Last night we were invited for a 'simple supper' at our neighbours from heaven- Nadine and Manuel. Fumbling our short way by starlight along several rows of vines, we followed the glint of a kitten's eye and the smell of soul-food until we saw the winter warmer glow of candle, firelight and a hearty welcome.
Manuel is Antillian, a sculptor and a hermit. He is not interested in money, and lives simply, creating rather fine bronzes (many of them, it appears, of large hipped women 'en faisant pi pi a la nature' ) in the foundry attached to the house. Not for him the work ethic from which I suffer, and in answer to my question about how his 'travail' is going he replies:
"Je ne travaille pas. Je bricolle"
He, a creature fashioned it seems, like one of his sculptures, from the very environment he inhabits, claims to have absolutely no desire for things material, or to be anywhere other than where he is, amongst the thyme and the olive trees, his dreams kept in tact by his extrovert companion. She, whilst also working nights at the maison de retraite, obviously deals with bills, rent, sales, publicity and the rest of the world, as if warding off anything that might come crashing in on her beloved's creative bubble.
Julian also has hermetic tendencies and will often not deal with anything which involves talking to another human being. Indeed he was quite happy, when I was on tour for three months, eating his way through a sack of baked potatoes and speaking to no-one which unfortunately included the bank and the telephone company and cost us rather a lot in charges.
(Though we blog-pimping, gallery-flirting, canvas-whipping wives seem to be such bullies in the playground of Being Married To An Artist, are we really the ones seeking control, or is it perhaps the dreamers, terrified of the unexpected in the outside world, who do not want to lose it?
Enter the dreamy control freak's perfect bubble: The Internet.)
Luckily my hermit can very easily be lured out of his bubble towards very nice food, and indeed he was lured last night. With the weight of the website off his shoulders and two sales already under his thermals, Julian was on good form, inviting us into the french translation of his particular (and adorable) brand of bubble. He offered Nadine, who was struggling with the seasonal absence of bacteria in the initial stages of making her own yeast (don't know why she doesn't just buy it down the boulangerie) a choice of any living things found in our fridge any time I was away for more than a week. Yum! Make that two baguettes!
A 'simple supper' (bowl o' pasta, salad and a bottle of red wine, no?) it seems, is not possible in France. Four courses are obligatory, as is bread with each, and The Diet (going well till now - an oat for lunch, soup for supper and tea in place of alcohol between 6-8) went down the fosse septic. Nadine served up Corsican fegatelli (chorizo with knobs on) grilled in the fire till dripping glorious fat all over the toast, followed by stuffed cabbage, fromage, and the best tarte tatin I have ever had - all apples and caramelly crust without any boring pastry bits. Admittedly it was more simple than the seven course welcome dinner she cooked when we moved in (which started on the terrace with a champagne cocktail), or even the impromptu snack she left on her kitchen window for us on christmas eve (which was a bloc of her own made foie gras worth about fifty nicker) but it was huge, it was delicious and I am as stuffed as the cabbage and just as farty.
We - the Cougieuxians - given the impossibility of our dream of renewing the whole hamlet to it's former glory and having an artist's colony - are talking about having a colony of bees. I can see it now, the big rectangular hats and kinky white outfits.....
'Galerie des Cougieux: Nature Mortes, Paysages, Pi Pi a la Nature et Miel'
That's my kind of neighbours!
Oscar and Manon were very confused as to why they weren't invited to the party (they would have been welcome except that they would have been eaten by the cat) and spent the whole evening waiting at our friends' gates, leaping galantly out to walk us the two metres home at midnight.