Saturday, 1 August 2009

Longing for the sun

Eleven minutes past three in the afternoon. It's a Saturday and I still haven't reached the point of sitting down and just ... well, just stopping.

I've shopped, then had a little lunch, then prepared a marinade for tomorrow's dinner, then done the spuds for tonight's meal.

And it's gone three. And I'm looking for things to 'do' instead of simply down with a book.

Indeed, here I am now, writing this.

Is it a general thing or does my puritanical background make it harder? I think it's at least partly cultural. In France, they don't live to work, but work to live. Brits, in general, seem to do absolutely the opposite.

It's the first day of August and I feel knackered. Long-term, deep-down knackered. I felt like this exactly a year ago, so at least the symptoms are not unknown. The beach did the trick – a first ever beach holiday, where I was astonished to realise that I really could just stop for 10 whole days. Stop. And sit. And think – or not. And rest.

Twenty seven days to go until that time arrives again.

It doesn't help that the weather this summer has been poor. Well, downright unseasonal, in terms of English seasons. We had a decent June, but then there's been so much wind since, and torrential rain. Not proper, old-fashioned English summer days with showers, but tropical downpours, with dark grey clouds obscuring the tops of buildings.

So, I'm starting to compile my summer holiday book list. I took eight books last year, convinced that, on the basis of the pace that I was reading at the time, I'd race through them. But I read just three. I'm still going to take a few this time around, but nothing too heavy. No Nabakov this year. And I'm foregoing the previously intended Proust.

There'll be some Maigret – I've been using ebay to bolster my collection – Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence and Hot Sun, Cool Shadow: Savouring the Food, History and Mystery of the Languedoc, which seems to be a sort of Languedoc version of the Mayles by Angela Murrills and Peter Matthews, plus Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking and, quite possibly, Emma Brockes's What Would Barbra Do? How Musicals Changed My Life, which looks a camp, bitchy hoot and has just been ordered.

My other main preparation is intended to be spending most of the month sans booze, with cuts to my caffeine consumption too. Try and get myself part of the way to relaxation and general well being before I set foot in the Languedoc. Oh, and I'm trying to push ahead with a podcast language course – but I'm really struggling with it, because German has finally taken root in my head and I keep wanting to say things in German rather than French.

So we get the podcast tutor asking something like: "And what is 'I am' in French?" To which my instant reaction is "Ich bin". I suppose Mrs John, my German teacher at school, who must have despaired of her linguistically challenged pupil (I managed 4% in my final exam), would be impressed. My French teacher would probably be astonished that I'm even trying.

Crap at foreign languages and incapable of relaxing. How English can you get?

There is going to be slightly more to the holiday than just sitting on a beach. Snorkeling, which I discovered last year. And I've promised myself that I'm going to actually try one of the big kayaks that you can rent at the beach. They don't look too difficult. And, if he's not stopped for the season, we'll take a couple of trips on the sailing boat that goes out from the little harbour.

I had some of my photographs turned into calendars last year for friends and clients. This month's picture is Collioure. I can hardly wait.

Now. I really am going to make an effort to go and sit down. With a book.

Update: here we are at 5.17pm. I did sit down. And read a page. Then I decided that tonight's tuna steaks would benefit from a marinade. Not that it's difficult. Not that it's a bad idea. But it's as though I'm an over-wound watch spring that can't actually stop.

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