Tuesday, 2 September 2008


Luxembourg isn’t famous for much. It is the world’s last ‘Grand Duchy’ and, when I was working in Europe, was the place to go for cheap fags. It has no air force or navy and the army numbers a mere 800. I reckon I could take them on given the help of a few mates. It might be worth thinking about actually.

I ran the fuel right down whilst on the way up to Luxembourg so that I could take advantage of fuel prices that are a bit lower than France. I pulled into one of those massive motorway service stations where you fill up, get back into the car and then drive through a payment booth. Since I was on the wrong side we had got into a routine where my girl paid as I pulled up as close as I could so that she wouldn’t have to stretch her little arms too far.

I got out and waited for the fuel to be released and stood at the back of the car generally minding my own business. I was only vaguely aware of my girl getting out of the car and stooping down to pick up the squeegee in the bucket that Europeans actually fill up for drivers’ convenience. The next thing I heard was an ‘ooooh’ and went over to find my girl holding her hand and looking like she’d picked up some crap or something. “What’s up?” I asked, expecting her to say that she’d got a splinter from the handle. “Boooooooooooo Hooooooooooooooo waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” was accompanied by lots of pointing and the phrase “Bastard wasp”.

Now, I know I should have sprung into first aid mode but the car was empty and we had to drive through the payment queue anyway so I figured that I ought to fill up and then sort it. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was to assume she’d be able to pay. “ How can I pay?” she cried, through gritted teeth and moans so loud that everyone around was sure we’d had a row and I’d hit her or something worse. I paid while she asked between sobs “Am I going to die?”

We went into the service area and I found the first aider. I tried to explain what had happened but my French doesn’t stretch to the word for 'wasp' or, for that matter to the word for ‘stung’. So there I was trying to explain that she’d been “hit on the hand by an insect which is yellow and black” but this was taking too long. “WASP,” rasped this person that I n o longer recognised “Fucking WASP….why don’t these people understand English?” The women started to pour vinegar on the sting while the patient sobbed uncontrollably.

A moment later I swear I saw a shaft of sunlight shine through a gap in the clouds as an indistinct but melodious choir of angels did that ‘aaaah haaa’ thing they do (supposedly). A woman appeared, trailing four angelic, almost identical blond children. She claimed to be Dutch but, of course, we know that she had come from a better place. “I have an anti wasp and sting removal kit,” she said. From her bag she produced this odd contraption and sucked the poison from the sting. “You are not going to die.” The sobbing subsided and my kudos rating improved as the day wore on and the pain wore off.

Luxembourg maybe an inconsequential anomaly but, for me and my girl, it is Europe’s seat of infamy, forever to be associated with pain and panic and an insect that is black and yellow.

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