I think she'd be lynched if she tried it now.
No, the frisson emanates from the presence of the dark, extremely handsome master baker. Like a male version of Juliette Binoche's Vianne in the film Chocolat, our man has attracted all to his shop with his way with breads and pastry.
Even the old stalwarts of Madame have been observed scuttling through the doors, eyes down in case they catch a glimpse of her scowling face and belligerently folded arms in her window across the square.
Indeed I have recently found myself leaving, clutching a ham and emmental baguette with two religieuses (chocolate pastries that look like nuns) in a beautifully tied box. It matters not that most of the baguette will go to the dog and the buns linger beyond their eat-by date – for, like Vianne, he has a way of making you feel happy.
However, unlike Vianne, he hasn't, as far as I know, changed the moral attitudes of my neighbours by frisking them up with a sprinkle of magic dust over the pain complet, and he doesn't dispense sophisticated bon mots over the tarte tatin and croque monsieurs, inspiring jaded, disappointed women to go home and ravish their husbands. But by heavens he's certainly inspired a style revival.
I've noticed in my (increasingly frequent) visits a new Lavit phenomenon – the yummy mummy. Admittedly, yummy mummy in the Lomagne could be an oxymoron but it's all a matter of degree. The other day I was elbowed to the counter by three of them: slim(ish), hair primped to new heights, full make-up, hoop earrings and actual heels instead of flip-flops.
Ooh la la! They pouted, twirled their hair around their index fingers and bent T-shirted cleavages towards the glass display cabinet as they debated the merits of each confection with their maker.
They licked their heavily lipsticked lips and gazed upwards at the chocolate-brown eyes of the boulanger as he waited for their orders. So fascinated was I by this awesome gathering that I plonked myself on the chair pretending to read about various fetes while watching all the while.
French women flirt. French men expect them to flirt and flirt with them. They can be 18 or 80 – it doesn't matter. It is a dance, a ritual, a rather lovely game between men and women. I suppose a respect for all that we were and still are, and a delightful, playful memory of past conquests. Women over the age 50 are not necessarily invisible in France, unless they choose to be.
It is why I should try harder and slap the auld face with make-up and brush the hair when I leave the house.
My baker, though, I have sadly realised, is not the male equivalent of Vianne. He is uncomfortable with his role as a fantasy figure and his shoulders twitch awkwardly as a matron rolls herself coquettishly across his counter. There is a shyness in him. His dark eyes look more scared than seductive as he follows their choice and suggests, timidly, something else for their dessert that night. When he does, a collective sigh goes up at his insight and a million sequins shiver on the T-shirts.
From my seat I watch as the door opens and yet another much younger, slightly giggly girl comes in with a pal. They whisper in the corner, flashing looks toward him as he deals with the yummy mummies.
He keeps his eyes down, shovelling cakes and bread into boxes or paper bags, moving between counter and till. Eyes swivel to watch his progress and the bell tinkles as another woman arrives.
Occasionally he looks up and I catch a glimpse of a cold eye, a measured response to all about him, and then he blinks and shows, once more, a distracted warmth. I like the cold eye. It means he knows his attraction, or perhaps I'm fantasising again and he is no more than an average baker from another commune.
The yummy mummies have finally gone. The giggly girls too. I stand up to ask for bread which will still be good tomorrow for an overnight guest.
He takes two loaves from a basket. He puts his hand on mine to feel them, testing their weight and paradoxically their lightness. He's good. n
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