A slight movement in my peripheral vision caused me to stop writing and to look down. The tiny worker bee, instead of taking advantage of its wings, was wearily trudging across an endless terrain of boulders, which is the gravel beneath my feet. Godlike, I watched it for a short time. It interested me as to why it was walking and not flying. The bee didn’t seem to be injured, but it behaved unusually: it was unusual to me as I am not acquainted with the subtleties of bee lore. It took seemingly unnecessary detours, turned in circles, paused to think, but always returned to the line along which it was advancing. The question of whether I could help the bee fleetingly crossed my mind and then, Godlike, I went back to my writing and created a memory.
Memories of yesterday conjure up images of inseparable blue sea and sky, bleached white walls, black painted spires and unbelievably bright coloured flowers growing up through the narrow pathways that lead through the town of Ars en Ré. Jenny and I had been invited by Laurence Méry Clark, authoress of “Je mange bien tous les jours”, to have lunch with her at her family holiday home. Île de Ré, the Vendéen island on which Ars is situated, is the stuff of dreams in that it can be so unbelievably wonderful, as is often the case in dreams, but, like dreams, it’s not real. It is like the most delicious sweetmeat of which only so much can be eaten before your teeth fall out. The reality of the island can only be seen out of season or by visiting with people who have lived there and who have been part of this small community for years. Such is Laurence’s family.
We met her in a sun baked place, where all but us had taken shelter from the sun, so that she could greet us and guide us down the tiny “venelle” that led to her home. Sitting beneath the shade of a spreading catalpa tree in the white walled garden we ate my idea of a perfect summer lunch. This vivacious octogenarian had set off on her bicycle that morning to buy the fresh, live langoustines that were now before us; piled, pink and delicious, in a white bowl adorned only with a bay leaf, from the court bouillon, like a feather in their cap.
Langoustines and fresh mayonnaise were followed by a salad of roasted Mediterranean vegetables and couscous with good cereal bread. A long white china dish filled with a summer fruit compote of raspberries, redcurrants, and brugnons refreshed our palates and reminded us that summer was here, had we not noticed. Deep in conversation over bowls of dark coffee, the afternoon passed too quickly and we left the shade of the catalpa tree, said our goodbyes until next year, crossed the bridge and awoke from the dream.