Posted on 11 July 2006

During my life, I have been madly passionately in love with three French men – at different times, naturally – and none of them live or have ever lived in my village.

Are they the world’s best lovers? No! (But of course my experience is limited.)

These days I don’t think much of men. Not quite true. I think of one who is far far away, working too hard.

Tuesday is market day in Montmiral and so yesterday, I stepped out of my house, out of my precious solitude, to visit the central square and wander. For some strange reason, I took my camera. Unlike my daughter, I am not much of a picture-taker.


The first French man, I captured is George. He has been working at Le Bar forever – or ever since I arrived in the village sixteen years ago. I don’t know if it is my imagination or not, but he hasn’t changed a bit. My first dozen years here, he was always stern, abrupt. I thought he didn’t like me or, at least, didn’t like foreigners in his village. But a few years ago, his attitude changed. Now, he kisses me on both cheeks when I arrive each year: and, on occasion, I’m even given a smile. He posed for this picture.

The Joker

This is Christian, the “pate man” who lives in an old house below the village where he produces various pates including an excellent foie gras. He is the only French man here who speaks almost perfect English and who loves flirting with women – all women. Once, he told an English matron that a particular pate would bring her ecstasy, then an orgasm. She bought the pate. Today, he holds his hand up for the camera and says “Foie Gras for gay-pride” – whatever that means. He gets away with a lot because of his accent, his boyish smile.

The Pizza Man

Denis or the “pizza man” as I called him for years has just had his wild gypsy hair cut. He tells me it is cooler on these stinking hot days (over 38 degrees yesterday) and this handsome devil – father of Harold who worked at the new restaurant until this year and Hugo, Gill’s last summer love – not only cooks a mean pizza but is also a musician. He just happened to be playing with his group in the central square, a few years back, when a writing workshop was dining and the music, oh so very French and upbeat, had all the writers dancing for hours, even when it began to drizzle then pour… nothing could dampen our spirits that evening. It was magical. After posing for this picture, Denis told me that his group would be playing in Campagnac this Thursday evening. (I talked Clare and Lysiane, who were ordering a pizza, into going with me.)

Clare told me that she wouldn’t have the nerve to go round taking pictures of people. I am surprised. I didn’t think it any big deal and Clare does many things that I wouldn’t dare to do – but these are her secrets.

After the market, I returned to the house and didn’t leave it for the remainder of the day. I was/am restless. I read “Letters to a Young Poet” and spend hours answering questions that Rilke poses. I am aware that this month will pass too quickly and I might have to return home still not knowing what I want to do with the rest of my life.

A few mornings ago, I woke from a dream with the thought “I have to buy a horse.” I remember nothing about the rest of my dream. Now why would I need a horse? Horse power? Energy? Yes, I do need more energy to think clearly, write, find a job… For fun, I checked out on the internet what a horse symbolized in dreams. “A Horse – especially a stallion – may symbolize sexuality.” I had held, in my mind, the image of a sleek brown stallion…

I know I am in an enviable situation. I am in the south of France, in a thirteen century house, where any day of the week I can find a market and buy the freshest fruits and vegetables and cheeses, or visit a vineyard and buy wine for a few euros a bottle, or drive a short distance to a large air-conditioned supermarket and purchase whatever…. I have enough good friends who I am free to visit when I am need of company. My neighbours across the way, with an extraordinarily beautiful garden even gave me their key – they are away for a week – so I can sit amongst their flowers and wile away the hours.

So why am I so restless? Every day, my mood changes. If one day my writing flows, the next day I sling around not knowing what to think. I want clarity. I flip through books – my poets and psychological texts – and try to make sense of my life and find a new direction. Helen Luke keeps coming to mind. I reflect on her discussion about humility (and Rilke too uses this word) and think how difficult it is to be humble when one is fighting for a different kind of life. If words have the power to “pluck you,/ leave you naked…” will I, naked, be able to defend myself in the larger world – especially if my opponent is clothed?

What if someone yells at me “You’re living in a dream world. Life isn’t life that. You can’t sit in your ivory tower and expect all to agree with you. You can’t put a roof over your head and food on the table with dream analysis.”

Even thinking these thoughts make my heart sink. Every few pages of my journal I write: “I have got to think of a way to make money.”

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