10th July 2014
Yesterday evening I finished reading Cicero’s Orations. The two final pieces are not forensic. The first, ‘Pro Marcello’, is a panegyric, and the second ‘Phillipics II’ an invective. Marcellus is not really the subject of For Marcellus. It is a document of forthright praise for Caesar, whose generosity in pardoning one of his most implacable enemies had astounded and delighted the writer. The far more lengthy tirade, Phillipics II, astounds this reader. In his response to Mark Antony’s verbal attack on him in the senate, Cicero pulls no punches. His language is florid, accusatory, insulting, and unequivocal. If ever there was an character assassination speech, this is it. In my view, it was also suicidal. He closes by stating that he welcomes death if it makes the state more secure. It did bring about his brutal murder.
This morning I walked up the D17 to the lofty village of Pomport, and back down the narrow, steep, winding, road that passes Chateau La Gironie and links back to the major route in the refurbished leisure centre now termed ‘Pomport Beach’. Given that this complex is, I believe, further from the sea than is anywhere in England, that would seem to be a rather misleading name, especially as it is posted in English. When I arrived in Sigoules, late in 2008, the financial crash had just hit the world. This burgeoning French village did not escape the consequences. A number of local developments ground to a halt. One of these was the Pomport leisure centre which has only this year seen what looks like completion.
Wild sweet peas illuminated the verges, as did cornflowers the fields. I even encountered a sweep of mare’s tails.Vines were being sprayed by a purpose-built vehicle that moved between them quite quickly.
The only pedestrian I met was a woman pegging out her washing. There were, however, a number of cars on the D17, one of which, for a second time, was driven by Lydie, who stopped and greeted me as warmly as ever.
Having begun it yesterday evening, I finished Michel Benoit’s novel ‘The Thirteenth Apostle’. This was a captivating and thoroughly researched historical thriller telling of the murder of a monk who ‘possessed proof of the existence of a thirteenth apostle and an epistle stating that Jesus was….and inspired prophet, not the Son of God’, and another who, under grave threat, conducts his own investigation. The Vatican, Mossad, and Fatah all wish to keep this secret, and will stop at nothing to prevent its exposure. It is well written enough for me to have read 360 pages in two sessions. I was reminded of the difference between the religious reactions to this imaginary novel and that of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ which earned him a Fatwa.
As I closed the book, Saufiene and his wife Carole arrived to collect me for dinner at their home in Saint Medard de Mussidan. This was the day before their daughter Eya’s birthday, and was a family affair. Other daughters Cleya and Xena, son Geoffrey, nephew Johannathan, and Jerome, were all present. It was good to meet Geoffrey again after a couple of years, and to spend the evening with a likeable and convivial French family. We managed pretty well with Franglais, and found this blog a useful medium for introducing photographs of my family, home, and garden.
Saufiene prepared an excellent Tunisian meal which was too much for me to eat. I only regret that I did not try the wonderfully piquant salad before I had reached satiation. I enjoyed the meal and the company very much. The host, who drove me back, did not drink alcohol, but I relished a superb Saint Emilion and the others drank rose.
Unfortunately Carole’s pizza was no longer available because it had already been eaten by the neighbourhood cats. Saufiene, who we saw last year can be kind to cats, thinking the pizza was a little old, had jettisoned it in their direction. One white and two grey felines tucked in rapidly, forcibly excluding the black one which gazed plaintively up at the watchers on the second floor balcony, who, with great hilarity, demanded a photograph be taken for my blog.