In the midst of life

Jun 8th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

What was the point of keeping the news cutting?

It was from an edition of the French regional daily Sud Ouest from last August. The tragic story of a family row that had led to someone being stabbed would not have caused comment had the name of the commune not caught the eye and then the name of the neighbour who had gone to the house to discover the awful scene.

The killing had taken place in a little hamlet where we had holidayed for five years. It is a tiny spot distant from any main road, where the hours were marked by the passing of the boulanger’s van at 7 am; the return of the farmer’s tractor at noon; and the starting up of the same tractor at 3 pm, at the end of the midi.

It was easy to imagine the chestnut brown countryman running across the road to investigate the cause of the commotion that had shattered the tranquility of his tiny community. It was not easy to imagine how someone who seemed always gentle and courteous coped with the scene he discovered.

The newspaper was put under the car seat with the intention of sending it to our friend who owned the house, but we never got around to it.

In late April, The Guardian carried an obituary of our friend, who had finally lost her battle against a rare form of cancer.

Of course, we had meant to get around to seeing her again, perhaps again sharing a meal at the wonderful table d’hote where a new bottle of wine came with each course, and all at an inclusive price which would barely have covered the cost of a main course in many places, but we never did. There were so many moments of laughter to remember.

The newspaper appeared from under the car seat last week. It seemed pointless, it seemed sensible to just throw it into the green bin, but I took the scissors and carefully cut out the story.

To what end?

The cutting lies on the floor, it has no place or purpose, but to throw it out would seem painful. It seems a link to times that are now forever past.

We will never again drink kir on the terrace, or eat shrimps on the lawn in the warm darkness of a French summer’s night. We will never again drive down the little lane, where everyone waves, on the way to one of the numerous local markets. We will never again stand outside, as we did at Halloween 2003, and watch the Northern Lights throw eery shades of yellow and green across the sky. We will never again share the shouts and laughter of the swimming pool.

So many moments, gone forever. It is almost as though in the story of a death there is a clinging on to life.

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