Here in Queaux the rain is rasping against my window like somebody is cleaning it with a wire brush. Rattling the shutters and unsettling my mood as it howls in from the Auvergne. Crashing into my room like an unwanted guest.
‘You’re not from round here,’ I cried as it got up off the floor and brushed itself down. ‘We’re used to more refined types you know,’ I continued. ‘ Sun and warm southerly breezes like we had two weeks ago.’
The weather replied in its low grating French voice as though it had swallowed a box of rusty tools. ‘That’s all gone now, Englishman. It’s not all hot croissants in France. This year, Monsieur Anglais, we’re going to freeze your balls off. Think you can come here, live in our beautiful houses for nothing, write some foppish novel about the death of the great English Bank Holiday piss-up and then bugger off back. Eh?’
I gave him a few glass of Cotes de Duras and bid him farewell with a demand to see better weather soon.
‘In your dreams, Englishman,’ he cried and disappeared off to the Dordogne to annoy the Dutch.
This was all after my morning stroll to The Pond which I do everyday before I sit down to work on my ‘foppish’ novel. Only today I was caught. Elizabeth photographing me mid pose in all my pomposity as I surveyed it from the jetty.
Viewing it later I was shocked by how utterly transformed I had become by wellingtons, a pair of tight beige chinos and a seventies style polo neck I once wore skiing. Contrast this with one taken in Lyon last year and it made me wonder what was happening to me here high on the levels of Queaux. A transformation from a smart jobbing English teacher to a pompous ass ‘overseeing his kingdom, so no stranger does intrude’, as was the song I was singing in The Pond in the summer.
‘No, Oggers, it’s the same person. I always knew you wanted to be part of the aristocracy!’
It was a fancy dress party in Lyon I ensure you. But a fine example of what happens when a teacher is transported from his natural habitat, the city, to the wilds. He mutates from a humble man into a Lord. Judge for yourselves. Ha!
* oversee(ing) his kingdom, so no stranger does intrude’. B. Dylan – One more cup of coffee.
Events unfold and you have to go with the flow. ‘A twig on the mighty storm’ as John Candy said. Haircuts, facial growth, matching attire, rules and regulations all go out of the window. No rent, no income, no tax, no benefits, no bills. Just the freedom to write a novel with the money I saved up last year. No distractions. No bars. No cafes. No people.
Hard for a city type like me, I admit. But only hard because I’ve never had so much space. Never not paid rent. Never had the time to actually sit down from day-to-day and write my Godforsaken book, which, I assure you isn’t about the death of the great English Bank Holiday piss-up.
All the writing I’ve ever done before, I’ve had to cram in between things like work, socialising, interviews, appointments, signing on, family. Racing quickly to finish a piece before having to take part in life.
Here, writing is my life. It’s impossible to be antisocial here, because there is no social. There is nothing. Except to write and play a few Bob Dylan songs in a bone dry pond in summer.