Europe

A Gentle Reminder of the Wasting of Time.


Wednesday, September 1st, 2004: St Jean de la blaquiere, France

Hot and sunny weather greets us today as we get the scoop on the surrounding area over breakfast from our host Yann. We are in the region of Languedoc Roussillon and it seems to be the hot spot for real estate and tourists. In our small village of St. Jean de la blaquiere, we count 3 pools at least. St. Jean is the quintessential French hamlet, a very small square surrounded by small, pretty stone houses, one very narrow street and a church. No grocery store or pharmacy but three pools! Real estate is being snapped up in Montpellier and many of the small towns surrounding seem to have British or Belgian owners. We actually hear English spoken in the supermarche in the nearby town. This is grape growing country and we are surrounded by vineyards and the thick, purple-blue bunches of grapes are just asking to be picked. Indeed, we have already heard the “grape trucks” pass up our lane into the fields and vineyards beyond.

The afternoon is entirely by the pool. A couple of good books, the new Lonely Planet guide to Spain (and one for France for our return in three weeks), the Herald Tribune crossword puzzle and we are set. The tinny bell of the church in St. Jean de la blaquiere is the only reminder of the wasting of time. A gentle and soothing pealing of the hours as they pass from three to four to five o’clock and beyond.

Tonight we sit in the gathering darkness, punctuated only by the rising moon over the mountains across our valley. We play satellite bingo, a game where you sit in a deck chair and with a glass of wine or a beer, stare up into the sky and try and spot the fast moving satellites as they cross the night sky. Points are awarded for every confirmed sighting and shooting stars (harder to confirm) are the ultimate prize. At this time of year we usually have a game going perched on the upper decks of John’s cousin Jim and Joanne’s cottage in the Madawaska Highlands near Calabogie, Ontario, Canada or on the dock, in fleeces and PJs, on the Big Island at Bluesea Lake in Maniwaki, Quebec, sharing our annual Labour Day last hurrah weekend with our friends Bob, Brian and Bill.

We try to explain Labour Day to our fellow guests, Gerard and Craig, Gilles and Jean- Michel, comparing it to France’s May 1 holiday which to me signals the beginning of a summer of vacations, beaches and fun. Labour Day is the end of summer, back to work and school. The fun and sun are done for another 8 months. I am feeling somewhat nostalgic this weekend. Labour Day somehow signals the beginning of the end of our year-long journey; the end of followingsummer, of getting back to work and reality (although this is not really for another 4 months).

We think about our friends and family, old and new, back home and scattered abroad and around the world and what they are doing this Labour Day weekend, a world-weary melancholy punctuating this seasonal change.

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