We’re now in the tiny village of St-Gervais just outside Bagnol-sur-Cèze to the north west of Avignon. Driving hereabouts is no longer a white knuckle experience, though there’s still quite a bit of adrenaline pumping around every time we make a left turn. (My adrenaline is entirely that of a passenger – Penny does all the driving.) We’re having fun being tourists, enjoying the tolerance and even kindness of the French as we mangle their beautiful language. I’ve reached the heights of being able to tell when I’m being corrected, as in when I asked for ‘un glace vanille’, the man behind the counter replied, ‘Vous en voulez une.’
I’ve just uploaded our photos so far to Facebook — pretty much unculled and no captions yet: the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Quai Branly, views from the Aqueduc des Arts, Provençal markets, Nimes, the Théàtre Antique in Orange. I would have put them somewhere more accessible, but I don’t remember passwords for those places and mon ordinateur à moi, where they are stored, is navré.
One fabulously unnerving scene didn’t make it to a photograph. To avoid misunderstanding I should preface my description of it by telling you that in my childhood whenever my family came home after dark, my mother and sisters would go inside and line up at the lav, while my father, my brothers and I would relieve ourselves on the grass beside the garage, making frothy patches in the moonlight. So it’s not surprising I’m charmed by some of the spectacles of public urination that we’ve encountered here – a man and his small son peeing through a car park fence into a field, for instance, strikes me as a sociable, environmentally responsible act, and the two women standing near the car didn’t seem to mind the wait. I do discriminate. Like most people, I find the stench in some Parisian parks appalling. Today in Orange we saw something else entirely.
We were strolling along, enjoying the feel of the narrow street when a car pulled up just in front of us. A stout middle-aged man stepped out of it, crossed the street, and walked briskly into a garage that happened to have an open door. As he pulled the door shut behind him, he was unzipping his fly and before we were out of earshot we heard the splash of piss. I looked back before going around the next corner, and sure enough he came back out into the street, hopped in his car and drove off.
If ever you move to France and live in a village, don’t forget to close your garage door.