I wanted to get out of the house because a band is here recording with Eric and it seemed like it would be a good idea to go write somewhere else for a while. I packed up my laptop and drove to the next village over, thinking the library might work, but it was closed for lunch.
So I drove off – maybe there was a café or salon de the I could sit in for an hour or two. All of a sudden my choices seemed impossibly limited, possibly nonexistent.
There’s a bar near the library, but it’s not even inviting for a short cup of coffee, let alone sitting for an hour or two. The Salon de The is a new English-run place we tried once and never went back to – the tea was cheap and nasty, the croissants from the supermarket. I was almost tempted to give it another try but as I drove past a sad English face appeared in the window and I had to drive on.
That simultaneously lonely and liberating feeling of being alone in a crowd – I don’t think I’ll ever stop craving that. The countryside can feel so empty sometimes. Is it wrong to get bored by the peace and quiet of it? No more so than it’s natural to crave silence and space when you’re surrounded by people and noise every minute of the day. I thought of all the villages nearby and had to rule out everything: the ones where I know the proprietors, because I just wanted to sit down and write and didn’t want to have a conversation.
And the thought of hauling my laptop into an unknown bar was also out of the question. It is not habitual around here, like it is in cafes in big cities, to see people sitting there working on computers. There’s much to love about the slow, civilized pace of life in France, but the downside is in many circumstances you have to play by the rules – it would be tacky or downright uncomfortable to do otherwise. I knew that whatever I found, it would either have people still eating lunch and I’d feel obnoxious barging in with work to do, or the place would be empty and one or two friends of the owner would be sitting there making conversation while a sporting event flickered on the TV set. No doubt I would have to crawl around trying to find an outlet to plug my computer in until a big deal would be made about it, with my plug eventually having to be stuck into a fluorescent light fixture up above the bar. I’d probably have knocked over a chair and started sweating profusely and blushing by then, and have to flee the scene.
I tried the bar/restaurant by the lake, even though I’d vowed I’d never set foot in there again cause they hemmed and hawed about giving us a gig and then continually book that lame duo who play the Who medley. I figured if there were a few people in, it was a pleasant enough spot and is run by women so I wouldn’t feel as self-conscious about being on my own in a bar in the middle of the afternoon.
The parking lot was completely empty, the place closed for the afternoon. I sat in the car and wrote in my notebook for a little while but it was the keyboard I wanted.
By this time I was thinking the library had probably re-opened after lunch. I turned around and was cruising along when I saw a pheasant standing right on the center line of the road. Then two others walked out to join him. They showed no signs of moving any time soon.
I slowed down and honked the horn – they still didn’t move. I stopped the car and started cursing at them, and instantly felt a little better for having a random moment with someone, even if it was a couple of pheasants.
When I managed to get them out of my way and had started up the car again, a noisy Publicity Vehicle came along – these are usually slightly battered looking vans that drive around the countryside with a guy in the front seat holding a microphone while a crappy loudspeaker blares incomprehensible announcements about whatever corny event is going on that weekend (I think it’s the circus this time). Nothing but him, me and the pheasants. I cursed at him too.
The little bibliotheque’s not a bad place. The women who work here are sweet – there are books, magazines, children – life! I found a table to work at with a plug socket right nearby and breathed a sigh of relief. At last, I could begin. There was a little hum, a few very quiet conversations. Perfect.
Only for some reason they’d found it necessary to install a bell next to the front door, so that any time someone leaves or enters, which seems to be every two seconds, a chime goes off. Guess where the speaker is?
I’ve been willing myself to block it out. I know I can write something – I just needed some static, some white noise.
Here comes that damn Publicity Vehicle again.