An Anjou Evening….14/05/2006
This evening I have just driven back to Le Puy Notre Dame from the village of Nueil-sur-Layon where I had a rendezvouz with my Doctor, Dr. Delavigne, over a minor ailment.
On leaving the surgery I went to the village pharmacy to collect my prescription, passing a pleasant, if enforced, ten minutes chatting to the other three people who were waiting to be served, as the chemist spent the time fiddling about on his computer instead of serving the, “patient patients”, as it were.
This would be anathema in Anglo Saxon Culture but except for the odd jovial comment tossed across the counter no-one seemed the slightest bit put out.
Finally, after the phamacist tore himself away from his technical problem and served the four of us, we all went, in convoy, across the street to the bar, just opposite, where we quaffed a few glasses of rosé and discussed our ailments like old fisherwomen. Everyone detailed old and trusted,traditional cures, passed down the generations, all with the solemn assurance that, of course, they work. Which somewhat beggars the question why they were all waiting in a modern pharmacy for the latest prescription drugs!?
We then debated, in great detail, the meaning of the English word, “sir”. Apparently, an English ‘Sir somebody or other’ , had purchased a house in a nearby commune. I was reminded that the Gallic capacity for detail is extraordinary and never ceases to amaze me. For example, I can remember a conversation over the cooking of artichokes which went on for over two hours and this is a subject that can be summarised as, “wash them, boil them, eat them with vinaigrette!” And so, “sir,” was OK when I explained it was similar to a french seigneur, (Lord), but then some bright spark, determined to analyse the word to the nth degree said:-
“What about Mick Jaggar, he’s not of aristocratic blood and he is a sir?”
I should perhaps point out, at this juncture, that everybody here is an expert on Mick Jaggar because he has a Chateaux locally and, apparently, he even plays cricket occasionally for the Saumur Cricket Club.
“Well no”, I replied, “but like many other people he can be awarded a, “sir”, for the duration of his life, for services to the community”. I replied.
“Well what has he done for the community?”
“Got rich”, was one cynical response
“A lot of builders around here have got rich from the money he has spent on his Chateaux” was another thoughtfull comment.
“Yes, that’s perhaps that’s why he is now a sir, because he has enabled our stone masons to go on expensive holidays and buy good wine”, was another helpful suggestion, “He became a sir for services to the Anjou construction community”
“No I don’t think so”,I smiled, “I think it was for services to music”.
This time there were no laughing comments, just blank stares and looks of disbelief. I took advantage of this momentary state of shock to say my à pluses and à la prochaines and legged it.
On the way back to Le Puy Notre Dame, the road was empty and the countryside was silent. The sun was setting in the cloudless sky and, on the horizon, a ghostly moon was hovering between the soaring spires of the huge church, itself glowing almost white in the strong evening light.
On the slopes the sun was reflecting off the vineyards, clothed as they were in their bright green, new leaves, and on the lower fields contented Charollais cattle were lying in the lush grass, rhythmically chewing the cud, whilst their lengthening shadows reached into the dark, vibrant green of the adjoining corn fields. Two young rabbits hopped out of the shade of the pine forest as I passed through St Macaire du Bois and, in the spotlight of a beam of sunlight, ran frantically around in circles for a few seconds, full of the sheer joy of life, and then, just as quickly, popped back into the dark, welcoming safety of the forest.
There are times like these when I think that there must be better places in the world to live, but, for the life of me, I can’t think of any.
Brian, gites in loire valley