Monday, March 30, 2009

Violets from Marjolaine

We came home to rain on Saturday night. We'd left rain, too, in London, but of course it was a different sort of rain: cold, windy, even icy. The rain that led us up the hill from the airport and along to our village was gentle and, if not quite warm, then several degrees away from cold.

The big news of the week was that Madame Marie, at Pizza Pierre, has lost her lease on the concrete pizza hut in the parking lot. She's moving up the hill, to the next village, where she's taking over the lease on a storefront that has housed a sandwich shop and tea room for the past six months or so. The tea room lady is moving on, and Madame Marie is moving in. There's already a pizzeria in the village--L'Eléphant--so, Madame told C, she's going to have to improve la qualité de son produit.

C had cooked all day Saturday and we came home to applesauce, meatloaf, and butternut squash, nourishing, homey food after our week of pork pies, fish and chips, and as much Asian food as we could work in. He'd gotten the fruits and vegetables from Marjolaine at the rond point, along with some striped tulips. And Marjolaine had sent along a violet nosegay for me, a little cadeau to say welcome home.

Home is what it feels like, coming back here. This morning the pharmacist recognized me and spent five minutes comparing face lotions with me. The sisters who run the café where I meet the English ladies for coffee tsked with me about the rain, and when my friend the cheese seller came in to return his café au lait cup, he waved to me from the counter.

Home is a funny thing. Today's New York Times reports that San Francisco's Chronicle newspaper may become a casualty of the recession and the iPhone, and, even though I haven't subscribed to that paper in more than a decade, I felt a pang. I've read Jon Carroll's column in that paper for nearly twenty years--first in print and now, for years, online--and it has kept me connected to a place that still feels, in many ways, more like home than anywhere we've lived since. On other trips to England, I've felt a sense of familiarity, of home: all the months of my life given over to reading English literature resulting in a visceral sense of belonging.

This time, though, England, London, felt foreign. Of course it's awfully easy to speak English with everyone you meet, and be able to grasp, pour le plupart, the jokes in the ads in the Tube. But in two years village life has changed us. All the people, all the energy, the sheer scale of the city: exciting and wonderful, yes. Overwhelming and bewildering: that, too. When we got out of the car at La Bastiole Saturday evening, it was dark and the air smelled of rain and woodsmoke and green. We were home.


  1. Welcome home! I hope that you had a wonderful trip and that you sleep/slept cozy in your own beds tonight/last night.


  2. I used to take the bustle of London in my stride but now, 5 years later, it's almost overwhelming.

    I miss the old me.