I’ve never been to Heathrow’s Terminal 4. I’m told it’s vast and a triumph of modern architecture stroke engineering. I have however, been to the small regional French town of Pornic’s local supermarket, and I tell you what – it would give any one of Heathrow’s international terminals a run for their money any day.
The slightly unfortunately-named Pornic (which spell-check continually informs me should be spelt ‘Pernicious’) doesn’t appear in any of our tourist guides (and that, of course, could be why we found it such an unassumingly pleasant small harbourside town) and is built around a coastal inlet, featuring, as most small, unassuming French towns do in these parts, a whacking great chateau-style castle and a
similarly imposing yet unremarkable stone-built church, surrounded by ambling alleyways and narrow lanes hemmed by blue-shuttered terraced primary domiciles.
The quayside presented a view of deep and unctuous-looking mud-banks, in which a variety of small boats were studded. The significant height of the harbour walls over which we leaned served notice that the tide was currently out, although it was clear that once it returned, the scene – sans mud – would prove far more picture-postcard.
Pavement cafes and bars dotted the quayside and a modern tourist office drew us in to enquire, in our usual hesitant and halting French, about fishing prospects inland, at which point (of course) the already smiling assistant segued into English to explain the local map.
It seemed a strange feature of Pornic that it could be both eminently coastal yet also immediately rural, as to the rear of the tourist office a canal began to wend its way inland. With our backs turned to the harbour, the view was – yet again – of green and verdant countryside. Returning tout suite to the van, we travelled along a prescribed route along the identified canal, to find a small off-road area where we parked up (as it turned out, for the night although this wasn’t due to a surfeit of landed fish).
During the human race’s tenure of the planet, it’s become a bit of a learned response that some form of bait goes a long way towards aiding the fishing process, especially when your method of choice is rod and line. In our case, we sadly had no real bait of any type, save half a baguette, which didn’t really help our cause, as no matter how diligently we squeezed bits of the damn stuff onto our hooks, it rarely displayed sufficient tenacity to stay on during the casting process, let alone once in contact with the water.
So it was that, for the second time that day, Ernie came to our rescue.
We’ve no idea where the nickname came from, or how we assigned it to the French supermarket chain of E. Leclerc, other than the initial ‘E’ had to stand for something, so Ernie it became. And it was Ernie who’d seen fit to build the vast, airport-sized supermarket just on the outskirts of meek little Pornic.
Hence our return visit, because on our earlier grocery shop, having strolled the aisles of plenty, we’d spotted a section dedicated to fishing tackle. (It was alongside the teaspoon aisle, to which we’d headed previously because that’s what we needed – some teaspoons – and to which precise location we were miraculously guided, as if by divine intervention, within this vast and awe-inspiring retail cathedral.)
Plenty of rods, reels, nets and general paraphernalia, and then there, just above comfortable reach, were hung some enticing but eye-wateringly expensive artificial baits. Ironically, we had to lean on a lower unit to reach these piscatorial jewels and only then realised that the lower unit was in fact, a small refrigerator in which was stored every conceivable colour of live maggot, and the rather more traditionally coloured earthworm, all securely packaged in little bait-sized pots, at about an eighth of the cost of the artificial versions. Result!
A quick hike to the tills via the sweetcorn aisle – (did it really have an aisle and signage dedicated to sweetcorn, or am I just making that up?) and Ernie, God Bless the Patron Saint of supermarkets, had supplied us with a quasi-religious experience, as well as the presumed unique opportunity to be the only shoppers in Christendom ever to have graced a moving supermarket till-belt with worms, maggots and sweetcorn as the sole constituents of a grocery shop.