My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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here again

What a marvellous city Montpellier is. Tonight, among other events, I have a choice of a free concert in a medieval church, a free lecture by writers at the library, perhaps something at the opera, I haven’t checked – and the newest Pedro Almadovar film at the Cineplex I went to last night – all of these choices a 5 minute walk away. Not to mention the urge to do a bit more shopping, which rest assured I will not do. When I came out of the art gallery this afternoon, I heard music on the long, wide, central promenade under the towering plane trees, and found a modern dance show on a padded platform. Two large middle-aged gentlemen in black – not your usual dance troupe.

It’s hard to resist shopping here, because most of the streets are lined with shops and all of them now are featuring sales. But I shopped no more. Well, I did go to check a great shoe store but found nothing in my size, natch.
This afternoon I went to the Musee Fabre, the art gallery of Montpellier. It’s huge, in a spacious old building, with modern art as well as the old stuff. But a lot is disappointing, a bit second-rate – the whole bottom floor seemed to be imitation Poussins, pastoral arcadian scenes but just not like his. It’s interesting to see art that’s a touch mediocre, to try to decide what the difference is between first rate and second rate and not even on the charts. Lots of the paintings were almost Hallmark-esque – the colours too bright, the light too harsh, cheeks too pink, skin too rosy, blues too blue and sentiment overflowing. Yet painted with great skill. But not great.
I wondered about the artists who painted Jesus as a blonde, both as an adorable golden-haired baby and a grown man. Here was a Jew born to Jews in the desert – just how many natural blondes are to be found there?
There was a marvellous painting of a woman called Clothilde de Surville, painted by Hillemacher in 1853. She was a fifteenth century poetess and mother; the painting showed her with her books on her right side and a bouncing baby cradled in her arm on her left, near a revealed breast. She’s looking at the baby, not the books. There’s a dog at her feet too, needing undoubtedly to be fed and walked and poop-scooped. “She was divided between writing and motherhood,” said the caption, and I thought, I’ve found my patron saint. Saint Clothilde forever!
Upstairs, much better stuff – Corot, Ingres, Courbet, a whole room of Bazille – who painted Renoir, who then painted him in return – great Impressionists, a few Monets, a lovely Matisse.
Then I went to a special exhibit on Alphonse Mucha, the man responsible for those long, lavish, art nouveau posters of Sarah Bernhardt and others. The exhibit was extensive and terrific, including two stunning film clips – one of Sarah Bernardt in Hamlet, duelling in black tights with tiny feet and a big sword as she talks and talks, and the death scene in La Dame aux Camelias in which she talks herself to death. She had a high little voice and took an inordinate amount of time flopping about, talking and dying. Thrilling to see one of the greatest actresses of all time – so often, acting is lost forever.
And then they showed a series of films taken by Thomas Alva Edison of the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 – Tom the American with his movie camera shooting from the elevator of the Eiffel Tower and at its base, horse-drawn carriages and omnibuses going by, the women with parasols and the men all in hats. Wonderful. Not that long ago, 1900, really. But in France, 1700, 1500, 1200 don’t seem that far away either.
I bought a half bottle of good wine at Nicolas, complaining to the man that in Canada it’s almost impossible to buy good wine in half bottles for us singletons. He sighed understandingly and showed me his superb selection. Then a delicious big salad from – where else? – Monoprix, and dinner is done. And then I’ll head for Almadovar; can’t resist good movies only steps away. Last night I saw an English movie with French subtitles and a French audience – sometimes I was the only one laughing. Tonight, a Spanish movie with French subtitles. Outside Julie’s window, as I write, clay red roofs, the bright blue sky even now, at 7, and the ever-present swallows.
I was homesick for a bit back there, but now, I’m 100% here.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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