Saturday, 27 July 2013

The South of France - Le Midi

My writing group always gives me ideas. This time a door was opened into a chunk of my childhood which smells of Ambre Solaire and the very hot, dry sand at the private beach of St Tropez in the 70's. Wow, the sand was so hot. I'd have to almost dance across it, then it was just as hot on the wooden walkways, also partly covered with sand.

The house of my great aunt and uncle had a 'cave', ie a wine cellar. I was taken down there once. This blog post reminded me of that. It was damp and cool. What a great place to have as a back up if it all got too hot. Somehow the house always had cool places though. It must have been designed for the summers. The floors were tiled and the corridors were always shady and slightly dusty and cobwebby.

There was a garage down the slope which didn't have a car in it, but was for playing ping pong. I didn't fancy that, but it was cool there too.

My great uncle, Oncle Pierre, used to go out with the hose and water the base of the big shrubs all around the house each morning. I wonder whether he did it in the evening too, or am I getting mixed up and he only did it in the evening.

There was a path with trees and more shade down to the pool area. beside the pool there was a modern, stone built guest house with a kitchen/bar for drinks and having lunch with a built in barbeque oven in the wall. Behind there were loos and showers. How amazingly luxurious and civilised this all sounds. Rather James Bond. I stayed in the little guest room once I was 16, old enough not to drown in the night. When I was younger I knew that my grandmother, Raymonde, my great aunt's sister, stayed in that building and it sounded very mysterious. The window was made of thick pieces of glass, all different colours. So being in there was peaceful and beautiful, particularly during the sleeping time after lunch each day, when the day light came through.

The glasses used at table were quite different from in Paris. They were thick and of different colours. The glass was uneven and had bubbles in it. What a thrill! When I was older and spent time with my great aunt in Paris she explained how you wear different clothes in the 'Midi', ie the South of France and couldn't wear them back in Paris. I guess that went for cutlery, glasses etc. The whole life style was a break from the precise requirements of the capital. Village life here is not the same as London...

There was a whole wall of book cases in the main open plan reception room, filled with art books and magazines. For some reason I didn't look at them, maybe they were for adults and too good for children to handle and 'abimer', spoil or ruin. Running up between the bookcases and the wall was a staircase with hard steps, going up to the corridor for the bedrooms.

It is amazing how I can remember all these details. It feels so close, as if I could just walk into these scenes. I have no wish for travel at the moment, nothing could compare to these glimpses of the past anyway. Village life has its own sensations I don't have to travel for, just breathe in as they happen.

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