Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Retirement village

As far as I'm concerned, this title—retirement village—doesn't mean much, for the obvious reason that I don't actually reside in a village: neither Choranche nor Pont-en-Royans. To be quite truthful, I think I would go mad if I had to reside within the narrow precincts of old-fashioned villages such as Choranche or Pont-en-Royans. That was one of the first things that Christine, Emmanuelle and François noticed when they discovered Gamone. Thankfully, our marvelous place named Gamone, looking outward upon the valley, has nothing in common with the spirit of constricted territories such as the two above-mentioned villages. On a sunny winter's day, when I drive down into the chilly whiteness of Pont-en-Royans, I have the impression that I've changed continents. As for the tiny village of Choranche (le bourg, where I hardly ever set foot), it reminds me sadly of a place that has no particular desire to welcome individuals from the outside world (such as myself), so I lose no time there.

Gamone, on the other hand, is my kingdom. But the mind of the monarch (me) has often been pierced by melancholy thoughts about what might have been the case if only I had hesitated for a moment before settling down at Gamone. A crowd of onlookers down in the Antipodes is crying out (as if they were watching a rugby final): "Yeah, Billy, you should have decided to come back here to your native land, maybe even to South Grafton." It's a fact that this kind of vague idea reoccurred often in my imagination back in the days when my mother Kath had just inherited the agricultural property of my father. If only she had said to me "Billy, come back to Deep Creek and Nymboida, to look after your father's properties", I would have probably done so. But Kath, without ever sending me a word on such matters, squandered stupidly and rapidly all of Bill Skyvington's agricultural assets. In any case, it would have been a huge mistake for me to return to my birthplace.

On the other hand, there's a fascinating spot in the Mediterranean world that I would have dearly loved to embrace as my adopted home. I'm talking of Tinos, in the Cyclades, in Greece. I was young.

In those hot mind-filling days, I was a minor poet:
     Dead wood from a windmill in Tinos
    The wobbly weathercock of Grecian winters
    will no longer indicate the pale blue meridian
    from Asia to Africa.
    It lies on the arid ground between rocks and snakes.
    Alongside, three aged teeth in black oak
    will never more bite the Etesian winds, full of salt,
    during their long seasons of wild wheat
    on the burning slopes of archaic Tinos.
    This sacred soil once offered water and bread
    to Poseidon and Amphitrite.
    The Cyclades filled the sails of Ulysses and made
    the warm bread rise, covered in seeds of sesame.
    Old toothless windmill, memory of the Aegean.
These days, the various idiots who send nasty comments to my blog posts about Lawrence Durrell and his daughter Sappho know little, surely, about the Mediterranean and Durrell's environment. In particular, they've probably never known Greece, let alone Provence. So, I ignore them.

I often thought that it would be so easy to purchase a property on the island of Tinos, maybe in the Roman Catholic region of the island, and I imagined living there. Today, retrospectively, I realize that it would have been a mistake for me to think about a retirement village in Greece, notably on the island of Tinos. Three obvious problems:

— The problem of water on the Greek islands renders life uncomfortable.

— It would be difficult, for an individual such as myself, to tolerate the pious and antiquated religiousness of Greeks.

— Sadly, the current economic problems of Greece mean that the entire nation is at a standstill.

So, I'm better off here at Gamone. But I still dream about Tinos...

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