Watching time

Jul 26th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Tucked away in a little hamlet, at a point where the departments of the Gironde, Lot et Garonne and the Dordogne meet, the house was at a meeting place of councils and cultures. The car number plates bore evidence of the borderland nature of the place, 33s, 24s and 49s passed up and down the narrow road.

The house had been the farmhouse of a domaine with its own wine appellation; the wine was still produced, bottled and labelled in sheds on the far side of the road. The hamlet contained a cross section of people, local Parisian and foreign.

There wasn’t much to do in the evening, mostly trips to one of the local towns for an ice cream and a walk or to one of the night markets. The beautiful bastide town of Eymet was an easy drive and was filled with interest.

The journey went through the little village of le Sauvetat-du-Dropt, a village that would have seen countless journeys over the centuries.

On the left hand side of the street driving eastwards was a terrace of houses. Each summer evening, at the doorway of one of the houses, a lady would place a chair from her kitchen and would sit and watch the affairs of the evening. Usually, one or more neighbours would come and join her, passing the evening in conversation and watching the passing traffic.

It seemed a perfect picture, France at its best: the close knit community, the fine summer evenings, the contentment expressed in being able just to sit and watch the world.

Does no-one in Ireland ever sit and watch the day now?

On the pier in Dun Laoghaire this morning there were cyclists who hadn’t time to stop, and walkers who seemed on setting some speed record, but no-one like a lady who would have taken a kitchen chair and sat on the pavement at the front door.

It is four years or more since we last passed the lady, sitting in the warmth of a French August evening, perhaps she is no longer there, but, if she has gone, perhaps someone will have taken her place.

To enjoy time, and enjoy company and to enjoy a place, are traditions too important to be lost. Given a chance, I would go and sit there myself

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  1. Could you find space for me [and Herself too]?

  2. Three kitchen chairs and a bottle of vin de table and the world would be put to rights.

  3. Me too please . . or you’re welcome to come and sit on my verandah . .a big summer pastime for us is sitting out in the evening, drinking, chatting, dangling our legs in the pool when it’s hot or watching the storm that’s going to cool the house down roll in and dump it’s torrential payload. . . perfect end to the day!

  4. The thing about the lady in France was that she was in public space. There is still the confidence (at least in rural areas) to be a community in public spaces, thus the fetes and celebrations through the year. In Ireland we increasingly have retreated into private space.

  5. We do our best?

  6. There are still many that do just that all over the world, they are called fishermen

  7. Ha! Could have something to do with the weather!

  8. I don’t have to go to far out of my own front door to see people sitting on chairs in the street. they do still seem to do that here in the North. Might be something to do with lack of gardens. Or they sit in their metre wide front yards and chat to the neighbours ove the wall while the kids play in the street.

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