I was tipped off to meet a white Hyundai at a French motorway toll rest area at 2.30 p.m. (I would be driving a red Seat, I’d said.) My prearranged deal was for €230 worth of gear. I swung into the car park 20 minutes early and waited nervously. Ten minutes later the Hyundai appeared and parked in a nearby bay. A young blonde woman in Sweaty Betty leggings got out and opened the boot. I got out of my car, sidled over and gave my surname. She found my name on her list and ticked it off. Then she rummaged about among a heap of labelled packages until she found the right one and we did the deal: my €230 in exchange for a hefty carrier bag of sausages and smoked back bacon, all hand-made and cured by her and her partner in Antibes. The weight of meat in the carrier bag was too much for it and the handle snapped.
She was running a sort of county lines operation for sizzler- and bacon butty-addicted UK expats. She and her partner also dealt in Scotch eggs and sausage rolls. I was the runner for a syndicate in the Upper Var. As I completed my transaction, two more UK expats showed up at the rendezvous. They looked like shipwrecked sailors in their flapping, sun-bleached rags, which is the winter uniform of elderly British expats living in the south of France. One of these had journeyed up from Toulon; the other was evasive about his point of origin, but judging by his bashed-up vehicle he’d crossed the Alps via frozen lake and unsurveyed mountain track. Both wore surgical masks.
We gathered at the rear of the Hyundai like bees around a honeypot.