After living absolutely alone in a state of Trappist seclusion for two weeks, I broke out into a round of social gaiety this week. It started with a nice long Skype chat with my fellow aspirational author, Fontella, who buzzed me on Sunday. It was pure pleasure being able to talk through the highs, lows and dilemmas of writing with her, and to hear a chirpy and encouraging Australian voice. Not that I’m not loving my French immersion experience, but there’s only so much conversational satisfaction to be gained from purchasing baguettes, cheese and coffee.
My second treat was a surprise meeting with HWB’s uncle and aunt who were visiting Carcassonne for a day as part of a Lions tour. We had a delightful lunch up in La Cité where I caught up on all the Maltese family news.
Then on Monday I jumped on the train to Moissac, a small town about an hour north of Toulouse, to meet up with dear friends who are walking the Comino. Sue, Jim and Lyn live in Melbourne, and Sue and I find it hillarious that the last three times we’ve caught up it’s been on the other side of the world.
These intrepid travellers are walking more than 800 kilometres across France and they had just reached their midway point in Moissac. We had a wonderful time recounting our adventures, and realised we were all half way up our respective mountains. I love a nice long walk, and have had my own daydreams about walking to Santiago di Compostella, but committing to stomping upwards of 30 km per day, every day for 40 days boggles my mind. Sue says that writing 2000 words a day boggles hers.
Moissac was thoroughly charming, and the Abbey of St Peter was particularly evocative. It has the oldest enclosed cloister in the world and it remains a key destination for avid pilgrims. The achingly sweet sound of the nuns singing vespers in the cathedral will remain with me for a long time.
Apart from the pilgrims passing through, Moissac is a quiet place, delightfully free of tourists and retaining all of its local, Garronnese charm. Its best gift to me though, was the lavish encouragement that Sue, Jim and Lyn bestowed upon my writing endeavours. It’s impossible to believe in failure when you’re given that kind of boosting. Thanks guys!
Last night I really lashed out, and made my way up to La Cité once again, this time to see a concert in the Basilica of St Nazaire and indulge myself with a meal at one of the citadel’s restaurants. I may have had a moment of pensive reflection, wishing that HWB could have been there to share the experience, but when you have a view like this one with which to beguile your dining pleasure you can’t remain pensive for long.
The concert was a performance by the Cosaques de Kouban, a quintet of astonishingly talented singers/musicians who are all alumni soloists of the Red Army Choir. The Russians are the masters of melancholia and I was brought to tears by several of their more mordant laments. But then they’d switch to their roistering, jocular, exuberant alter-egos and I was grinning like a loon and swept up in a hand-clapping, foot-stamping frenzy. It was fantastic.
So, did I find any time for writing amidst this social whirl? Indeed, I did, with one rather significant glitch. On Tuesday, as I was heading back to Carcassonne on the train, I started feeling distinctly unwell. By 7 p.m. I was in the throes of a full-on gastro-spew assault – the less said the better. Since I was completely destroyed on Wednesday I had a daunting 3700 words to make up and though I’ve pegged away solidly and added an emergency Saturday session I’m still 1900 words short of my weekly target. Solution? I’ll just have to crank it up next week to 2500 words per day.
I finished my week with a visit to Église St Vincent, my local bell-chiming church which had a special annual open day allowing access to the bell-tower and roof-top eerie with stunorama views of La Bastide and La Cité. The bell-tower, I learnt, has 47 bells, so it’s not surprising that it can put on such a great show. As I plodded up the 232 perilous steps of the spiral stairway, worn into ruts by the footfalls of the faithful, I was reminded that I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I will reach the top …