Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Turn left at the canal

Monday 4th October 2010: Marseillette FR. 
Autumn is here
After a good nights sleep, I decided that an adventure on my bike was a good idea. This week I had planned to ‘get back to businesses, in other words, get back to eating well and doing things well, including my running. I needed a few days of preparation and after a good healthy breakfast, it gave me the incentive to continue. Taking the first step is always hard. Continuing it is easy because you have already started! So, after this, I took my bike and turned from Marseillette towards a town called Trebes.

Cycling along the canal path was blissful, especially as there was not a soul about. I remembered that it was Monday and contemplated on my previous Monday Mornings over the past few weeks. Looking around me the colours have definitely changed. The lush summer green has been replaced by an autumnal orangey-brown. This can only mean one thing. The passing of one moment to the next- I must remember summer!
As I continue along the path, I meet a few cyclists and people passing on their boats. I wave to the ones on the water and greet the ones who pass me with an enthusiastic ‘Bonjour’ as our paths cross. I pass three bridges, all very different the one before. They all seem to lead from the vineyard on my left to the owner’s home on my right over the canal. They look busy and I can only assume the grapes that have been picked are starting their transformation process from solid to liquid.

I continue further still, knowing that the journey is going to take me about 45 minutes if I don’t stop. I’m not really interested in the destination, although that is obviously I’m heading. I want to be able to cycle at my leisure and stop when I want to. I know this drives the Pilot mad, because he is the complete opposite. I know he is happy when I keep up with him and I like it when he keeps up with me.
I stop to take some photos of the tiniest mushrooms I have ever seen! They are in the middle of the path and are growing in small family clusters! I wonder how they haven’t been squashed already, but marvel at their intricate patterns.

After this, I can see that the lock is not far away and am happy that it is the three step one. I watch in awe as the boats are lifted by the rising water and then they are able to sail towards the next lock. I stop to watch all of these things happening whilst an elderly man, with bright white hair stops to talk to me.  He is smoking a cigarette and looking down my top every few seconds as we converse in French. I pretend not to notice, but continue talking to him; I suppose men never grow out of that…looking at a woman’s breasts!

I finally get to Trebes, and remember that things slow down and shut between 12pm and 2pm. Its gone 12pm! I wander around the streets looking at the fish restaurant and wondering how much it would cost to eat a crab in there. I cycle on and park up to explore the rest of the area on foot. I attempt to start at the tope of the town, but realising that the church is down a side road I abandon all thoughts of my mission. That is until I come across a sign which detains me for quite a while. It says ‘English Bookshop’. Well, what else could I do but go inside!

The door was initially locked, but the lady inside; closely followed by her dog, let me in. After conversing for a while I got to the task of searching through the books. There were many I would have liked to buy, but I looked through each once carefully. I chose one about a lady who had given up her life in England to live in the French Pyrenees between France and Spain. I hoped that it would give me the inspiration to do something similar.

I then sifted through old postcards which ranged from 100 years ago to the 1980’s. I chose two black and white ones, one of Lourdes; I hope to compare the picture later on this week, and one of some Barracks. A brother had written to his sister at 1908, describing his trip in a ‘motor’. By the sounds of it, he was having a great time. I suppose men never stop wanting adventures do they? And women? I suppose they help their men achieve them. I wonder if their appreciate it?

I leave this bookshop after about an hour and try to find the church I had initially planned to see. Unfortunately, when I get there quite a wind has picked up and the door is locked until 2pm. I wonder whether there is a point in cycling to the supermarket beforehand, and chose to go. The supermarket is empty and it seems that all the workers are restocking the shelves. I get a few items, knowing that my rucksack is already heady and head with my tomato juice to the checkout.

I go outside to find that it has started to rain, which is not good. I know that I still have to make it up the hill to the top of the town, and the wind has started to pick up properly now. So, the wind and the rain smatter into me as I change the gears on the bike to ease my ride. I see a random jigsaw piece on the floor and start thinking about my own life. Wouldn't it be simple if you could find a piece like this and everything would be all right again. the missing piece to your jigsaw puzzle. My brain starts ticking over for another story!

Once at the church, I huddle at the doorway in order to shelter from the elements. It works for a while, and I look at my phone and see that it is 13.40. Still another 20 minutes to go! I resign myself to the wooden door behind me, and I hear the huge lock turn and a man open the door. My prayers have been answered! I am grateful to this early opening and go inside to spend some quiet time in contemplation. This church is quite homely and I am pleased that I waited to get inside.

I have yet to find a church that moves me. So far, I have only found two. The ‘Sacre Coeur’ in Paris and the ‘Basilica’ in Lourdes. The Basilica at Lichen in Poland was stunning though, with all those angels. I suppose, then I would have to add that to my list, but the countless others, and I have seen a fair few, they don’t have what I am looking for. What am I looking for? I’ll tell you when I find it. It is that indescribable feeling of beauty. No words are necessary.

I look around the church and find a statue of Mary holding Jesus as a baby. The statue is lovely and there is something quite reverent about it. The child in his mother’s arms is held carefully, and her fingers seem to cradle the baby with care and attention. It is in the hands that it depicts the love for me. I move along and after lighting a candle, I find my mum’s favourite saint. It is St Anthony of Padua, and I always rub his feet when I see him. I always remind me of my mum. It’s a different one than the ones I have seen before though. The infant Jesus he is carrying usually looks outwards, but this one is different. This one is more soul searching. This infant is gently touching the face of St Anthony as they look at one another. It is very intimate and you can see a special relationship there. It makes me cry, and then tears I have held in for so long pour out. I sit in the small chapel and think about all the things going around in my heart. I am searching for peace and I am searching for happiness and I wonder how long these things will take to arrive. I feel some solace sitting in that empty church, but I am aware that I am alone, and nothing will change that feeling.
I leave the church and walk back along the quiet streets back to the bike. It has now stopped raining, but the wind is still cold. I retrace my steps along the canal and I see that the autumnal colours lift my spirits somewhat.

I make a bacon and mushroom pie, topped with mashed potatoes after a quick snooze on the patio. I am tired this evening, and wonder if another early night will do me good. ‘One hour before midnight is worth two after’ apparently, I close my eyes after reading my new book and listen to the wind blowing outside.

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