Wednesday June 8th. 21:45.
As I write this, I’m sitting outside watching a beautiful and portentous orange sky peppered with tiny bats and the occasional swift. The sun has dipped down behind the trees. The birds are making their delightful noises. Apart from that, I can hear the river at the bottom of the garden babbling boisterously. Nothing else. The distant chainsaws have been put away for the day and the donkeys and cockerels have fallen silent. It’s alright, you know? Mustn’t grumble.
Last night I went with Alex the Would-be Ninja to Roussac where Dave the Plumber celebrated his birthday and I had my longest ever conversation in French with Marc the barman. I enjoyed it very much. Marc is utterly charming and indulged my clumsy stumbling with seeming alacrity, helping me out with his smattering of English when necessary – which was often – and occasionally letting rip with the most outrageous cackling laugh I have heard in some time. He also indulged Alex and Dave’s insatiable desire for more beer and stayed open much longer than he wanted to, mocking our drunken chatter and allowing us to smoke inside as we were the only ones there. Tut tut.
When he finally made us leave, Alex dropped off Dave and came back here for a nightcap, which turned into a bottle and a half of eminently quaffable red and a very late night, marred only by the fact that at some stage my guitar slipped against the wall where I’d leant it, crashed to the tiled floor and fell to pieces. The headstock cracked clean off. I was very upset.
I bought that guitar in the summer of 2000 in Bologna. It was one of my closest friends.
Ah well. C’est la vie. I guess I’ll just have to find other friends.
Alex is fun. The more I get to know him, the more I like him. He has a lot of wisdom, wit and warmth for someone so utterly and unremittingly crude. Here is a picture I took of him silhouetted against candle-light.
This morning, as befits a man who had been up till gone 3am drinking, I slept late and felt groggy when I finally set about getting on with some work. This afternoon I got to work on the nettles with the strimmer Alex had loaned me. I managed to clear one of the fallen trees, but failed to cut it up with the chainsaw because I failed to manage to start the chainsaw. It is very temperamental. This upsets me. I’ll try again tomorrow.
While I was strimming I saw something in the undergrowth scamper off but couldn’t quite see what it was. Then I noticed something else. A tiny little thing moving unsteadily through the smashed brambles. I slowly moved closer to it expecting it to dart off, but it didn’t. At first I thought it was a mole. Then I realised it was a tiny baby mouse, its eyes still closed to the carnage around it. I ran indoors to fetch my camera, but by the time I returned, it had disappeared.
Then, a few minutes later, I saw it again. It was about an inch and a half long and I realised I had probably destroyed his nest. I felt bad. I picked it up and took a couple of photographs…
…then I put it back in the undergrowth and hoped it would be able to find its mother.
Then as I watched it pottering helplessly along the ground, I saw something else move a little further back in the underwood. It was another mouse. An adult. I wondered if it was the mother come looking for its baby. I willed it to keep moving in the direction it was going because if it did, it would surely find it. I tried not to move. I didn’t want to frighten her off and ruin the reunion. So I stayed where I was, perfectly still, crouching and watching. ‘Go on, little mouse,’ I whispered. ‘Keep moving.’ Finally, mother mouse found baby mouse and I watched mesmerised as she picked the little one up in her mouth and scampered back into the forest. It was wonderful. I wish I could have filmed it or taken more photographs but I was too busy just watching it, fascinated.
I suppose it was nothing special really, just nature going about its business, but I’ve never seen that before, or anything like it, and I felt privileged to have seen it at such close quarters.
Oh, I saw a proper snake two days ago. A viper I think, about a foot long. I was walking my bike up the slope from the shed to the house when I saw my front wheel go over it. I decided to keep moving, just in case my stopping might cause it to leap at me and bite off my face. Then I stopped a few paces on and went back for a photo.
It was playing dead. Good thing too. I left it to it.
I finished my gazebo this evening, tying the giant tarp over the frame and weighing it down with slabs of concrete and whatnot. I still fear it might blow away in a gale though.
I’m thinking of carpeting it.
Oh, last night I got a text from my sister telling me a letter had arrived from the tax people and if they don’t get £860 from me immediately, they are going to take action. I will write them a letter. Then they will take action. Pffft. There’s always something, isn’t there? Eh?
Now to bed. I am very tired.