The autumn light is fading fast, it’s just turned seven in the evening and the town of Sainte Suzanne is falling silent.
This is the most important time of the week for many, as families gather for the Friday evening meal and the start of the weekend. I take the opportunity to enjoy a quiet stroll around the almost deserted streets and alleys to soak in the atmosphere and simply enjoy the still warm evening.
Earlier, Guillaume had tapped furtively on the kitchen window and handed me two large hens eggs.
“De vos oiseaux?” From your birds? I had asked.
“Mais non, de la ferme, aujourd’hui!” He grinned and tapped his nose. The provenance of the eggs is affirmed, but no more questions are asked! In exchange I give him a jar of Mrs Dookes’ home made strawberry jam and he is delighted. Last seen he was heading off towards the local Tabac and Bar, it is Friday evening!
I turn into the main square and as I cross in front of the church one of the priests emerges. I wish him good evening.
“Vous n’étiez pas en masse!” You weren’t in mass! He comments.
“Non, je ne suis pas un Catholique.” No, I’m not a Catholic, I declare.
“Je suis désolé!” I am sorry! He smiles back.
We part friends, but somehow that meeting has given me a quiet inner glow. Maybe the greater power does work in mysterious ways…I don’t know.
I pass a old lady walking with her cat, really! As is polite, we bid each other “Bon soir’, the cat watches me suspiciously as I amble off into the growing gloom. Maybe he is her familiar, this is an ancient town after all!
The smell of freshly cooked food is beginning to fill the narrow streets. It’s true, most French cooking has the aroma of garlic and why not, even the supermarket in the next town sells five different varieties of the delicious bulb!
The tinkle of cutlery and the soft murmur of people gathering for their meal is audible above the roosting jackdaws.
If I had not eaten earlier I would be feeling pretty hungry by now, but no, I am feeling fulfilled and “très content.”
I rush back to drag Mrs Dookes out to savour the moment. She gets it, I think.
She also gets how her off the wall husband can become so immersed in the moment. The, “Joie de vivre.” The joy of life, as our French friends say.
“No, I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been!”