Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Letters from the Cévennes

Last week author Miriam Drori ('Neither Here nor There' is her latest novel) asked me to contribute to her blog, 'Letters from Elsewhere'.  So I thought I would write about Jacques, the central character in my forthcoming novel Messandrierre.  Below are extracts from the letters that he might have written to his father in Paris...

1 Grande-rue
February 2008

The road from the village up through the col
…papa, keeping in touch would be so much easier if you used the laptop I brought for you and maman when I was home last month.  I know tinkering with your precious English Norton in the courtyard is more interesting than getting involved in modern technology, but it would help me a great deal if you could at least try.

I was up on the col at the weekend on my BSA and the engine failed again.  It was a long 10k walk home and mostly in the snow.  It’s been very cold here…

March 2008
The view south from the village
            …Messandrierre?  What can I say?  It’s much the same, papa.  I’m beginning to think the village is always the same.  Delacroix and the Rouselles are still feuding and I doubt that they can even remember the origin of the issue that really sets them against each other.  The Pamiers keep themselves to themselves, and I’ve realised that life here just meanders through the seasons.  So very, very different from Paris.
            I’m really sorry to hear that Francis has been made redundant.  That’ll make things very difficult for them and the boys.  I’ve still got the money from the sale of my place in Paris.  It’s sitting in the bank doing nothing except earning interest and, as yet I’ve no intention of investing in a property here.  Francis and I have had our moments over the years but I wouldn’t want see my little sister and the boys in difficulty.  So, if you can papa, have a quiet word when you next see Thérèse and let her know she can come to me for help if she needs to and I’ll call her tonight and say the same thing even though it will be useless.  But if she hears it from you she’ll take notice.

June 2008

Lac de Charpal
            …I knew I shouldn’t have said anything in my last letter.  And I suspect it is maman that really wants to know.  Well, her name is Beth and she was staying in one of the chalets on the edge of the village.  She’s funny and clever and easy to talk to and vulnerable and shy and she’s English.  And it’s complicated.  Perhaps we should keep that last bit to ourselves eh?  I don’t want maman making assumptions and jumping to the wrong conclusions and then worrying about me.  And, just for the record, Beth is nothing like Madeleine.  She’s back in England now and it feels as though there is a hole in my life.  We’re keeping in touch.  Well I’ve messaged her a couple of times.  I’m not sure where this might go but…
 …give my love to maman and tell her that I’m relieved that she’s beginning to feel better.  I had no real idea the long-term prognosis was not good until your last letter.  Make sure you tell her I’m all right and that I’ll come home as soon as I can.
Your only son, Jacques

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