Give Me The Simple Life - A week in Gué Bas

There is a giant black bug crawling across the carpet and it's so big, I can't be sure what it is. Last night, there was a spider the size of my fist on the wall beside my bed. My face is covered in mosquito bites and the bees here are the size of birds. If I were in the city right now, I'd be calling an exterminator.

But I'm not. I'm in Heaven. And here, I'm in good company.

A couple weeks ago, it was decided that my apartment would be painted this week. After three long years in the place, the owner has decided to put it up for sale and we're getting it into tip top shape for 'la vente'. In the meantime, I'm homeless and on holidays. What to do? Maison de Campagne, Basse Normandie, thanks to my sweetheart and his father who have arranged for me to have the place to myself for the week to work on my book.

It's hard to explain the euphoria of being in a place this beautiful and rustic and perfect in words but I'll try.

I get up at seven. The sun is shining through the bedroom and I write best in the morning. Get the coffee going. Add Baileys. One cigarette and I'm off. If I'm lucky I'll be able to complete a whole chapter by nine. It's so easy to write when it's quiet. When the phone doesn't ring. There's no better accompaniment to the sounds of birds singing than a little Motzart.

Never in the city would I have 40 pages done before 9 AM. No way. Maybe I'd have blewn my hair dry and on a good day, taken a half hour to pick out something to wear.

At nine, I come into the kitchen and make breakfast. Two fried eggs, four pieces of bacon, one croissant, a small glass of fruit juice, a yogourt and half of a grapefruit in the garden. Maybe I'll do some editing, maybe I'll read. Either way, I need more coffee. More Baileys and one more cigarette before I bathe.

I might as well be bathing in the lake, this bathroom is that perfect. Stone walls, stone tub, I wash my hair and comb it and get dressed. Clothes I like to wear not something to blend in with the rest of the Parisians. Jogging pants. Overalls. Tank tops. Straw hats and flips flops. I let the sun dry my hair and try to get some yardwork done before it's time to get back at it. Pick dandelions, water the field, talk to the cows for a while.

Then inside to write while I get lunch ready. It's too sunny to see the screen from the big wooden table in the garden and anyway, I've probably got a sunburn as it is. A ham and cheese sandwich will do or maybe a salad with peppered goat's cheese, shallots and tomatoes.

I should have a nap. I know it because I'm feeling so good, I'm certain to have sweet dreams but there's a tv with a satellite and there is the option of changing the language to English. It's been so long since I've seen a show in English, I can't resist.

Then, back at it. I've got the place set up for writing. All my research spread about on the table, beside it, an owl feather and a rope. Symbols of the demise of my hero. An Oxford dictionary and a Roget's thesaurus. A little more coffee, maybe a coke and I'm good to go for a few hours more. Until it's time to get dinner ready. You would think that I'd be depressed writing about death and suicide all day but I'm not. I'm alive and I'm happy and my fingers can't help but pump out page after page. In Heaven there are no telephones, no interruptions, no responsibility. Writer's Block begone!

Around six o'clock, I take a break and lay in the sunshine, taking in the property, listening to the birds sing and the cows moo. I'm reading Proust at the moment which fits perfectly as it's about a region just a ways from here. It talks about Chartres and its famous Cathedral I visited one afternoon when I had a free train ticket and no idea where to take a day trip because Paris was all I knew of France. I imagine Combray being not unlike this place.

I take my MP3 player outside and the mini speaker I bought so I could use my new iPod this winter while my dad and I took a long drive to Ottawa. Motzart seems appropriate. I play it loudly because it reminds me of being in church. The best church on Earth. I am in God's land now. The cows hear the music and come to see what all the fuss is about. I imagine they don't get much excitement in their short lives before becoming dinner – steak haché, entrecote, bifteck. They come right to the fence and look me in the eye as though they recognize me or the music I can't be sure. I smile and wave 'hello', not because I'm strange but because it's probably the closest I've ever been or will ever be to these beasts, my asthma having always kept me at bay from such magestic places. There aren't many farmhouses to visit that don't contain at least one farmer who works among the dander. Then, all at once, to the music, the cows gallop off for feeding time. The bees are getting feisty too and the mosquitos are rampant. I should go inside and get dinner ready.

