While out last night I was tapped on the shoulder by a man who had been told by one of his friends that I was a Donegal-man. Not quite, but close enough, my mother's from there. This fellow anyway was born in Letterkenny but grew up near Crossmaglen (non-Irish people might need to be told that that is in south Armagh). Despite this he spoke with a bizarre Geordie accent, and he told me he had never lived in Newcastle either. A carpenter by trade, he has been living in various places around France for about six or seven years.
He told me that he was "locked up" for eight months for an infraction that occurred on the terrace of a café last summer in Vaucluse (close to Avignon and Orange and where Chateauneuf-du-Pape comes from). Sitting on the terrace with a black Rasta friend, they were asked to leave because his friend refused to put his shirt back on. The owner lifted the beers that they had not yet touched and, when the Armagh-man remonstrated with him, the owner punched him. At this point, Armagh's two dogs, that were sitting nearby joined in (I can't remember the exact breeds but one was a Rottweiler) and started mangling both men as they tussled on the ground. Then the bar's regular clientele, the local skinheads (Vaucluse is Front National heartland) got started; Armagh didn't know that it was a skinhead bar and wouldn't have set foot there in the first place had he known. The police arrived and shot the dogs on the spot before arresting Armagh and the bar owner.
A month or two later he was sentenced and spent his time inside in a coastal prison near Cannes (I could find out the name of it easily enough by Googling but, you know). He didn't say much about inside but he said it wasn't pleasant. Though the fellow did not have a malicious air about him he certainly looked tough. But there was a look in his eye that suggested prison had changed him; he also spoke excitedly, letting things off his chest hastily, and he even slipped into French every couple of minutes without noticing. He was like the Ancient Mariner at the wedding, lost in his own monologue.