Observations of a Newcomer

by Leone Crinnion

Catch up on previous posts

1234 5 678 – 9101112131415

Although the notion of observing a day of rest has eroded, the inhabitants here in St. Cyprien stand steadfast in this regard. Languishing around, being idle on Sunday is a mandatory rule strictly adhered to here in my little coin.

On Saturdays, the market vendors tell me to have a :

“Bon Dimanche”

This statement comes ahead of schedule, as though we are on the cusp of a great event, which in a way it is, as we are on Sunday’s eve. This day will pass honouring loafing around engaging in slothful inactive pursuits.

On Sunday morning at the marina outside my apartment, walkers stroll along, bobbing and nodding as they chat with their companions. Moving faster than their footwork, mouths do the bulk of the exercise. Conversations venture to the moon and back. I don’t recognise any walkers: they are invaders who have come to stroll around.

The folks surrounding me have no time for exercise on Sunday morning: attentions here are focused on preparations for lunch. Armed with baguettes and platters of pre-ordered food, they trail back from the shops. Cardboard boxes come with careful hands, held up high in the air, proclaiming their importance, for cakes are always the trophies of the day. No need for hornblowers, or flagbearers, my neighbours holler up to me every week just before noon to wish me a bon appétit.

apartment view observations
View from my apartment

Last Sunday, I hung over the balcony listening to my neighbour as he gave a short recital of his lunch menu. When my turn came to respond, I told him that I would skip lunch as I wasn’t hungry. Aghast, he almost fell backwards into the marina. When he eventually spoke, he suggested that I had lost my appetite because of the virus, which, he reminded me, affects everyone. He waved his finger up and advised that I stay positive.

Another neighbour joined in and instructed me not to watch T.V. This catapulted into a complete ban of all world news; they deduced that it was imperative to hold onto any filaments of sanity that may be at any moment about to flee from my mind. They talked for a while then about how the vagaries of the mind affect the stomach.

Another neighbour appeared and alerted to my problem, which was described as a refusal to eat in the re-telling. Her reaction was to state that it was Sunday and that was enough to say about the matter: it would never come again. They chatted amongst themselves: well- cough, splutter and laugh! My neighbour turned to let me in on their secret verdict. In a loud sing-song whisper, he teased:

“Tu es amoureuse”.

Well, gossip amongst yourselves! I went to defend myself to the accusers, but the clock struck noon, and they had all scattered away in pursuit of an apéritif.

Later, I went out on my bike in the direction of Latour-Bas-Elne.

Sunday cycles are different than any other where freewheeling is more the rhythm of the day.

I stand up on the pedals to coast along. I peer over hedgerow looking for slip-roads that might lead to curiosities.

I negotiated the road to Latour-Bas-Elne with some caution: a big dipper of a hole runs along the side rather like an abrupt cliff-edge. The trench is designed for drainage purposes. I assume it has other uses, such as swallowing up any motorists that might take a wild notion to overtake or be a little too hasty along the route: a cyclist with their head in the clouds hasn’t a chance of survival. Trees align and lean back away from the trench. Tree roots exposed by hacked earth slain in the making of the great channel look naked. Pitifully, their trunks are covered in camouflage colours of patchy greens, and they look courageous and smart in their unformed military attire, but, alas, the poor trees, it’s all in the body language and lined up in a row. The way they are leaning back, they look terrified.

Off-road, here is what I believe is a palm-tree farm: I am unaccustomed to seeing palm-tree farms in Ireland. It is delightful and maybe merely there for decoration and passers-by to gawk at and feel elated looking at them wave their leaves. I had already stopped to look at the field of a dozen black horses who taxi white herons perched on their backs. Then I stopped to stare at a cute sandy-coloured baby sow who was taking a stroll along with his pal, a piebald pony. Mindful of the 6 pm curfew I pushed on.

I passed by signs for campsites and caravan parks. I thought about when I stayed in a campground in Alaska. A moose casually strolled in. We took it in our stride. When there is a moose on the loose, it is all about location. A moose showing up unannounced in Latour-Bas-Elne might cause a rumpus. Although, they are used to exotic creatures in these parts.:I believe that Hannibal, the Carthaginian General took a trip to Elne across the Pyrénnées with 38,000 infantry, 7,000 cavalry and 37 elephants. Never say never.

I also read about a time in Elne’s history when no-one was permitted to attack his enemy from Saturday night at 9 o’clock until Monday at one. I suspect there might be some obscure regulations in place here at Latour-Bas-Elne. I have passed through the main street a million times, and I have not yet seen a citizen outside. It is quite a mystery to me as tended gardens and vegetable patches abound.  I spied lemon trees in ceramic pots and buckets and spades strewn about. With 2000 inhabitants, I should get a sighting of one human being, but for now, the virus has scuppered any hope of it. My investigations are continuing.

lemon plants observations

At the clock tower at Latour-Bas-Elne I checked the time, time and time again! Curfews give me the jitters. Between 5 pm and 6, any possible calamities like punctures and other unforeseen delays ignite some panic in my mind. So I like to hold back some spare sweaty moments for any potential hic-cups. I decided to head back.

I am home before the sun sets.  I look out my back window.  There is nobody in sight. The place looks lonely and sad.

I think about the trees bursting with lemons and oranges that I saw on my way back: the majestic mountain backdrop full of snow and how I think the mountain follows me everywhere I go.

It’s time to concentrate on little things: it’s a time for remembering things like good holidays, great friends and moose sightings.

And to look forward to next Sunday’s lunch.


Leone Crinnion is an Irish solicitor (lawyer) who specialises in property law. She teaches Law in the Law Society of Ireland and English at Paris Dauphine University (part-time). She is also a piano teacher.

She is currently looking for work opportunities in the Perpignan area, in education or other fields of interest.

Email: crinnion@gmail.com

Leave a Comment