PENINSULA ZOOMERS: Paper chase gets a spiritual French twist

Columnist April Lewis shares her brief foray into petty thievery

I am sitting in the newly opened Terminal 2 at London Heathrow airport awaiting my return flight home after a wonderful holiday in Provence.

I am reminiscing about mes vacances with my girlfriend in la belle France. The medieval hilltop towns, the food, the wine.

However, my most vivid memories are of pink toilet paper and ghosts.

Upon arrival at our beautiful refurbished apartment in historic Avignon, I notice the rolls of pink toilet paper in the bathroom. Four strategically placed little sentries on a shelf.

I am astounded, as we banned coloured tissues and TP in Canada decades ago. (And they don’t recycle organic waste or plastic bottles, either, but surely I digress).

Anyway, we dutifully go through the rosy-hued TP until we have almost run out. I cannot bring myself to buy more of the colourful bathroom accessory even though white was also available in the stores. In packages of eight.

I am thinking I can buy two more bottles of rosé wine instead for the same price. I prefer my pinks to be in wine rather than TP.

So begins my foray into petty thievery.

At every restaurant I visit, I steal or pique yards of toilet paper and stuff it in my purse. The frequency of my clandestine thefts is commensurate with the quality.

I go from inferior one-ply to a luxurious three-ply from the elegant Hotel La Mirande.

Each night, I lovingly fold the aforementioned acquisition and place it in the basket on the shelf where the long-gone pink toilet paper rolls once sat.

Every night I would bid my little treasures a Bonne Nuit.

I then climb the narrow, wrought-iron staircase to my loft bedroom and sleep like an innocent baby… not like the naughty <i>voleur</i> or robber that I have become.

And every morning when I rise and descend the stairs to enter the bathroom, the toilet paper is gone. Disparu. Nowhere to be found.

I ask my girlfriend, “Did you use up all the bathroom tissue?” (Change of words here as I am sure you are tired of the words toilet paper).

“No,” she replied. “There was lots there when I went to bed last night.”

How strange I am thinking. A thief in the night? A ghost? The Pope of Avignon?

Undaunted, I continue my daily quest for my paper nemesis, only to find it gone in the morning. The luxurious three-ply from the posh hotel is definitely a hit.

The mystery unresolved, we resort to using white Kleenex until our departure.

However, I am convinced I have some insight into this strange occurrence.

Our upscale condominium has a varied and colourful history. Before it became an army barracks in the 19th century and an arts school in the 20th century, it was a home for the poor in the 1600s.

I am positive the poor waifs, the lost souls who once occupied this hallowed building, still wander throughout the drafty, hollow, cold rooms. Their souls are probably not at peace. They are seeking and pining and shivering between the thick, well-worn Italian stone walls.

And then suddenly they discover the perfectly pleated paper piles in the basket. How could they resist the temptation to steal? My gift to you, my dearly departed. Enjoy.

Please note that the colour is not pink as even in the 17th century, I am sure that wouldn’t have been environmentally correct.

Actually pink is the colour of my newly purchased French silk blouse. Well, salmon actually. With polka dots.

I checked my suitcase before leaving France… it’s still there.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.