Ed Ward's Blog Leaves Europe After 20 Years and Returns To The U.S., Another Foreign Country. Currently, This Blog Is In Transition.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
It's awful. I've got time these days to post on this blog, but...nothing to post. I was beginning to think I'd either gone nuts or become far more boring, when Gerry asked if he could link to something I'd written and asked where it was. I combed the archives here and must have found every one that even came close. Except the one he was looking for, which he found before I did.
But in the process, I noticed that so far, January's been a terrible month for blog-posts here. Montpellier's not exactly humming with excitement at the moment, and about the most exciting thing going on is the soldes, the annual January/February sales. It seems to be that way all over France. Across the big river, Sara in le petit village was complaining about it.
And I began to think that most of what I've been doing has been pretty boring. For instance, last week at this time, I drew a two-hour shift minding the tiny Friends of the Anglophone Library collection, assessing dues from people just joining up, checking out books and taking them in. As yet, there aren't many people signed up, so just after the 2 o'clock opening, it went dead. Just as the last of the "rush hour" customers was leaving, a woman I recognized from the early save-the-library meetings walked in and was greeted by the woman leaving, and out of their conversation the phrase "split bones" leapt into my ear.
The woman who was leaving left, and the woman who was arriving came in, and it was just the two of us, so I asked her what that stuff about "split bones" was about. "Oh, I was run over by a car a few months ago. He stopped long enough to make sure I was still alive and then just drove off," she said, a bit more perkily than you might imagine. "Probably didn't have insurance; a lot of them here don't, you know." But she was out of the hospital, convalesced, and ravenous for new reading material. She candidly confessed her addiction to reading, which she's suffered from for the entire 20 years she's been living here. We talked on and on, and the outlines of her life here emerged. Most of it was medical: she'd come down with her 20-year-old daughter, they'd gone horse-riding in the Cévennes Mountains, the daughter had come down ill, and, after a harrowing journey through the French medical bureaucracy, she was diagnosed as the ninth identified case of Lyme Disease in France. As for the mother, the woman I was talking to, she'd been living for years with cancer, and talked about it like an old friend. She also mentioned a long-ago passion for riding a Triumph 250 motorcycle, a hobby she'd picked up from one of her older brothers. By the time someone came to relieve me, I was in awe of the strength this woman had had to summon for her entire life down here. Living in France is hard enough, what with one thing or another, even when you're in perfect health. And she was just as casual and upbeat about it all as you can be.
The kind of meta-moral of this is, I realized later that day, that "boring" is as much a product of laziness as anything else. I'm still finding my way into this place, which everyone says takes a long time indeed, and, as is my wont, I forget that people are a part of it. It's clear that I need to meet more people, and to do this, I have to improve my French. And, somehow, I have to make a living at the same time in a business that's, if not dying, gravely ill. Cancer isn't quite a fitting metaphor for what's happened to publishing (maybe starvation is), but if there are people who can be as forthright and optimistic talking about it as this woman is, then it behooves me to be just as optimistic. Do I have a choice?
And although I suspect February will be just as dull, there are things happening that will contribute to the blog here. There's a development on the bagel front, for instance, and I'm headed out to what I'm told is the best-stocked Chinese market in town on Thursday. These will show up as miettes before very long.
Friday, though, I'm off for a festival in at this theater in Castellón, a city half-way down the coast between Barcelona and Valencia, and will have a report soon, which, yes, will include a trip to the market, and, I hope, many nice photographs.