Monday, March 14, 2005

Manon des sources

It's a wonderful wonderful feeling; the snow is melting, the sun is out and the birds are singing. After six weeks of snow and cold, it feels like spring is around the corner.

So I'm now finding my mind free to reflect on the few difficulties over the past few weeks. One of which was frozen pipes and so no water for 4 days. As I walked up to our marvellous neighbours' house to fill up my buckets, I was suddenly hit by a memory from one of those two superb Claude Berri films starring Gerard Depardieu - Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, based on the Marcel Pagnol novel. This is about a man from the city setting up house with his wife and young daughter in the French countryside, looking for 'l'authentique' - authenticity.

Following some devious deeds by the neighbours, yer man runs out of water for his great project, and has to trek miles to a spring and carry water back for his farm. The image of him struggling back after many many trips was the one that sprang to mind as I tried hard not to fall on my arse in the snow and cover myself in icy water. Now, I haven't consciously followed in his footsteps, but I will say that our little bundle of joy does have a middle name, and it does happen to be Manon, and it is so because of these films. It's also true that I have moved here in search of some kind of authenticity.

Really, I came looking for closer contact with the seasons, you know, snow in winter, sun in summer, that kind of thing. We've certainly found that. But I was also looking for some semblance of community, and in that too we've been very lucky, certainly compared with Jean de Florette and his small but perfectly formed family. This is a lovely small place, with the colour and warmth and flaws and difficulties that make it real and human. I feel very lucky to have found it.

Another image that springs to mind is one of last autumn, when my partner in crime and our bundle of joy went mushrooming in the fields next to our house. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the pure joy of this simple pleasure was almost unbearable. It felt good just to be alive, and there's no better feeling...

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