Some very nice people left this morning: the important folk from Ikea who I sent away to consider those of us who find shopping with a map too claustrophobic. Ever thought of a window? The man from Sweden asked me if I was aware of the escape routes in their stores. Escape routes? Doesn’t that tell you something?
John, Carol and the lads also, sadly, left. John says he’s bought me a parting gift. I am touched. John emerges from his gite with a plant – a pot of basil. With the plant come instructions. John has, apparently, invented the chain plant. It’s an ecological, biological version of the old chain letter. I must keep it going and pass it to the next inhabitant of my cabanon when I leave. My heart sinks. John has not known me long enough to understand my disastrous reputation with potted plants. John is unaware that I only have to look at a potted plant for it to recoil and wither. I wave goodbye to the family I first met here last year with a heavy heart: partly, because I will miss them, but largely due to the burden of responsibility which they’ve left me.
I go in search of a lake. In all the years I’ve been coming here, I have somehow missed THE lake. To begin with, it seems like another treasure hunt; another hidden gem. Then, in the middle of the woods, I see a car and assume I must have arrived. Unfortunately, I’ve already parked next to said vehicle before I realise the owner has left the door open and the engine running whilst he has a pee against a handy tree trunk. It’s an exceptionally long pee. He looks over his shoulder at me with a degree of suspicion. I politely look in the other direction and wait for him to finish. I feel I must justify my presence so ask him if this is the car park for the lake – which it clearly isn’t. He silently points in another direction.
I am, frankly, amazed at the beautiful lake. Obviously, there are no other foreigners here because, unsurprisingly, there aren’t any signs. I consider a jaunt around the periphery but the fire wardens, who are currently present everywhere, inform me that my brand new Slazenger walking sandals do not constitute appropriate footwear for the terrain. No problem: I’d rather just sit on a pile of rocks, write a few lines and enjoy the unexpected treat. Anyway, it’s past midi and there’s another gem to seek out before I pause for lunch.
Here’s another little piece of unexpected French cultural history that I happened on by chance. It’s a Jewish cemetery which, as we may anticipate by now, is also down an unmarked road in the back of beyond. It’s on a site which apparently dates from the 15th century. To the left of the plaque, you might be able to see a more recent edifice which commemorates French Jews who travelled to fight in the Spanish civil war and others who, of course, perished in another war. What a treat to find a piece of history that has been recognised by the French. I expect you can guess what’s coming.
I took this picture of the cemetery standing on tip-toes and angling the camera through the bars on top of a locked gate. Later, I go to the tourist office and ask when I might gain entry to the cemetery. ‘Never’, comes the reply. ‘Why not’, I demand? ‘I don’t know’, says the child behind the counter sporting a badge which declares he is ‘in training’. ‘Where did you say you were from’, he has the audacity to enquire? I tell him and he electronically ticks me off on his computer. Job done.
Finally, I meet an old friend. Those familiar with this blog will instantly recognise him. Newcomers had better scroll to the top banner to see a photo taken two years ago. Today, he was wandering in the olive groves on the other side of the path where I first met him. He hee-hawed loudly in greeting. Then went back to his lunch. French through and through.