Wednesday, June 13, 2012

without a plan

It is truly amazing how easy it is to rid yourself of the constraints of what was. The time of sleep, of eating, of playing, the time of reposing, of having your coffee if that is your pleasure, or wine, if you are French or not French and yet that is your delight – the spacing of it all can be changed. Easily. You wake up one morning and suddenly, you are free to step into a new format. Only to reconfigure it again the next day.

Ed had been up half the night watching British war videos. In the midst of this comes an email with some news from his litigation of several years ago (remember that?) and he nudges me to see if I’m awake. I am now awake.  We spend quite a while talking about it (it’s a good outcome, though we can’t shake the thought that it was one big waste of time and money). By daybreak, we’re asleep again.

Not for long. At least not for me. He continues to breathe rhythmically in the way that you do only when you’re soundly out.  I stay quiet. I snatch bits of time like this to edit, to post. But it is getting late and if there is one thing at all that keeps us on some kind of schedule, it’s the baker’s stockpile. Show up past 10 and you may or may not find a pain au chocolat. Show up past 11 and you certainly wont find a pain au chocolat and most likely wont find any baguettes either.

So this time I’m nudging and prodding and he slowly wakes and then we get distracted with a discussion of economics again and bang! It’s nearly 11.

There is yet another reason to hurry: this is the last of the unstable weather days and according to the maps all good things will dominate the morning and all wet and stormy things will (maybe) roll in later in the afternoon.

And, too, it’s Tuesday. Sorède’s market day.

You can readily tell it’s market day here. People are out and about with baskets and shopping bags and they have this French habit of using the market as an occasion to stop and talk. So you see small clusters up and down the road. After all, three whole days have passed since the last market (Sorède has two market days each week).

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Okay, past the blooming oleanders, past the bridge over the now quiet river...

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... to the nearly empty bakery where the assistant – yes, you may recognize her from last year – is selling the very last loaves of bread.

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We are in time! We take the next to last baguette and the very last two pains!

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Because it’s market day and the market takes place on the lower square, we eat our breakfast (meaning we order my coffee) at the lower square café (yes, okay, I think of it as the lesser café, except on market day when its tables are perfectly positioned to watch the activity before you).



And eventually we shop. Or, I shop. Ed has long ago realized that watching me fuss over a tomato or, worse, a carrot is boring.  So he reads his book while I fuss over vegetables.


I’m like this woman – I choose with care.

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What am I picking out? Well, the standbys: thin green beans, strawberries, carrots, yes, those, and tomatoes. And endives. And, for that once a year treat – white asparagus.

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I consider the artichokes – there are so many! Purple small ones, green large ones, purple large ones, in bundles, stand alone... But buying everything all in one day is foolish. There’ll be other markets.

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At the checkout, the woman hands out sprigs of parsley for free if you ask for some. My kind of parsley buying. A bundle is usually too much. A few sprigs keeps things fresh.

It’s past noon now and you’d expect us to be thinking lunch on the terrace thoughts, debating loudly perhaps which of the cheeses to take out and if there is enough bread, given the fact that Ed has chomped off a whole big end piece while I was shopping. But no.  I point to the clouds forming in the mountains and the sun that is still at this moment coming through above us and we agree that it’s worth ditching lunch for a quick swim in the sea. Up the hill, into our clunker and away we go!


But to which beach?

A close one, a quiet one, a familiar one. The gay beach!

We found it last year, by chance. A terribly rutted dirt road – one that makes you wonder if you’re taking the undersides off of your rented car – makes its way to the shore. Sort of secretly, or at least without signs or any indication of what’s there at the end.

What is at the end is a wild stretch of sand and what’s especially beautiful is that this is where a river runs to the sea. The swirl of waters at the point where this happens is, in my opinion, quite beautiful.


Coincidentally, we noticed last year that there were not a small number of naked men walking around. So we call it the gay beach.

On this day, it was on the cool side of warm. The clouds were indeed threatening and so the number of people on the sands was especially low. And I should say, this is not a designated nudist beach – they have those elsewhere. This one is simply a come as you wish beach from what I can figure out. So that on all beaches in France it is acceptable to go topless. And many (though not all) do. But on this beach we stumble upon a couple that has their tops on against the wind, but they are bottomless. And then there are those who are completely bundled up against the cold. And then there are the men, evenly tanned, without any clothing lines on any part of their quite sportif bodies.

Though actually most of the activity is on the other side of the river. On our side, it is quite bare. In the “lack of people” meaning of the word.


And if ever there was a splendid sight I would say this ranks among the great ones – the  contrast of clouds against mountains, of blue sky against the sea – all this taking place before us as we bend our backs against the hefty wind that nearly always seems to blow through here.


Ed hesitates just for a few minutes. Swim or not swim. The clouds are taking hold, the water is as it was the other day – warm enough after the first minute or so. He cannot resist. Plunge! ...while I amuse myself balancing on driftwood.


After a while, he’s done. As we make our way to our clunker, the sun pokes through the clouds and it really appears that it might be with us for at least a handful of minutes.
If it had been sunny while you were swimming, I would have joined you, I say to Ed.
So go now.
No, no, that’s okay, we’re done.
No, go now! I’ll wait.
Should I?
Yes, you should.

We spin around and within a minute I am in the water and it is bouncy with waves, deep at the shoreline, perfectly wonderful, thrilling in fact, there in the bright sunlight – only fleetingly with us, long enough for me to have this most fantastic swim.


Home. Time to head home. The familiar road past vineyards, with the view toward the great Roussillon plane.


Up the twisty road to our place, where bread and cheese (and finally - olives!) are waiting...

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It’s a very late lunch. Followed by a wonderful snooze (it’s not night... Does it matter?).

In the evening we walk down to the Charcouterie (translate: deli, sort of) on the square. This is a new discovery for us. I bought anchovies here the other day and I noticed that madame also serves her own prepared foods. I’m asking her about the Catalan paella from last Sunday. No no, I don’t do that every day. Only on Sundays. Actually every other Sundays. Unless I decide to do something else altogether. A woman with a mind of her own. Today she is featuring Catalan chicken and Catalan rice.  Sounds to us like a perfect supper. Two portions please.

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Such a stunning, absolutely stunning day.