– You should go into town, said Diana.
– Too late. What would I do there now, in a town? To be crushed by cars?
Margueritte Duras, Les petits chevaux de Tarquinia
After all those months hidden in la France profonde – this time almost six consecutive months, partly as a recluse, partly as an adulterous old man – once again I want to be a Man of the World. A City Man, someone who can enter a beautiful bookshop and browse through well stocked shelves, someone who drinks his coffee and reads an American newspaper at the reading table of his favourite cafe. Someone, who goes for a long walk in Elswout’s English Park, then to go back home and doze in my own den.
The worries and troubles awaiting me in the North seem to be reasonably set off against the problems that I leave here.
Out there is a mother who suddenly disappeared from the home where she lived for more than fifty years, now to bivouac in an old folk’s home near of all places Zwolle – close to my sister and my brother in law, for sure, miles away from my town. I shall have to make contact with those two again, this after a very long time – her house to be sold, divide the things left there.
There awaits a specialist who in recent months should have taken better care of me, but acted shamefully. I shall somehow have to tell her what I think and how things stand – as far as I am concerned. Tricky stuff for sure.
There, my wife awaits and lots of unfinished business needs to be talked about. Tant pis, belongs to life’s loves and sorrows.
Here I happily leave behind a line up of ghastly doctors whom I would have liked to throttle on the spot – true Feldwebel whom, at each visit, I found to be the incarnation of that infamous French complexe de chef. Authoritarian like executioners, entirely unsuitable to receive a Dutch patient.
Furthermore, in the Netherlands I’m going to escape my depression. The long-term solitude, certainly after a divorce from a beloved, has made rather an imprint on the soul. There is something magical about spatial and physical distance, resulting from a long voyage of some eight hundred and fifty kilometres.
After seventeen years the sale of my precious hermitage here is worth considering. My health is not in optima forma, perhaps I may use the rest of the time given me to, yet, travel a bit – this in contrast with my decision never to journey again. A reunion with dearest Rome; maybe visiting a friend who a short while ago migrated to Scotland …
Anyway: Back home, to see the friends, each one all of a sudden faring badly in this half year. Is physical disaster something contagious. And playing chess with my friend, live chess with a real person instead of trying to mate a chess composition, every lonely morning with the first coffee of the day.
Like every human being, I am torn by conflicting motives and desires. La condition humaine. And why not, Edgar Poe’s Imp of the Perverse. Knowing all, yet rushing into the abyss…
But what a recurring glory, here in ma Douce France!
Through the tunnel of the small river valley I hear the wind already coming, getting closer, louder – until what had been but a light buzz catches the remaining foliage of the tall poplar and lays it flat.
What seemed like a sigh is now harvesting a storm. Perhaps one in a glass of water, but assuredly a little storm after all those months here with idyllic summer weather. Forewarned is forearmed. So here I am, suddenly no longer lonely and alone.
Ploink! A late summer’s, rather worn out, paled kingfisher caught its fish. After the dive I see him flash thither, a beauty. That might still make me hold on to this country for a while.
On the way out of the valley I drive my car over the dirt road to the top. I stop and look in the direction of the distant white rocks of the gorge. Out there, the lonely cemetery, far away on a plain of an almost proverbial infinity. Out here in Sauzelles people take a funeral literally. Not only does one exit life, you also leave the civilized world behind you.
As if called for, on my return to The Rock the first cranes fly over. Gak, gak, gak – chatting and in sloppy formations on their way south. My course is set, follow their trail back!
Farewell, dear France.
Sierksma, Sauzelles/La Roche 2.10/2016