Yesterday, Rob and I were up in his office, the attic, trying to get my email to work when the electricity went out. Rob went down 3 flights of stairs and saw a light was flashing in the fuse box. He opened the door and flames lept out. He called up to me. I came running down and when I saw the flames panicked. "Get somebody," he yelled. "Call the fire department." Neither of us knew the emergency number. I ran to David's house and screamed our house is on fire. He said he would be right there. I ran to the Patisserie and asked the owner to call the fire department.
We watched the flames climbing up the wall and still no fire department. Finally, twenty minutes later they arrived. I have no idea how many fire men and women there were but they appeared to move in slow motion... Rob was furious but couldn't do a thing. The police arrived. Our small street was crowded and I nearly cried as I watched the fire spread while the firemen talked about what to do.
Several used an extinquisher on the fuse box. They were about to leave when Rob yelled, "There's smoke coming out of the second floor. In slow motion again, they went for a ladder and hoisted it onto the next roof. Firemen went in with smoke masks and opened the first and second floor windows. (Oh yes, they did, while we stood there shivering in our pjs, helpless.)
In the end, the bottom floor, ground level, one wall was destroyed. The first floor (second in our language) was destroyed and the firemen sawed it up and then lay plywood. The whole house is covered in soot and smells like smoke. No electricity. No phone.
The electrician came. Our builder came. The insurance agent came. No one knows how this could have happened when the whole house was redone a year ago. The insurance agent simply said "restore it" in French.
And so Rob and I slept at Susan and David's last night. At 6:30 in the morning, we left for our planned "holidays". Rob is in London, taking a French course. (Yes.) And I am in Paris with Gillian, awaiting our Irish cousins (mother and daughter.)
The house is silent again. On January 1st, Brendan, Gillian, and Yeliz returned to Paris after celebrating too flamboyantly New Year's eve whereas Rob and I had a quiet night in the company of friends where we dined and played games - charade and dictionary - because Adam's two young boys were there. I secretly desired a little ruckus and music but still it was pleasant.
After the trio left for Paris, I went to a noon champagne and oyster party at Susan and Davids - a yearly event attended by English and French-speaking villagers where glasses of bubbly and platters of oysters are continuously replenished. I never liked oysters until last year when David begged me to try one (he'd bought too many) and I was surprised not to mind the texture and taste. After several, I began to enjoy them.
Isobel Allende in "Aphrodite" says that "Oysters are the queens of aphrodisiac cuisine, protagonists of every erotic scene recorded in literature or film. The best way to eat them is raw, after squeezing lemon over them to test whether they are alive..." Ah, I didn't know that's why the platters were filled with lemons.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I did not feel any great pangs of desire after slurping up 5 or 6 this year, but I can imagine they could be quite sexy at a table set for 2, with white linen and candles, half shells (top discarded), lemon squeezed liberally... in slow motion, raising the pearly shell to my lips, mouth open, oyster slidding down, down... (Allende says a lover may put the oyster in her mouth and then deliver it to her love's lips.)
After an hour, I left the party and went home to nap. I am not used to staying up past midnight. Finding myself not able to sleep (the oysters?) I went through the day in slow motion.
Today, I woke early, and felt a need to do something, anything, outside, wherever and so I drove to Gaillac and wandered round the Sunday market. I've been feeling housebound and needed some air and alone time. (I miss my small house in the garden though Rob and I seldom disturb the other during the day. He is on the fourth floor. I am on the bottom.)
I bought an almond croissant and went to Cafe Sport for coffee. The place is crowed. A line of men stand at the bar drinking beer (and it's not 11 a.m.), a number of grey-haired men sit a tables playing card games, and a woman across from me (there are few women) sits with her small dog, a long-haired mucky little thing, with a straight-up ponytail (tied with a red elastic) but you would think him (her?) her true love, as she positions him on her lap, paws on the table, and strokes his body, back and forth, absentmindedly.
And so the new year has begun slowly and I'm in a quiet frame of mind.
Last year was an extraordinary year. In March, I turned sixty. In May, I went on a gypsy pilgrimage to Les Saintes Maries de la mer. In July, Rob and I finally sold our house. In August, we welcomed Michael and Mackenzie "home", then emptied this home, and moved to France.
Since August, we have been enjoying, struggling, entertaining, and getting used to the novel experience of not having a Canadian address and debt. Rob says he's happy here and doesn't want to return to Canada. I don't know what I want. I miss friends and family. As far as writing goes, it has been a slim year. I did manage to send one story out in December and will send out another before the end of this month.
I am hoping 2010 brings clarity, direction, productivity, contentment, and good health.