Places, Writing and Books

66 – Sunrise over Mont D’Or

8.02 on a bright November morning. I’m sitting twenty storeys up in The Tower waiting for my student to arrive. The sun rising above Fourvière washes the Mont D’Or in a soothing honeycombed light. Just visible in the distance is The Rhone bloated from the heavy autumn rainfall of the weekend. Cycling across Le Pont Servient this morning I saw logs decorated with foliage, birds and branches hitching rides on the back of the swollen river. The trees that line its course glow with a mix of psychedelic yellow, marmalade orange and Madras red. Wild colours that when illuminated by the tentacled rays of the sun possess more vividness and depth than any computer generation.

8.17. It could be a no-show. Not unusual for a Monday morning: first day back after the school holidays, smoker’s-artery clogged roads, mysterious autumn illnesses, winter sadness, double bookings, strikes. It could be all of the above or none. She could be dead. There’s no way of knowing. The phone might ring with a student at the other end of the line wrapped in blankets, sucking on lemons, coughing into a disease ridden handset. But no one would know. Teachers aren’t allowed to answer the phones and the admin staff are still in bed. There’s nobody to check the emails for cancellations either. So I just sit here looking out of the window waiting for the morning to unravel. It suits me fine.

8.32. As the sun rises higher above Fourvière, the houses of the Mont D’Or start to catch fire. One by one they ignite and explode, firing off rich veins of orangey light all over the city like lasers shot from a spaceship. The bigger the house, the greater the illusion. Every morning these steel and glass structures, as bright as a million candles, act as giant reflectors for the light deprived city dwellers below. As the sun begins to arc over towards St. Just the lightshow reaches its peak and the whole hillside appears on fire. Billions of Euro’s worth of property up in flames for a few short minutes until it passes and the wealth and opulence is restored.

9.12. I hear the admin staff in the reception cackling on about their weekend frivolities, but no one comes to tell me anything. I may as well not be here. Even when I’ve got a student in front of me, one eye’s always on the blazing hillside over yonder. The advantage of having stereoscopic vision. One eye on my work, the other gazing into the distance. Trying to avoid bringing them together into sharp focus for fear of exposing the hard realities of existence. By concentrating on two unrelated objects or ideas at all times, I can forget the terrifying truth that I will be forty in eighteen months time.

9.24. She’s got six minutes left. Even if she turned up now, she wouldn’t have time to drink her complimentary coffee before I asked her to leave. Last year a student turned up an hour and twenty minutes late demanding a full lesson. Even though I was free for the rest of the day, I declined: ‘I like getting up at six-thirty in the morning to sit in a room on my own for 80 minutes,’ was my closing line before I bid him good day and left him watching a slamming door.

9.30. The sun is as high as it will get today before plunging into the Croix Rousse at around 5.30 this evening. I will see the same spectacle as I did this morning while waiting for my evening class, only in reverse. The houses on St. Just will shine before the dying embers of the day starve them of fuel. The trees lining the river will lose their autumnal glow and slowly fade to grey and then black. All that will be left will be the last rays of the day reflecting off the golden angel high above the Fourvière cathedral.

9.35. I pack up my things, mark the student as absent in my register and head out to find some breakfast. On passing through the reception, one of the admin staff informs me that the student cancelled on Friday so I needn’t have come in. I thank her for this now useless information and head out into the November sunshine.

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