For three days I have been sharing a little hot provençal air and some fierce mistral wind with my mother, who has been visiting from Puglia.
With the excuse of three family dinners to come, and an urgent request for painting subject matter from the hemp heights of the studio, a tour of the gastronomic pleasures of Carpentras was in order.
Julian had wanted to paint a croissant a few days previously but had (on purpose, I suspect, so he could scoff them sooner) squished the two he had taken a special trip to find, so we started off by buying more plump buttery whirls of calorific suicide - in a box please, not a bag. At the ‘Marchés de Provence’ we weighed shapely ceps (another request) in the palms of our hands. Unfortunately, neither of these gifts from the muse ever made it onto the easel as Julian was taken by a sudden yearning for the sea, but they did make their way successfully to the artist’s stomach. In the market we bought a small bag of barley from a shrivelled grain of a man advertising his ‘nouvelle récolte’, which we later partnered in a fennel-new season’s-barley risotto with Coquilles St Jacques bought from our bright-eyed fishmonger (only after Mother had established the poor lass' complete maritime history). Throughout, Mother babbled in a sometimes senseless but always charming mixture of Verdian Italian, South London 50’s school French and Boho English.
At Vigier’s cheese shop, Mother – intolerant of cow’s milk - hooed and haaed and mama miaahed at the leaky creamy display of goats and sheep cheeses.
“Elle est pleine de poesie, cette dame” cried Madame Vigier.
“Ah, no, it is your shop and your formaggi which are ripieno with poesia, Madama”
Many grand gesticulations were made to accompany these exchanges.
We do not have an easy relationship, but, when I went up to check she had her water, or if she wanted a shower before retiring, three words that had not been spoken till now fell into our midnight embrace. Three words better spoken late than never and that always lighten one’s journey through life.
This morning I said goodbye and put her, along with with the book she has written on Monetary Reform for the Simultaneous Policy, on the train for her low carbon footprint journey back to her trulli near Brindisi.
Bon Voyage Mama Mia!