Day Trip

"Hello, this is Simon Brightwell, from the Espace Loisirs in Gensdouce speaking. Could you put me through to Mr. Sebastien Boncourt, please."

"Dear Mr. Philippe, following our recent conversation I am writing to confirm your booking..."

"Dear Sir, on behalf of the centre "Espace Loisirs" I wish to express our thanks...."

Looking back over the few months before the centre's official reopening, I wonder what I actually achieved. If I still had the phone bill from those days I suspect, it would give me some sort of an answer to that question. But nothing actually sticks out in my mind. Meetings, phone calls, letters, requests - the daily routine of getting a centre like ours up and running. Routine, I hated that word. And up until now, I'd successfully managed to avoid anything that might be construed as routine. Life was exciting and full of adventure: the adventure of getting to know new countries, conquering new hearts, finding a new home. Routine was inimical to all this - wasn't routine the main reason why I'd left Ireland? That and...?

But now I was getting sucked into routine without even realising it. What's more, routine was becoming necessary - how else was I supposed to achieve anything. Somewhat more disturbing, however, was the way that my relationships with others were becoming the means to an end. If I went to see Thérèse and Guillaume now, it was to talk over a problem, or to discuss a new idea I'd had. I scarcely saw Jean, at all. And relationships with the villagers were growing increasingly distant. So amidst all the routine, I needed to put some spice back into my life. I decided to take a day off and invited a couple of friends to join me on a trip to Besançon. The ancient fortress and citadel had just been refurbished and among the events to mark the occasion was a concert of ancient and modern music given by the students of the conservatoire where Morgana taught. That Morgana had time to do any teaching was a minor miracle because she insisted on typing all my correspondence - a small miracle in my eyes, since I had never got on well with a typewriter. And to think, I'd never taken the time to thank her. I certainly owed her an apology on that one.

It was lovely weather and my heart was singing and there was a quite a buzz in our group as we set off on the trip. We first attacked the citadel and spend an informative and pleasant morning going back into the history of this so pivotal town for our region. After visiting the various exhibits we got together again for a celebratory picnic. The fame of the French when it comes to eating is both well-known and well-documented, but this was the first time I realised that it even spread to their picnics. No soggy bread sandwiches hurriedly made before leaving. Nothing but the best would do, and some of my fellow trippers confided that they'd taken close to two hours to prepare everything. I'm afraid all I had to offer was a white lie, that I'd left my picnic at home. The resulting blush was far paler than it would have been, had I actually unpacked my meagre offering. Not that it made any difference. If I hadn't seen people eat, I would have sworn we took more food home, than we actually consumed. And this was very definitely my first picnic where wine was served. Luckily for me, it was not to be the last.

But it was in the afternoon that I made the find of the year. Thérèse and myself had been bickering for months over the relative merits of our favourite authors. For some years now, I had been seriously obsessed with the Latin American authors and their magical realism. Thérèse also enjoyed them but didn't really consider them serious writers. She far preferred the more philosophical French style prevalent at the time. For her literature had to inform not to entertain. So it was a minor triumph for me when just days before Gabriel García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Thérèse was bemused but had to admit magical realism had arrived in the literary world. For weeks before our journey she had promised me a trip to a very special bookstore which specialised in "minority literatures" as the French so beguilingly called them. And it was there that we found a book by an as yet totally unknown author, a young Chilean woman, relative of the deposed former President Salvador Allende. La Casa De Los Espiritus (The House of the Spirits) was Isabelle Allende's first work and we were lucky to have it at all, for no one was interested in translating what was as yet unproved talent. But the store owner's niece had been studying Spanish and had just obtained her degree in translation. To prove her talent and to get a first foot on the ladder she had spent the better part of the last year of her studies translating Allende's book and had persuaded her uncle to invest his life savings by publishing the book. It took him just one reading to be convinced and we were now holding the first French versions ever to be sold. Needless to say both niece and uncle became established figures in the literary world as a result of their championing Allende. And it didn't hurt them financially either. But we couldn't hang around talking all afternoon as we had to get back to the Citadel for Morgana's concert. It was a fitting close to a wonderful day and it convinced me of the need to plan such days into what was rapidly becoming my very busy and lonely schedule.


Everyone deserves a day off now and then :)

27 February 2008 at 17:32  

i am hoping that simon and therese have more excitement,,, outside of arguing about literary styles on this trip....

27 February 2008 at 18:50  

Sometimes it's easy not to see the hole we're falling into until we're at the bottom, looking up!

27 February 2008 at 22:58  

Oh dear...a lonely schedule...

You can find my 3 words ::here::.

Have a great day!

27 February 2008 at 23:09  

Simon rocks. LOL

28 February 2008 at 01:19  

great chapter this's abt time he took a day off...let's see, picnic, music, reading...sounds like a success to me...

28 February 2008 at 21:15  

I really loved the last segment, especially since I know something of Spanish writers. I also really enjoyed your opening. You're a detailed, prolific writer and I enjoyed getting to know your work. I hope I get to read more in the future!

29 February 2008 at 03:43  

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