French Village Life

Posted on 01 June 2005

I am in France in my tiny village and still adjusting to the time difference though every day I feel calmer. I am not surprised now when I arrive in Castelnau to feel as if I have come home. There is something so easy and calming about French village life though, I think, it is easier for a foreigner, a person from a different culture, to relax, to feel free.

And I am with my Gill. I hated her being here all alone even though I know she is tough and independent, more than capable of looking after herself. But she was alone in Toronto, alone in Paris, and alone here for nearly three weeks. Too much “alone” wears thin. We need others to talk to, to mirror us, to hug us, to take us outside ourselves. Should I be writing “I need others to talk to, to mirror me…?” Yet Gill has told me that she feels this way too.

How I adore this daughter of ours – though I know I’ve said it before – she is downright wonderful. She runs to greet me, throws her arms around me, tells me she loves me, then prepares my meals. Am I in heaven? (Kate did the same thing in Germany.)

Yesterday, my first day in the village, I went to the town square for fresh fruits and vegetables as Tuesday is market day in town when the local farmers and artisans set up long tables and sell their goods. I sat down at “Le Bar” to have my usual – a cafe creme – and to watch the locals, and stoic George (who has worked in this cafe as long as I’ve been coming to the village) surprised me by coming over and kissing me on both cheeks. The owner of the Patisserie was more nonchalent. He greeted me, as if I had not been gone for a year, and slipped my croissant into a paper bag.

In the afternoon, Susan and Gill and I drove into Gaillac and shopped at LeClerc – a super sized supermarket – where we filled our cart with yoghurt and cheeses, fresh ham and chicken, water and wine – and then returned to the village. Bedding and Susan (and Maarten who arrived late) joined us for my welcome feast. Gill laid out our most beautiful tablecloth with napkins folded like flowers. The food – chicken and rice by Gill, salad by Susan, fruit salad by Bedding – was delicious, and the conversation – that Maarten noted was more feminist than he expected – was about love, marriage, and children. Susan instigated it because she had just spent two hours on the phone with her second son who is desolate: his wife has left with their two young sons. Although we were analytical last night, today I feel such sadness for them. I like them both. They are both gentle, considerate, intelligent people who seemed so in sync with each other.

Today, Gill and I borrowed Susan’s car again and went into to Gaillac to bank, to get car insurance, and toiletries – most important, suntan lotion. The weather is already hot and we have been told that the temperature will continue to rise (I hope not as much as two summers ago when the women attending the workshop could hardly bear to wear clothes – though the writing was deliciously steamy and Marlene forced us into Gaillac every evening to the air-conditioned LeClerc for ice-cream.)

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