I began my day by walking to the market in the village centre and ordering ‘un demi-poulet fermier,’ or half of a farm chicken. Verity highly recommends them. You order in the morning, and they roast the chickens in the side of this van with a rotisserie built into it. A few hours later, you come pick up your hot, roasted chicken (or in my case, half). While they roast the chickens, they roast potato wedges below the chickens, so all of the herby-greasy-chicken-fat bastes the potatoes. I learned you need to order those, too – I asked about the ‘pommes de terre’ and the woman said, ‘we don’t have enough, you have to order those, too – next week.’ (In French.) Not unfriendly, but matter-of-fact. So, next time, I will order my potatoes with my chicken.
So of course, I went home and mauled the chicken. YUM.
But in between, I went to church.
I’m enjoying the regularity of the Mass, the predictability of it as well as the variation. I still get completely lost when they sing and I don’t know the page number, and I think it’s quite interesting that there seem to be long pieces that everyone sings without looking in the hymn book, as well as bits which even I can figure out are the equivalent to the ‘Our Father’ recitations and those sorts of thing. There are certain parts where people cross themselves, and then other parts where they make little mini-crosses over their mouth or chest. At times, some people kneel, but not everyone, and at other times, everyone stands. I quite like not knowing the significance of all of it, and trying to figure it out, or just absorbing it.
It’s also incredibly sweet that at the end of the Mass, Marius says to everyone, ‘have a good Sunday,’ in French, and then says in English, ‘and Kelley, have a nice Sunday,’ and then, to the German girl who is visiting, in German, ‘have a good Sunday.’ (I can’t remember her name, but he remembers it.) And possibly my favourite part, at the end: When Marius and the alter boy kneel briefly and bow their heads towards the altar, Marius is holding a big glass jar full of sweets, which he then takes to the door and gives to everyone (mostly the kids,) as they leave. It’s just too cute. I chose some huge, pink, sticky, strawberry-flavoured thing and worried about my teeth.
I saw Ilona, and Gabrielle and Jean, and Francoise and Jean, and about four other people whose names I can’t remember but who remember me, and who ask after Verity, (who calls every few days for updates,) and I made sure my plans with Ilona were clear for later in the week, and figured out the times for Christmas Mass, which I think my mom would enjoy.
Then, I stepped out into the sunshine and tried to start my Vespa.
It takes awhile to start it from cold, and I’d only ridden it down to the church, so it wouldn’t start right away. I’ve begun to accept this, so I don’t get too nervous if it doesn’t start on the first kick (or fifth, or tenth) kick. It usually takes a few tries. Rather, if it does start on the first kick, I’m mildly ecstatic.
So it wouldn’t start. A gaggle of people from the church, who were chatting in the parking lot, turned to look. Some of them knew me a little, and I tried to reassure them – ‘pas probleme!’ – but they started murmuring amongst themselves, fretting. (The average age here was probably 80.) Some advice was given (in French). I took off my helmet, which inexplicably seems to help me start the Vespa. It’s probably because I can hear the engine better.
Everyone cried ‘Ahh!’ and burst into applause. I bowed.
It was only 11am, so I turned left out of the church parking lot, which I’d never done before, and rode down a gorgeous, winding road, over two little bridges, and then up, up, out of the river valley. When I got to where the road connects with the (ever-so-slightly-larger) N7, which would take me to Mandelieu, I turned around. Down, down, down, over the bridges, then up, up up…past the church, through the sunshine, and to the village centre, where I picked up my warm, roasted, demi-poulet.
By noon, I was back at the house, arms akimbo over my chicken whilst Gaston army-crawled across the table trying, unsuccessfully, to ‘sneak up on me’ while I ate. Even a 19-year-old cat just can’t resist the scent of roast chicken. He seemed completely gutted when I ate all of my portion (the rest safely in the fridge,) and whisked my plate away without giving him a nibble. (He’s now sitting next to me, but with his back decidedly to me, and it’s well past dinnertime!)
I settled at my little table outside in the afternoon sun, to thrash out a pantoum for the poetry play. I wrote two poems, grappling with the form of the pantoum, writing and re-writing and re-writing again. I’m still uncertain of the result. As I write this play in verse, and as the story moves along, I’m trying to weave in echoes of earlier poems with later ones, so themes come out, hopefully in eerie ways. I’m also interested in how difficult (or not) it may be to write the darkest poems of a tragic play when I’m in such a sunny, positive place. I might need to finish this in the gloom of London.
Finally, after sunset, I began to close up the house and the shutters. During the sunny, warm part of the day, I’ll turn off the heaters and open the windows to air the house out. Once the sun goes down it gets pretty chilly, so I’ll close the shutters and the windows and turn on the heater in the main room (living/dining room,) and my bedroom. As I moved to shut the window overlooking the valley, I gasped at a gorgeous sliver of crescent moon. The fingernail of light glowed, revealing the faint full circle of the moon. Jupiter shone bright beneath, over the dark valley.