I marinated the meat in the morning with onions and salt and pepper and wine so that by dinner time the meat would be perfectly tender. I'll boil some potatoes and steam some vegetables and I'm all set. I set up the table in the garden, even though I know that I'll be hounded by the bugs, I can't stand the thought of missing out on the sun tucking behind the long trees over the hill and the orange glow of the sun on the castle up the way. A little glass of wine and everything is perfect.

After dinner, before the sun sets, I'll take a walk. Down the garden path and up the quiet country road which is interrupted only every half hour or so by a passing car or tractor on their way home for dinner or back to the little villages they've come from. The roads are lined with all manner of beauty, butterflies, brown squirrels, fields of gold and purple and green. Across the road there is the guardian's house. I contemplate taking the pathway to explore but I retrace my steps when I hear a strange sound in the bush, knowing that I haven't got a hope in Hell against any animal with my allergies or my inability to run fast. I opt to stay on the country road until I arrive at a little cemetery with tombs that date back to the 16th century and a gate worth the jaunt from the house. Before the sun sets, around 20h30, I should be back at the house. I don't know the area well enough to explore at night and despite the infinite beauty, I am terrified of coming upon someone who is unkind or worse an animal in search of dinner. Having been in a city so long, I feel out of my element in Heaven and am far more accustomed to the brutalities of Hell, or Paris, as they like to call it these days.

I watch the sun and the moon trade places around 21h. It is beautiful and soon I will retreat back into the house to set up again for an evening session of typing. There are things to edit, others to finish but anyhow, I'm getting nearer to the end and it's exciting to see your project come together. It's exciting to piece together a year's work page by page until you realize you've got more than three-hundred on your hands. This time I'll back it up. This time I'll back it up twice.

I write until my eyes are too tired to keep going or until there is a good movie on the television. While my steak was cooking, I've peeled the leftover apples and covered them in butter and sugar and crumbled some Petit Bruns on top. I'll stick it in the oven and enjoy my little treat before bedtime. I know I probably shouldn't but there is nothing quite as fun as watching a thriller when you're alone without a vehicle in a house out of the way of civilization and public transport.

Sometime before midnight, I turn the heat down in the living room and up in the bedroom, lights out, apart from a little reading lamp beside the sleigh bed with satin sheets and a down comforter. Again, probably not the best way to call on nice dreams but still good to stay on topic, I'll read about suicide or some other philosophical text from the vast library that Michael's father calls the Living Room. And then, when the moon is bright and high enough to bring the outdoors in, I'll sneak out one last time in the darkness to soak in the starry sky to smoke a cigarette and to watch Orion's belt come undone. I've never seen the stars so clearly in all my life. Afterwards, I'll come back inside, turn out all the lights and close my eyes while I listen to the frogs sing their songs until the birds stand-in at dawn. It's been so long since I've known quiet like this that I manage to sleep through the night without waking up. No drunks throwing things at my window; no women being harassed by five men down the road at five AM; no punks screaming from below begging me to invite them up. Just me and the moon and the stars and the snakes and the mice and the bugs. And that's enough.

Thank you to Michael and Viorel who made this week possible. It meant more to me than I can even say.

Needless to say, I feel like I've spent a week in Heaven and feel revived. Here, with all its maginificent creatures and sounds and lights and colours and tomorrow, when I board the train at Nogent-Le-Routrou, while I'm sipping a café allongé in the little bar just outside la Gare, it will be hard to bade adieu to Gué Bas. Hoping that the next visit isn't too far off because I could definitely get used to this.

And as for the book, no, it's not quite done but it's very close and I can't wait to see 'ce que ca donne!'

If this is what life could be, I want to live forever.

Bisous a tous.

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