Sunday, August 19, 2007

Notre lune de miel

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 2
Hair day: Bit shoddy. I did quite classy home-dye job on the underside of my fringe but it glows a little yellow rather than arctic blonde. Needs chopping back into East London-sharpness.

The word ‘honeymoon’, did you know, translates directly into the French. Why ‘honey’, and why ‘moon’, I’m still none the wiser, but hey, it’s more poetic than ‘post-wedding excursion’ or ‘after-nuptial outing’, and there was a lot of swooningly romantic moons and an awful lot of bees’ own gloopy stuff consumed. Little did I know, however, that I’d be spending my first night not just with Andy but with three other men as well. And a woman,

Not as ‘Erotic Review’ as it sounds, quelle dommage. Our honeymoon, like Wedfest, kept up the eco-friendly theme by cutting out the flying (always a bonus for sweaty-palmed moi), so we journeyed to the south of France sur le train. We piled on at Gare d’Austerlitz to find that the first romantic night of our hol would be a 6-in-a-cupboard affair, squeezing on planks just as wide as my thighs (not that is NOT that wide thank you very much), cramped accordion-like in order to accommodate suitcases on said plank, on a train that mostly felt like one of the runaway carts at the end of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’.

We fell out of the train at the rusting shack of Najac station in deepest Aveyron territory, half-crazed with lack of sleep and food, and started to get used to our surroundings. Najac was just a pinch-perfectly beautiful place, all quirky tumbledown houses, cobbles, shutters and curling vines, with a kick-ass 12th-century castle lording it at the top with its views of richly dark green hills, a gorge and the winding town. Our own place was a converted barn 7km away, next to gregarious Dutch owner Ronald and his dog Cookie, who is now nominated for the Best Dog In The World For Services In Cuteness Award. We lived within thick stone slabs, lit by a gothic candelabrum, nestled under a gossamer mosquito net, eating sweet milkbreads, bricks of butter and local honey and drinking slightly acidic rough red wine.

Life became pared down to the simplest of pleasures: sleeping, eating, reading, swimming, eating, sleeping, reading, eating, swimming, sleeping. A big event would be getting ourselves to Najac for supplies, either by walking or hitching with all manner of brilliant French people, from a slightly surly tattooed local to a lady who was working on her third book about the sociology of women and clothes. There was nothing better than lying prone on our chaise-longes, with the pool outblueing the blue blue sky, looking out over the undulating countryside, drinking mint tea with pungent stuff we picked from the pathside, whilst the plum tree swayed gently in the breeze and fuzzy-felt bees purred and snuffled at the lavender. Andy looked like slickly Bond-esque in his tiny black swimming trunks and colossal shades, and I a much fatter/paler Ursula Andress in my bikini. In more animated style, we discovered, after attempts at windy badminton, snorkelling and falling off the blow-up crocodile, that inflatable water volleyball was the best sport ever. We also played darts, dominoes, the piano and pool in the only drinking establishment within walking distance, a pub run by a brash Liverpudlian. Who needs London…

Well, we got ourselves back to the Big Smoke eventually, or should I say Le Grand Gauloise, as we stopped in Paris in an author’s bijou flat near Montmartre. We ate many croissants and drank many glasses of bierre blanc or rosé, tried our best to avoid the tourist traps and instead hang out louchely in bars still billowing with tobacco clouds: Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud and Oberkampf were essentially East London’s coolest dives all in two streets. We combed the Centre Pompidou and absorbed 6 hours’ worth of brilliant modern art, including a fabulously twisted Annette Messager exhibition (think the Chapman Bros but with more soft toys), and in high-art homage, we visited the graves of Sarte and De Beauvoir, Serge Gainsbourg, Man Ray, Baudelaire and Beckett, for whom we wrote a tributary mini-play which we left on his slab. Parfait!

Back in the real Big Smoke now, nice to be back in my own bijou flat. So far have enjoyed beating my twin-headed fear of flying and heights with by intrepidly gliding over the Yorkshire Wolds for 7 minutes, a juice trip to Bristol to record music for a short film, a brilliant exhibition of Heath Robinson's daftly witty cartoons, and the sight of Antony Gormley, who was showing his folks round or something, looming out of his own fog box (his work Blind Light) on the day we visited his exhibition at the Hayward. Class!

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