Country Living

Stanley Kubrick’s beautifully filmed 1975 rendering of Thackeray’s novel ‘Barry Lyndon’ was last night’s viewing.  The rise and fall of the eponymous gentleman was set in the reign of George III.  Never having read the book, I am not sure whether the satire was the author’s or the director’s.

Road to Monbos 1.13This morning, while cocks were still crowing, I walked up to Monbos, rounded its 12th Century church, and turned left towards Ste. Innocence via Le Bretonnay.  From Ste. Innocence I returned to Sigoules.  Once you have left Sigoules the roads are reasonably well tarmacked, but without clear edges and often with a steep camber.  There are, of course no pavements in the countryside.  Footpaths in rue St. Jacques itself are of stone.  The street has an incredibly deep cleft, just past the church, that really is difficult to climb.  No. 6, fortunately, lies near the top.  A gentle rise takes you past the market square and straight on across the roundabout, levelling out by the football club.  The further you get beyond this point, the more modern are the houses which peter out at Sigoules Heights.  Another ascent and a left turn take you to Monbos, where I took another left for Ste. Innocence.

Fields throughout the walk were either prepared ready for maize or sunflowers, or contained vines wherever they could be placed.  The exception is the downward stretch from Ste Innocence where a forested area is proclaimed a private hunting ground.

It is exhilarating looking down from the high points into the valleys below; rather daunting watching the way ahead snaking up into the horizon.  Always twisting and turning, the road from Monbos to Ste Innocence is more serpentine and undulating than the others.  I was quite relieved to see the Dutchman’s house marking my turning point in the distance.

Just as it had during my very few car rides as a child, when we had no motorways and used winding country lanes for days out, the sun kept switching from one side of the road to the other.  This time I knew why.

As I approched the ancient-looking hamlet of Le Bretonnay a yellow post-office van passed me, made a delivery to La Maison Neuve, turned round, and came back.  The postal service in the New Forest is similar, except that the small vans are red.Logs, Le Bretonnay 1.13 Yard, Le Bretonnay 1.13Red jumper, Le Bretonnay 1.13

Le Bretonnay displays signs of current life in a bygone setting.

On the penultimate leg of my return to Sigoules, an Alsatian, normally demented at my passing by, offered a few barks for appearance sake, then wandered into his porch, sat down, and watched me continue on my way.  He must be getting used to me.

Looking down the road from No. 6 you first see the heads of anyone coming up the hill.  Gradually their bodies emerge.  Today, as I arrived home, a cheerful one-legged man on crutches appeared in just this manner.  As we exchanged greetings I once more counted my blessings.

Max’s menu today comprised superb onion soup; perfect pizza; massive succulent steak and chips with mustard mayonnaise; and cracking creme brulee.  David topped up my small carafe of red wine with some left in another customer’s container.  I had woken in the night to the realisation that I hadn’t paid for yesterday’s meal.  My friends were unperturbed.  They knew I would cough up.  David’s little joke was that they had thought of calling the police but decided against it.

This afternoon the morning’s cawing of rooks and chattering of magpies were, on home ground, supplanted by the chirruping of small birds and wood-pigeon’s plaintive mating calls.  I even got into the garden and began the task of clearing the winter’s debris.  Last summer’s compost tomatoes were now a bit over-ripe.

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