I saw Le Grand Duc the other day. Had I been in a position to pull over and take a photo, this is exactly what it would have looked like. This is because, as I was driving in the direction of Tarascon, the eagle decided to land beside the road that veered off into the rocky outcrop known as La Montagnette. I couldn’t believe my luck – good in seeing it so closely and bad in being the only place in Provence where it’s impossible to stop. Joyous, nonetheless.
The day before, I’d decided to post a weasel called ‘Eagle Highway’. I’d been driving along the road to Arles with both eyes in the sky and none on the tarmac because this is where you see the big birds. Last year, travelling down the same route with Peter towards the museum of antiquities, we’d seen an eagle high in the deep blue sky. Eagles are not ten a penny in these parts. In fact, you can pay someone locally quite a lot of money to take you to where they hang out on the understanding that they might not appear. Bit like the Northern Lights. And you can’t do that in August because it’s so damn hot, most of the mountain tracks have been closed by the fire-fighters.
This year, I was travelling Eagle Highway with a view to visiting the Abbey Montmajour again. This is NOT a picture of it. This is the Chapel of the Holy Cross which is just down the road from the abbey and which I was making yet another unsuccessful attempt to enter. How can these joints be private property? The chapel was built in the twelfth century for those making a pilgrimage to the adjacent abbey. Over at Montmajour, they were more than happy to dispense a pardon for whatever sins the pilgrims had committed; which, if they were anything like that lot on the way to Canterbury, would’ve been significant in number and seriousness.
Pardons abounded but the hierarchy over at the abbey weren’t having any riff raff inside to start all that praying business. Hence, the chapel. And, to make the chapel more inviting, a relic of the ‘true cross’ was left inside. I’m happy with this. After all, the Palestinian diaspora had arrived with celebrities, saints and bloodlines so why not bring along a few choice pieces of wood.
I duly paid my 7 euro and visited the abbey again. I particularly enjoyed the new exhibition in which a bunch of happy monks walk us through the development of the abbey which was built over an ancient necropolis.
I also loved the view of the Chapel of the Holy (or true) cross, even though it made me sad that I couldn’t get closer than the earlier photo that I took through the bars. But what I really liked was the reproduction map I purchased in the abbey gift shop of the ancient route to Santiago de Compostela. The innocent that I am, I get so much pleasure from these few themes that seem, unexpectedly, to link my thoughts, my travels and my subsequent weasels.
Whilst in France, I read A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, in which she brilliantly discards all sense of the linear and of chronology. I feel she’s subconsciously infiltrated my weasels. I didn’t see Le Grand Duc on the day I went to the abbey. Neither did I see an eagle on the road to Arles this year. On both days, I’d discarded the scallop shells, yet everything links.