21 July: Taking the back route to Frigolet along the twists and turns of Barbentane, passing the old windmill and ascending the very steep climb into the wilderness, I was surprised to see a woman in a wheelchair speeding down the hill in the opposite direction. On the road I mean. Not on the side of the road but ON the actual road. Looks like fun, I thought. Not. Further up the hill, a maniacal, lycra-clad bullet on a bike sped downwards faster than the speed of sound or light. I wondered what the last thing he expects to find round the next bend might be.
Up at Frigolet, they’ve moved the gift shop. The gift shop has always been full of religious artefacts and bottles of the dangerously green liqueur the monks produce, neither of which hold much fascination for me. What has been of interest, however, for many years, is the fantastic crèche that used to be situated in the foyer of the old gift shop. I have written of this many times in other places but now, it’s nowhere to be seen. I ask Madame in the shiny new gift shop where the crèche is. ‘Gone’, she helpfully replies; ‘beautiful, wasn’t it?’ This is so bloody typical of the French: they’re forever harping on about patrimony and heritage and the centre culturel but they never look after anything really special.
I venture up the montangnette to examine the incoming weather. Despite the forecast, there seems to be little of any significance to report. I can see for miles in all directions and it’s true that it looks a bit black over towards the Luberon, but that’s miles away. Afterwards, I take a small coffee in the buvette. Apart from me, the only other people enjoying this oasis of calm are Monsieur, le patron, his underage assistant and an electrician seated under a shady sycamore engaged in something undemanding with a length of cable. I wonder, not for the first time, how these places survive year after gloriously uninterrupted year.
There are hundreds of acres of unspoilt countryside around Frigolet.If you have three and a half hours to spare, according to a random signpost, you can walk to Tarascon. I consider this as a possibility for the week that B & J will be here; they like a nice walk, those two.But what happens on arrival at Tarascon? I recall that Daudet wrote of a carriage that traversed the countryside between said town and Nimes around the turn of the twentieth century. Perhaps a bus service has since evolved in the opposite direction? But even if we could walk to Tarascon and unexpectedly locate a bus willing to return us safely to Rognonas, what would happen to the car we had left behind on top of the montagnette? It’s all very well trying to plan delightful days out for equally delightful friends but the logistics make my head hurt.
As I stood at the summit earlier, I saw a couple of people down below. They were pushing a bicycle across the vast expanse of rough, open and boulder-strewn land that comprises the flatter stages of the route across the little mountain tops. Not another soul was to be seen in any direction. If those two wanted only the companionship of each other, they could not have chosen a better place. I imagined them reaching the edge of the montagnette, happily locating a path and romantically freewheeling down and into Tarascon.
Next, I thought about yesterday’s torrential rain and the thunder and lightening that had pitched us into darkness. I looked upwards and noticed that what had earlier been a few rogue clouds, had now linked arms to form larger masses that were intermittently blocking out the sun. I looked back down at the tiny four-legged, two-wheeled entity that was, pioneer-like, crossing the plain totally wrapped up in itself and I thought – sod that for a game of cowboys.