Discovering kindness and how to counteract anger at my local bakery from PumpjackPiddlewick

Whilst enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I got to musing. Remembering really because a memory was triggered and I was reminded how much further kindness goes than anger. And, I hope it continues to stand me in good stead to remember this in the future. Let me tell you a little (maybe long winded) story…

I worked as a tour guide this past year, living and travelling, on a hotel barge. It’s called a ‘peniche’ here in France. We travelled the Burgundy canal, mooring in a different place each night. Part of my job was to get the various types of breads and pastries, croissants and the like, each morning for the guests. Honestly there is nothing like the smell of warm, fresh bread in the early hours. A truly wonderful start to the day.

Each week we had a different number of guests, from 8 to 12 passengers. Of course, they varied in their interest and hunger for bread, etc. So we had a standard order we place for Sunday of 3 baguettes. From this we could determine whether we would need lots of bread that week, or maybe not so much.

Monday was always a tad tricky as most boulangeries are closed this day. They are generally open all the days, with one day off. In a given area, one of the bakeries will opt to be open on the Monday. You may have to journey a bit for it, but there is still always bread to be had.

Typically, once we knew the bread likes of our guests we ordered what we needed for the rest of the week, using different local boulangeries each morning as we travelled the canal.

But every now and then we were thrown a curve ball. Such as in May, when a national holiday fell on a Tuesday. Now when a national holiday was on a Monday, this would impact us far less on the bread front since most boulangeries were closed on this day, yet the designated open one would still be open. Holiday or not. But. If the holiday fell on another day, oh my goodness, turns out chaos ensued.

We hadn’t realised, or maybe I should say hadn’t planned for a holiday on a Tuesday. So this meant we couldn’t phone the boulangerie in advance, eg the Monday was usually closed but so now was the Tuesday – when we would normally phone – to place our order.

Our Wednesday order was with a very small bakery, and ours was to be a very large order that particular week. There was nothing for it, but to try and blag the order on the day. (Not the done thing in France.) Well to say I was entering the boulangerie with trepidation was an understatement.

I will preface and finally get to the kindness aspect of my story, by saying that the woman who ran this boulangerie could be very ‘flexible’ in how she treated us. She was not a great fan of those that worked on the peniches. (An even longer story.) Needless to say, she had a reputation as a bit of a dragon when it came to proffering her wares. Especially and particularly if you hadn’t made an order.

My Captain offered to gird his loins and face the dragon for me. Mainly because it was his responsibility to order the breads, but also his French was better than mine in a difficult situation. However, our dragon looked more kindly on females, so I pulled up my socks and said I would go.

I rehearsed my speech in my head, preparing for the worst as I walked to the bakery. Especially given the size of my order. My back up plan was the van key in my pocket. If I wasn’t able to purchase all we needed, I would have to journey further afield to get the rest. And she was known for refusing to provide anything if an order hadn’t been made, so I made sure I arrived just as she opened. This would give me time too, if required, to search out another boulangerie.

Oh, I should add here, that many, especially smaller village boulangeries are only open in the mornings. And this was one of them.

I waited in the short queue with bated breath to see if I was going to be able to make my purchases. I began of course with apologies, and asked if I could place my order. She sucked the air through her teeth, and then, smiled.

Yes! She had decided to look on me with kindness. And I suspect much of that was because I had gone in with kindness and hope in my heart. And probably showing on my face.

Of course, as my order was large, it was not possible to have all the items I would typically request. So together we worked out what I could have in replacement. It was rather fun, and such good French practice for me, to converse and decide what I could have. That morning turned from one of trepidation to one of pure enjoyment.

It made me think, as I walked back to the boat with the smell of fresh bread surrounding me, how a difference in approach truly can make all the difference. I know if I had approached her with less kindness, more of a you are a supplier I am a buyer attitude, she would not have let me take a single baguette. By not bearding the dragon in her den, she had taught me that kindness in the face of adversity will take me far.

I have always been aware that you have a choice between getting angry or show kindness. Especially when confronted with animosity, or when someone simply doesn’t wish to be helpful. Kindness will open doors to angers’ shutting them in your face.

It’s not always an easy decision. And our natural instinct is often to react to anger with anger. But I have come to realise that if I can switch my anger reaction to kindness my world at least is a better place.


If you enjoyed reading my little story, and would like to nourish my musings, please do check out my Nourish page.

Or if you prefer shopping, My Shops. Here’s a taste:

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  1. You are a good storyteller! I enjoyed it.

    1. Author

      Thank you John! You put a smile on my day 🙂

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