Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angst in Brussels - Joie de vivre in Provence

Another burst of joy simply about living here day to day.

Yesterday, October 26th, was sublime. The morning began with gunshot (local hunters) and heavy mist. The French mist that Maupassant and Pagnol wrote about. That blocks out the early morning sun but is gradually penetrated by brilliant shafts of sunlight that instantly lift the spirit and draw you outside to walk on the limestone track and through the beautiful pine forest.

Europe and the euro were apparently in their death throes in Berlin and Brussels last night but, as far as I can see, the angst hasn't entirely made its way to Provence. Most Provençal people of my acquaintance were shrugging their shoulders, assuming that Sarko and Merkel would figure out some eye-wateringly insane multi-trillion euro sum of money and toss it into the black hole that is Greek debt.

One local said to me: "Another failed German project to dominate Europe. They wanted the euro; they wanted a united Europe. Now it's gone bad, they want to ditch the rest of us." Another said: "The Germans are saying we'll now have to follow their policies. But that's OK. German policies work for Germany. Maybe they'll work for us."

Daily life in Provence, meanwhile, rattles along much as usual. The market stallholders set up as usual in towns and villages. The cafés open and patrons put chairs and tables outside in the sun. A hundred and one associations in every département carry on organising their fetes, days out and celebratory dinners.

The clearest evidence of la crise perhaps is at the local supermarket, where promos offer food and other products at rock bottom prices. Even there though, the price reductions are presented as celebrating the anniversary of the Intermarché chain. Yesterday, I paid around 20 euros for 40 euros worth of food. Rice, tuna, ham, pastry, artichoke soup, pasta, red was all for sale at more or less half-price.

Add a rabbit presented by a friend, wild mushrooms from the forest, broccoli, peppers and tomatoes from a friend's potager, goat's cheese from the producer at Mazan, and olive oil from my own trees, produced last winter, and you can eat well very cheaply (all year round).

The dark clouds over Europe and the euro are certainly for real. But for the moment, Provence continues to poke me in the ribs, saying: "Look at the beauty. Look at the forest. Look at nature."

I probably ought to be depressed about the crisis in Europe, the wicked banks and corrupt capitalism. But I find myself looking elsewhere: at the mist and the forest and the limestone track. And at the plants that are still flowering everywhere I look. I find myself listening to the song birds that sing in excruciatingly sweet voices high in the trees, and the jays that bicker in their funny prehistoric voices. And the more I look at nature, the more I see that is thrilling. And I can't help feeling overjoyed.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, how true ! Despite the depressing stories on the news every day, I too find myself singing in an excruciatingly high sweet way to to the trees, while the kids bicker like jays.