Monday, June 23, 2003

Haven't written in a while, as I seem to have been going through what my Dad would call a "personal reorientation". I now find myself living in my French house, only instead of carting rustic French furniture around in a Transit van, I am looking after my ailing mother who is being treated for ovarian cancer. With any luck, the malignant cyst that was removed two weeks ago in the Centre Hospitalier de Béziers (top marks to the French for their quality hospitals and attractive surgeons) was the end of it, but if not there are dark days of radiotherapy or chemotherapy ahead. It all depends on the results of Mum's next (exploratory) operation which is scheduled for the 3rd July. So fingers crossed that all will be OK.

Mum's sudden hospitalisation meant that I had to leave my job early, and leave both H. and the country in great haste. I arrived on some godforsaken Ryanair flight to Montpellier carrying nought but a modestly sized suitcase (filled mainly with designer furnishing fabric) and my work laptop, which I hope they're not expecting to get back any day soon. That and the bleedin' Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, which I have been carrying around with me for seven years without ever finishing even one of the four novels it comprises.

Apart from the emotional rollercoaster of Mum's illness (though she herself insists she feels fine), the sudden uprooting and the 40+ degree heat, living here in the Languedoc does have some advantages. Instead of mangy one-footed pigeons there are hoopoes, goldfinches, swallows, herons and swifts in the garden and a black redstart nesting in the hole next to the front door. On returning from this evening's walk along the old railway line we were greeted ar the door by the first snake I have seen for ages - a beautiful little adder that we at first mistook for a lizard. And I finally get to play house in my house - so I've been spending a lot of time painting walls and shutters, improvising curtain rails, staining wood, rearranging the bathroom and reading endless copies of Maison Francaise and Coté Sud.

On the other hand, it is lonely (I don't feel I'm quite ready to join the hordes of retired expat Brits with their choir outings and bridge parties), broadband is a shimmering distant chimera (although I'm going to a France Télécom demonstration of ADSL on Wednesday) and money is tightish, although I have already been given some freelance work with hopefully more to come.

I'm going to bed - more updates to come, but don't expect Peter Mayle.


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