We often use this expression when we want to rationalise why some activity is not worth pursuing, or why an issue is not deserving of our full attention. But we also like to use it when we think of the tasting experiences we should not have had – life is too short to eat fast food, for example!
But then there are experiences which seem to multiply the experience value of the lives we live (I hope I am making sense at all now):
Recently, we took a week long holiday on a hired boat on the Canal du Midi in Languedoc, France. Now, if you are stimulated by the technology or the complexity, even the stress, of negotiating locks on the inland waterways of France, this will be your thing. And we also thought that we would really enjoy that. Not so. We came to think of locks as a menace in our lives, something to get over with without getting ourselves drowned or the boat sunk. Everybody else on the canal seemed to be either somewhat concerned or outright amused by this couple who appeared determined to get it wrong, either by trying to get the boat into the lock sideways or by somehow trying to get all 7 tonnes of it dangling off the side of the lock wall, while the water underneath was disappearing fast.
Now please don’t think that we saw the humour in any of this at the time. No, indeed we were literally fighting for our lives: against the elements (wind, rain, strong currents), the situations we found ourselves in, against each other. Indeed we felt that life is too short to spend your time with cumbersome river boats, bundles of rope, clever knots, and impatient French lock masters.
And then we reached an amazingly interesting small city, Carcasson, and stumbled upon an evening in a truffle tasting wine bar, and suddenly every “wasted” moment waiting for a lock to fill or a lock master to finish his lunch, became worthwhile, as a preamble – or postscript – to one evening of utter culinary delight in the company of the warmest of hosts and the dearest of (new) friends.
Initially, we were quite shocked when we alighted from the taxi to find a place that could barely seat 14 customers on bar stools. Clearly not what we had in mind for a dinner out! At least it made sense that when we phoned to book “une table pour duex pour ce soir”, the manager was very keen to have us, but did not bother to take down any of our particulars. We were expected to join when we could and take things as they were. All the panic about the taxi turning up late was, in fact, wasted emotion. Did we say, life is too short…?
But please do not assume that Philippe Barriere was a careless host. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Barriere Truffes is Philippe Barriere, and everything from the intimate way (looking through your eyes, up close, your older brother who cares a lot for you) in which he helps you decide which truffle tasting delicacy to select; the way he caresses the food as he prepares it; to the way in which he smiling, caringly, moves among the guests to ensure all are having a good time, speaks of a very special artisan who is not only exceedingly good at what he does, but also has the interpersonal skill to allow others to share the sheer joy that his craftmanship brings.
And joy there was aplenty, among the 14 or so of us who shared the few very special hours of that Thursday evening: The four American guests, who spent well, showed their appreciation generously, and left reasonably early. The English couple who took the Americans’ seats and in their guarded way, enjoyed the general merriment. The four French businessmen whom I imagine had a full day of corporate activity ahead of them, but decided to escape the boredom of a hotel night by letting their hair down every so slightly in a place where they could have decent wines and amazing foods, and possibly the company of a nice lady or some foreigners who would find their antics funny. And yes, there was the young French lady who came in on her own, probably also travelling and lonely for the evening, smiling serenely at the foursome’s wit. (Her distant attention was nicely rewarded when one of them settled her bill when she departed!) And of course there were us, who found the combination of great truffles, excellent wine, the shared jokes and Philippe’s hospitality irresistable.
An evening that reminded us that life is never to short to share – and if what it takes is a too small wine bar with uncomfortably high bar stools, then so be it – life is worth it, worth a great time out with people we will not easily forget. So much so in fact, that the effort on the canal was also made worthwhile in the end. Thank you, Philippe Barriere!