On the ledge of my balcony, a collared dove, graceful as a ballerina, side-steps towards me. Does this little bird of peace realise that it is an intruder in my nest? A dove, whose lineage dates back to Asia Minor, traverses the Middle East and then flits across Europe can, I suppose, be forgiven for dropping in uninvited. We nod politely. Is this the same one that came yesterday and all the days before that?
Then, without so much as a by-your-leave, the dove takes off, leaving me to abandon all hopes of having any sort of flourishing relationship. I ponder about how it must feel right now to be a dove that can roam around the earth and air. And if my life in Covid-19 has really come to this: have I lately become jealous of a dove? I really need to get out more.
It is another beginning of a lockdown day in St. Cyprien. Earth and sun are in motion as the sun inches skyward. Time is passing and shadows are exiting, heralding time for me to go out. Feeling a tad lazy today, I linger on inside. Listless, slothful and sluggish, hours pass in this frustrating way.
I am not aware of any human that has actually succeeded in over-dosing on chocolate, but today might finally be the day for me to try. Painting my toenails is the only task I complete, which is hardly worth mentioning since I have been awake for eight hours before lifting a finger to do that.
My French friend calls and informs me that I am not unique. Everyone on the planet is depressed. I do not find this approach helpful. When I mention that I am self-medicating with chocolate, there are gasps down the line. Sympathetic words are henceforth withheld and furthermore, I am ordered, in no uncertain terms, to:
This approach has, in fact, a very negative effect on me, I think afterwards.
My Irish pals, first enquire if I am hung-over. This is irrelevant, as it would result in the same advice, which is to open a bottle of wine immediately. It is generally agreed that my languid mood is the result of a bad night’s sleep, I am told to stock up on chocolate, jellies and Pringles and then, simply chill out on the couch and watch TV. My heart warms thinking of my little clan of kindred spirits in Ireland. An excellent approach, I applaud it.
By the time I go out for a walk, it is evening time. I pass Aqualand and am reminded that before lockdown started, my family were planning a trip over to France. My sister asked me to make enquires as to when it would open for the season. I remember her saying that she had her daughters’ needs to consider. Hmph, I thought, am I not sufficient entertainment? Am I competing with that?
The structure is made up of multiple coloured -tubes and whirls that rise up, twist around and make pathways in the air for kids to whizz around, before flopping down into the water. Personally, I thought it nothing more than a junkyard that marred my view of the mountain peak, Canigou. Today, Aqualand lies idle. It is overgrown, ghostly and sad. I try to imagine my nieces’ faces bracing for the great splash at that moment when their bodies slide into the water.
At the beginning of this year, I would have wagered that I would never say that I can’t wait for Aqualand to re-open. In so many ways, since this virus began, we might all have altered our perspective, even on these little things, that we would never have imagined. I pass by this forlorn place now and wish that I could hear the sound of children shrieking with delight.
I meander along feeling that same melancholy feeling that I can’t shrug off. I look toward the sky and see a strand of sunshine making a glowing amber line across the rim of the cloud that the sun is hiding behind. I hear a deep, low voice of a man. I recognise his omnipresent voice. Morgan Freeman speaks:
“Oh Lordy, you have got yourself a mighty fine cloud with a silver lining.”
Just to be clear, Morgan Freeman is not here in the South of France. Nor do I hear voices in my head, except for Mr Freeman’s, on this one occasion. And, when I think about it, what he says is true: I may still be in the running for the best aunt in the world.
Competition is fierce in my family for the title: I was nervous that I was sliding down the ranks since I moved to France. I was no longer in a position to be in situ and bribe them. I thought I had been gazumped by my sister, or, my sister-in-law, who is also in the running. But since this virus started, I have a read an original biography penned by my ghostwriter Ella Hammond aged 11. She describes me as having “a dramatic life” – I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Her sister Jessica, sends a gallery of artwork and jokes, photos and little bits and pieces to make a bodies’ day. Ella also wrote a quarantine diary. In this document of enormous historical significance, she relates details about how she calls her friends and sometimes they just sit and do their homework quietly in their respective houses. I find this most intriguing. I have been read short stories by the author, all original compositions. I might have to remind everyone that I am confident that I am still the favoured aunt.
Clinking sounds from boats make plaintive sounds that draw in some mysterious lonely cry from the ocean. Strolling back around the marina, shoals of fish swim in the water and I think about their practical biological descriptions -fins, scales and gills and see how this transcends into slivers of magical lightness. How gentle it feels, to see the beauty in life and look at families of fish play chasing and gadding about, going about their excursions.
I mutter “bonsoir” to a stranger that passes by. He stops and calls out my name.
“C’est une catastrophe !” he cries, bowing his sorry head.
The look on my face tells him everything that he already knows. It dawns on me what disaster has happened- Asterix’s wife has cut his hair!
With a finger held in the air, he announces that hairdressing and housewifery are not at all related tasks- not that I was ever in any doubt. Who would have thought that snipping a few, stray strands could be so challenging? He touches his ears and tells me how grateful he is that still has both of them. I had no idea they were so big, but I daren’t say a word about that.
Many victims of DIY hairdressing have taken to disguise and wear caps and masks outdoors, or even balaclavas, which all looks quite normal in today’s world.
We are all in dire need of a hairdresser.
Sporting a ponytail, I continue on my walk homeward. I look back to the clouds. My silver-lining has turned to a blaze of vibrant gold. I acknowledge that I am in a more cheerful mood that I started out the day. I feel quite joyful really. Barry White tells me:
“Don’t change the colour of your hair… I love you just the way you are.”
No silly! I have not gone completely mad! I do not hear voices in my head. I put my headphones on! I am listening to music.
When the silver linings fade away, they leave nothing but sun. We are nearly there.
Bring it on!