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Sunday afternoon after the feast

A broiling Sunday afternoon in sleepy Provence – no one is stirring but the crowds of tourists wandering around the Gordes village square looking for some shade. The locals have had their big Sunday lunch with wine and are taking it easy until the heat passes.

As are Denis and I. Or at least je. Yesterday I walked down to the village to buy this week’s “Elle” – one of my thrills of the week – and some groceries, and at the epicerie I ran into Marie-Jo, a friend since my first stay in Gordes in 1979. Her husband Jean is – was, he is now in his eighties and retired – a potter of renown, who made the loveliest smooth simple shapes in bowls, platters, dishes and vases. Their house is one of the loveliest I’ve ever visited. They live below Gordes on the flat plain, in a huge place they renovated from a barn to a modern dwelling, white stucco inside with high ceilings and ancient beams and also full of beautiful shapes – vases, big and small glass bottles of various colours, statues, antiquities, art; everything, though stunning, is simple and unpretentitious. Their main dining-room is outside under the trees, the table a big rectangular slab of stone covered with slate; guests sit on benches which are stone slabs covered with cushions, and above, lanterns with candles hang from a long piece of old wood. The view on all sides of the plains and mountains of the Luberon is spectacular.
Shortly after my arrival here on a visit in the 80’s we were invited for lunch there, and I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and the quality of the food that I began to … you guessed it … cry. I was so grateful to my father that he once forced me to learn French, so that now I could not only enjoy France but tell people so. Over and over, ad nauseam, I suspect.
In the village, yesterday, Marie-Jo and I had a reunion after ten years, catching up on our children and current lives, and later that day, she called to invite Denis and me for lunch today. Quelle joie. She is a beautiful women in her seventies with warm blue eyes and fine cheek-bones, and Jean is hearty and full of life. The couple have never been to North America but don’t miss much that happens nearby. As we took an aperitif sitting in wicker chairs in a shady nook deeper in the garden, there was much discussion about solar power and other alternative energies – why art schools aren’t asking their students to create solar panels that are not only functional but beautiful. That would of course be of interest to Jean and Marie-Jo, because every single thing in their house and its surroundings is beautiful.
Then, á table, eating on Jean’s platters and plates first a variety of cold salads, then hot chicken with quinoa, then cheese, fig tart (figs from the tree nearby) with ice-cream and finally espresso, we discussed books, films, mutual friends, work, travel and the upcoming Avignon Festival which is featuring a play by Wajdi Mouawad, who’s the Director of French theatre at the National Arts Centre and very big here. I was about as happy as it’s possible to be, to sit with these cultivated, generous, lively people under their sweeping trees, looking at the vista of Provence on a July Sunday and listening to interesting talk. Merci encore une fois, mon père.
The problem after a lunch like that is what to do with the rest of the day when it’s 34 degrees and your stomach and brain are full of food and wine. I’m sitting in my cool room with the shutters closed and will soon have a quick swim to see if I can wake myself up.
Maybe I’ll just settle down on the sofa with “Elle,” to read their in-depth articles on the new popularity of Jennifer Aniston and the make up hints of Scarlett Johansen. I think I might be capable of that.
PS Just sat through an entire French news program, on and on about local elections, some soccer person who died, the Tour de France (Lance is 10th), Michael Jackson’s funeral and a tour of Neverland, the fact that Madonna paid homage to him last night in London, floods in Vietnam, a serial killer in the U.S. – and then finally, news of Wimbledon.
GO ROGER!!!!!!! My mother the tennis junkie must have been glued to her chair for that entire last agonising set. An hour and a half! I’m concerned about her heart. What a thrill.
Okay, that’s it for my interest in sports. Except that I’ll have to follow the Tour de France, a bit, since the papers will be carrying nothing but.
Highly recommended: a column in the New York Times today by Bob Herbert, about the reality of who Michael Jackson really was and the society that produced him.
And … despite this paradise, I am sleeping badly. Either I open my windows at night and all kinds of insects get in, including grasshoppers the size of small mice who bounce terrifyingly, or I leave the windows closed and am stifled but feel relatively secure. Fear of insects is something I’ve fought all my life with limited success. The other night, four huge beetles with pincers were circling around the house sounding like small helicopters, I kid you not. And inside the house, Daddy Longlegs everywhere, grasshoppers, spiders, centipedes and an occasional, apparently, scorpion which I’ve not had the pleasure to encounter. The stuff of nightmares for a phobic.
But the cheese is really, really good.



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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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