Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sunday Walking in France II




I must be wired this way – I’d rather be outside.

With the sky blazing blue and the sun yellow as an egg I wrapped up warmly and set off from Royan along the beach towards St Georges de Didonne.  The chill wind had me pulling up my cagoul hood leaving only my sunglasses and nose for a face.  I like to be warm more than I like to be pretty.

No more than a handful of people on the beach, as is normal before lunch here in south west France.  A calm sea and soft sand flicking up inside my trainers, I began to ask questions like ‘I wonder how many people have walked along this beach in the past thousand years?’ or ‘How long does it take to make a grain of sand?’.  At the same time I thought about the poem I’d promised to write and deliver on my daughter’s wedding day.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time.  She doesn’t want Shakespeare.  No sonnets.  She showed me an Ogden Nash which we both liked.  But Ogden Nash doesn’t know her, and I do.

Lines came to me: ‘impish smiles’ and ‘vagabond wishes’, ‘arms around you, arms around you’, flitting through my brain – if only I’d had a dictaphone with me. There are others I can’t remember and they won’t come back, if past experience is any guide.

Preoccupied with one immovable fact, I walked on. My mother is suffering.  She has heart failure – it’s actually a condition you can live with, according to the NHS site, and can be graded from 1 to 4.  It doesn’t matter how you grade it, the fact is that it’s serious and means that mum has limited time to be with the ones she loves and do the things she still wants to do.  Pictures float in and out of my mind.  I see her young and strong on the hockey field (she was a county player), or rushing out to the ‘pumps’ to administer petrol to a lunchtime motorist (my dad managed a Shell petrol station for some years), or on a bike as we all sped round the lanes in Broseley where she made her home after the divorce.  More recently, she and I have driven to St Palais and eaten Camembert on french bread, adorned with ripe tomatoes and accompanied by a beaker of Bordeaux.  We sat on benches by the sea and felt like kings.  I hope we can again.

Incoming thoughts led me back to wedding days and rhyming couplets.  Maybe Ogden Nash would be better.  At least he’s a poet.  But I will rise to the challenge – what is anything worth if it’s too easy?

On I went, to the centre of St Georges de Didonne, where I found a café serving good coffee and homemade biscuits.  I read a magazine and lingered over an article on plants and how they can cure almost anything.  Funny what we can believe in moments of crisis.

Back round the coast along a different path, towards the lighthouse.  Few people still.  A woman sat alone reading, perfectly at ease.  There were boules pitches to the side of the path with the sea yards away.  I dug out my phone and discovered, as usual, that there was no power to take a picture.  The setting was blissful.  The sea surged gently and waves rose up against the rocks, echoing along the coast.  The only sound.

I re-joined the walkway along the road to Royan and wandered amongst ever increasing crowds.  Hats, scarves, gloves.  Still cold, but the sun had climbed higher and I was toasty.  I found my car and drove home, listening to Ed Sheeran, Indochine, Imagine Dragons, enjoying the sense of calm that still travelled with me, induced almost drug-like.

Arriving home, Al was in the garage welding.  I told him I loved him.  He said my sisters had rung and that mum has liquid in her lungs, which is why she’s finding it hard to breathe.  A common symptom of heart failure, apparently.  At last, something that makes sense.  There is medication to fix this.  My heart swelled with love as I walked around the garden and saw the pinks and primroses and buds upon the rose bush mum bought. 

I think of weddings and of beating the odds and having mum to stay again.



Happy Days

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