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wind in my sales

If it’s Wednesday, this must be Montpellier. No mistral here – hot hot sun, wonderful. By July the hot hot sun might not be so wonderful, but after the chill of that aggressive Provencal wind, it’s great to feel some placid, soothing heat.

I’ve been complaining to you about having nowhere to put my weary head – well, not quite, but about the travails of actually RENTING – that is, finding a place to pay for when now I’m used to living rent-free. But here I am in a marvellous situation – I have two sets of keys. My friend Lynn’s place is small and cool but after 4 or 5 p.m., the noise level from the bar below begins to rise until it’s intolerable. My new friend Julie’s place is big and quiet. So yesterday I spent the day at Lynn’s and the evening and night at Julie’s. How ideal is that?
Julie’s is extraordinary, in a very old, dank building – huge rooms with ornate moulding on the ceiling and all around the doors and windows – giant windows they are, and giant closets and two fireplaces. For some reason, the bathroom – that is, the room with bath and sink- is just off the bedroom, and the toilet is at the other end of the apartment. C’est comme ca, en France. Julie left me yellow sticky notes all over the place, explaining how things work – very welcoming. What is wonderful about both places is that both women are linguists and thus most interested in words and have a great collection of books. I could sit in either for weeks and not move.
But instead last night was movie night. There’s a cineplex just three minutes away, equidistant from either place; last night I saw “Good Morning, England,” a Richard Curtis film about the success of the pirate boats playing rock music off the British coast in 1966. It features marvellous actors having the time of their lives – Philip Seymour Hoffman adorable as a grizzled American DJ, Bill Nighy superb as the boat’s owner, the always odd Rhys Ifans as the superstar D.J. in velvet coat and feathered hat, and poor Kenneth Branagh as the government stooge who’s out to sink the boat. It captures the joyful idiocies of the Sixties, the innocence, and most of all, the importance of that music and what it did for our souls. Highly recommended. Good time guaranteed.
And this morning, I did it, friends – I got through the famous Sales and survived. Yesterday I went to Galeries Lafayette to scope out the stuff, picked out a few things that interested me, and today, I confess I was there at 8 a.m. as the store opened – a special opening time for the first day of the Sales. People poured in. The longest line in the shopping centre, though, was outside a lingerie store – this is France, after all. I headed straight for the things I’d picked out, tried them on again to make sure – but today, unlike yesterday, they were 50% off. Bought them before the giant line-ups started at the cash and was done in 20 minutes. I went upstairs to lingerie – I am in France, after all – and after much trying found things in my size, but by now the line-up at the cash was impossible. I ascertained that there were several in my size and left, will return tomorrow morning. (It’s also five minutes away.)
I can see why Lynn waits for the sales; 50, 40, even 30 % off makes quite a difference. I did find my famous purple pants on sale, 30% off – if I’d waited two months I would have saved 30 euros but I have worn them lots in the meantime so I don’t mind. But when I bought the pants I tried on the t-shirt that went with them and decided I could wait till the sales. Bought the t-shirt yesterday.
As I am wont occasionally to say, woo hoo!
I got a free espresso on the way out – the shopping centre was advertising “petit dejeuner gratuit” but had run out of pain au chocolat. The coffee was good though, fuelling me for one more sortie to the main street five minutes away, where I looked at several things I’d noticed while shopping with Lynn last week. But they were not reduced enough to make them worth buying, so I desisted. There is the most perfect and wonderful scarf and I walked up and down in it again for a while, just my colours and the floatiest silk, but even on sale, it’s 75 euros. Just not within the realm of possibility for a scarf.
I am now in a completely different colour scheme – I’ve been wearing greens and blacks for a long time and now am plunged into purple and mauve – back to my teens in the late sixties when I wore almost exclusively purple. And the styles are from then too – the same puffy little tops and swirly dresses I wore then. What looked good at 18 does not necessarily look good at 58, though, and not just because the styles are too little girlie – I am in better shape, more accepting of my body now than I was then and see no reason to wear shapeless clothes. I spent my 20’s in maternity tops because I didn’t look like Twiggy. Not going back there, thank you very much.
So now it’s mid-morning, a whole day to explore Montpellier some more, and to work and read, and of course eat – the best bakery in France, I reminded myself yesterday, is just down the street, and I’d devoured half the loaf before it got home. The city is – the only word is festive, full of life – that impossibly grand Place de la Comedie with its ornate meringue opera hall at one end, and the narrow streets crammed with ancient buildings and great shops. Last night I walked back to Julie’s after the movie with almost as many people around me as at midday. Lots of “sans abri” – homeless kids, sleeping right on the streets with their dogs. This is a city almost entirely without sidewalks. I still find it hard to believe that the trams run right through the streets without any protection or elevation – you just watch out for them and get out of the way. We would never do that at home, too much risk of being sued. Here, they seem to assume you’re smart enough not to want to be run down by a tram. At home, we assume nothing of the sort.
Just admiring my new mauve tank top. I’m sorry to be so shallow. The world is a mess, the economy is a shambles and I’m at Galeries Lafayette at 8 a.m. to buy more unnecessary stuff, surrounded by thousands of people doing the same thing. My justification is that I don’t buy new clothes at home, almost entirely second-hand, and I won’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shop the sales in one of the two style centres of the planet. So if you see me looking particularly chic one day – in mauve – you will know: Montpellier, June 24th, 2009.
P.S. Many thanks to both Penny and Bruce who explained “rising bollards.” They’re posts that rise and fall if cars need or are blocked egress. I sort of suspected as much, but still, “rising bollards” is a marvellous phrase, is it not? It would make a good name for a rock band.

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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.

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