Three sheets to the wind?¹ Well, hardly, but maybe well on the way after all. This was the conclusion by an old friend and colleague from IRRI, Gene Hettel, when I posted the photo below on Facebook during a short trip (Wednesday to Friday) to Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the south of France last week.
I travelled to Montpellier with another old friend and colleague, Professor Brian Ford-Lloyd (we were graduate students together at The University of Birmingham in the early 70s, colleagues there during the 80s, and research collaborators during the 90s after I joined IRRI).
Our trip took us via Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Not my favorite, but as we only had hand luggage we didn’t have to face that perennial CDG problem: lost luggage. But the walking distance between terminals was certainly a challenge for me, and my ankle and lower leg were quite swollen and painful by the time we arrived to Montpellier. I did put my walking stick to good use, however, and was able to have us boarded on each of the four flights before all other passengers. This brought another advantage: first occupancy of of the ‘allocated’ overhead luggage bins. All flights were full, and everyone had hand luggage.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, in the early evening of Wednesday, we set off for the city center by tram, to the Place de la Comédie on the Ligne 1 route (Mosson-Odysseum) from Place de l’Europe.
There were plenty of restaurants around the square, and we finally chose one with tables set up under an awning. That didn’t work out as intended. The waiter wanted to seat us near others who were smoking, and I just couldn’t face being two feet from someone who would be polluting me with cigarette smoke all through my meal. However, all seating inside the restaurant building was non-smoking, and that’s where we ended up. A few minutes later the heavens burst and there was quite a downpour.
But were we ‘three sheets to the wind’, as Gene cheekily described us? Well, we were certainly merry after a couple of beers (and a couple of small ones earlier in the hotel bar), a nice bottle of red Languedoc, followed by a couple of cognacs each. Brian looks particularly surprised because I dropped my walking stick and it hit the ground with a clatter just as I took that selfie.
Thursday was a glorious hot day—but we were in meetings all day (in connection with the program evaluation I’m leading, and for which we travelled to Bonn recently). At around 5:30 pm we were all done, so set off into the city center again, joined by Professor Wayne Powell, Chief Scientist of the CGIAR (until the end of June), and an old friend from Birmingham graduate student days. Wayne is Welsh, as is Brian, and both are passionate rugby fans (of Wales of course!). Anyway, Wayne took us to one of his favorite watering holes for a glass or three of wine, on a little tree-lined plaza near where he has an apartment, and about 400 m west of the Place de la Comédie. The hostelry was owned by twins who Wayne had given the nickname Les Misérables—and they were!
Afterwards, he pointed us in the direction of a favorite restaurant close by (he and his wife couldn’t join us as they had friends just arrived in Montpellier), and we enjoyed a delightful fish supper before heading back to the Place de la Comédie through a maze of narrow streets, to take the tram back to our hotel.
At the CGIAR Consortium office, where we held our meetings last Thursday, I bumped into an old friend from IRRI: Lori Dagdag. Lori used to be a senior manager in the IRRI finance department, but a decade ago or more she moved to Washington, DC to work as Finance Officer in the CGIAR Fund Office located in the World Bank. What a lovely surprise. I haven’t seen her since just before I retired in 2010.
¹ Three sheets to the wind – drunk!