The rain hastens the demise of the ripe figs as they slide from the tree. The fruit plops heavily onto the raw earth to resemble swollen purple blood clots. The stain fills the yellow earth, bleeds out in erratic directions. I watch this event from the safety of the window by the blue swimming pool that is quickly filling up with the chaotic, errant leaves of Eucalpytus. This is the south of France in August.
There is nothing more disconsolate. There is nothing to write about after this. This is what our holiday was. No. Stop. Was it? Maybe not. But, I must go on.
There are brown puddles on the patio where we should be sunning ourselves. Not too much to ask for sun. Honestly, three months of an Irish Summer can lead one to desperate places. I want to be home. Baking. Feeding the hens. Writing. Hanging out the clothes between showers. Instead, I pace. Survey the sky. Curse the climate.
Even the village seems out of reach in flimsy footwear. A quaint place full of sculpture and blue shutters and winding streets. I should have packed my Wellington boots and a good warm sweater, a shawl at the very least. But no, I packed in an optimistic fashion. Flip flops and bikinis, shorts and light cotton shirts. I do dream of my knits back home, waiting in the closet like lonely friends. I crave the warmth of where I came from.
But it is not all bad. The wine is exquisite. Buy a bottle for nothing. Don't bother to read the label. It is more than often guaranteed to be amazing. H and I drive to a winery. I learn how to hold the glass, by the base, not the stem. I learn how to swirl the ruby wine in a tall glass and sniff like I know what I am doing. To swirl again. To inhale, to swirl, to slush the wine around in my mouth, to spit. To taste again.
And French women are stunningly beautiful. Honestly. I felt sorry for my teenage sons. They fell in love at the least ten times a day. And French women have small feet because I sought out shoe stores and never found a shoe to fit me. A failed replacement for those optimistic flip flops.
If you go to a restaurant be prepared to share it with the canine population. The French love their dogs who behave like obedient children and lie beneath the dining table without any desire for scraps or attention. And the French meal is an event to behold. Each morsel savoured, celebrated and hours can pass with intense conversations. Families intertwined from Granny to Baby.
By the way you should reconsider telling your youngest son that he can take a friend on a trip to France. Things can get out of hand. There is the swimming pool adventure for example, even in the rain. And plastic chairs. And an idea that one can jump into the pool from a distance whilst sitting on the aforementioned chairs. I am informed that this is a fun and safe activity. I seek out a corkscrew an hour before acceptable cocktail time. I try not to be mother hen. I want to strangle the kids.
And so it rained non-stop for the most part. Big fat chunky rain. Nothing like the Irish mist, the poetic drift of moisture. This rain held avengence. Only eating helps in this situation. Do eat tons of Moules Frites. Do go to a place that looks like a dump but has excellent service and great food. Eat the Moules from big black tin bowls. Mussels steamed in wine and garlic and do gorge on perfect frites and try not to make a glutton of yourself when the cheese is produced and please do not refuse barbecued kidneys served on skewers that explode in your mouth and try to lay off on the aioli, that wonder concoction of garlic and mayonnaise.
Do say 'bonjour' like you mean it, in an optimistic fashion and 'merci' in gentle , benevolent whispers. Everything is in the intonation. Do crave the flowers, the purples and the oranges and the reds and the pink and the blue and green shutters and the church bells on the hour, the mourning doves and the cooing they make that wakes you up and then sends you back to sleep as you count the coos and the rhythm they throw into the day.
But always pack a sensible raincoat because when you travel you never know what is ahead or around the corner and I must tell you if you have gotten down to reading this rambling so far that the figs were amazing. I salvaged some straight off the tree. They were delicious. I served them with goat cheese on fresh bread garnered from the village bakery. We all agreed the taste was memorable as the rain fell on the pool, created huge ripples like something we all thought might make a good story, something we might want to recount as time passed on. Carried us on other journeys.