France. Written 10th July 2017.
It’s grey and gloomy here in London, last night’s crackling, lightning-laced storm having done little to lift the coat of humidity wrapped around London. My colleagues and I indulged in gelato at lunchtime to ease the heat and I’m gulping down mugs of honey, lemon and ginger tea to lift my own personal fog – the common cold – which arrived this morning. So what better time, then, to talk about nice places, pretty places, about good French grub, and doorstops of cheese? I could certainly do with a jot of escapism on this congested Wednesday (the city and my sinuses, both).
I’ve been pondering this blog lately, and why I still write here (albeit sporadically), how its idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies niggle me but how I also reject the notion of blogs (personal ones, at least) being slick and shiny, the life hoovered out of them like the gentrified neighbourhoods of sprawling metropolises. I still want to write here primarily to remember and for my love of scribbling brief epigrams, not in the hope of achieving a grand plan to reach online stardom. I hope you don’t mind the imperfections. There might be typos, or ramblings, or pictures a little out of focus. But I like to think you wouldn’t mind. I hope you’ll hang around?
Anyway, on to the real business. De l’authentique, should we say. When in France. My auntie and uncle (she French by marriage, he by birth) have lived in France since before I was born and my aunt has always seemed more French to me than English. I like to think part of my fascination with languages European stems from listening, as a child, as she switched breezily from French to English and back again in seconds. A few years ago they moved from a grey, drizzly, not-too-dissimilar-to-England town in the northwestern corner of France to a sun-drenched suburb of Bordeaux. And this is what a few days there looks like, a few days in July. Endless baguettes smeared with thick, salted butter and confiture de cerises; swimsuits crisping up in the afternoon sun; forests of etiolated hydrangeas, coloured rose by the alkaline soil; wheels upon wheels of cheese cheese cheese; Japanese-inspired feasts prepared by cousin Sébastien; our hire bikes looping around quiet, gravel tracks; stellate freckles blooming on our cheekbones; dry stone buildings and the promise of cool, unlit rooms within. These hazy, sun-drenched recollections inspire sadness as well as joy for I can’t help but think: this is what we will lose, in part, leaving Europe. This, and much more – the contrast so close, the wealth of difference just beyond our shores. I hope we’ll go back this summer.