A letter from your windmill

21st August: DSCF5355

Dear Alphonse,

Many thanks for all the letters from your windmill. You certainly seem to have acquired a diverse selection of acquaintances down there in Provence. I first visited your windmill some years ago. You were out at the time – my fault for not phoning beforehand. Somebody relieved me and one or two others of a couple of euro and let us in to have a look around. I’d never been in a windmill before so it was very interesting thanks. Mind you, I don’t think you’d get into my home quite as easily if I was out, but then I doubt you’ll be in Poole in the foreseeable future.

At the time, I purchased a collection of the letters that had been translated into English. I’ve never seen anything else that you’ve written being offered in an alternative language. It’s the same with Pagnol: once you’ve read Jean de Florette and the ones about his parents, the appetite is whetted but there’s nothing else available. As for your pal, F. Mistral, forget it: I doubt they’ve even got his work out of Provencal and into French, let alone anything else. Anyway, I’m always suggesting that folk read your letters, especially if they’re planning a trip to the Fontvielle area. However, it’s tricky to know whether to visit first, then read the book or the other way round. The one makes the other more interesting. Similarly, as you might imagine, there’s a flourishing santon business based on all your characters. Same problem though: do you look at the santons, then read their stories or vice versa?

I took Leonie to Fontvielle today. She hasn’t read the letters so I had to encourage her with a comprehensive contextualisation. Plus the promise of being able to see the interior of a windmill. There were a lot of people there, all of whom had trudged up the hill in the intense heat in order to see the spectacular view of the paper mill and cement works at Beaucaire. Talk about a blot on the landscape. You wouldn’t be writing about the carriage from Nimes to Beaucaire these days as I doubt anyone would bother to take the journey.

DSCF5360Your windmill was shut. Shut for good, not just for lunch. When did that happen? I suppose you became sick of all those visitors. The French were on good form: I noticed a small child attempting to climb up one of the sails to the indifference of his parents. We got some nice photos though before descending the trail past the remains of other windmills and down to Chateau Montaubaun. We arrived at 12.25, just in time for Madame to close the doors in our faces before shooting off for lunch. That would be lunch that lasts until 3pm. As Leonie said, she could fly to Greece in that time. We declined the invitation to return later.

leleeFontvielle was also pretty much closed. So much for the rumour that there’s a good lunch to be had in the village. We went to Arles instead but the food there was also sadly disappointing. I continued a fruitless search for a particular poster by Lelee which my friend at the evening market in St Remy tried to sell me for 150 euro the other night. Today, I met a woman who claimed to work with Lelee’s editor. She said the poster is unobtainable. Actually, I found one on l’internet but it’s 3,200 euro so I won’t be buying that. Leonie pointed out that the one for 150 euro is not so unaffordable after all. I bought a postcard instead.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Keep writing.

Cordialement, Donald







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