Walking along the street in Glastonbury, Michael and I wandered in our conversation. Francis was recalled then I recalled the last news I had heard of Francis.
It had been in an edition of the French regional daily Sud Ouest in August 2007. 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 Francis, the neighbour who had gone to the house to discover the awful scene.
The killing had taken place in the 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 Francis 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 following year, The Guardian had 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.
Sometime later, the newspaper had appeared from under the car seat. It seemed sensible to just throw it into the green bin, but I had taken a pair of scissors and carefully cut out the story.
To what end?
The cutting lay on the floor, it had no place or purpose, but to have thrown it out would have seemed painful. It seemed a link to times that had become forever past.
Walking in Glastonbury, that most timeless of places, there were so many moments, gone forever. It was almost as though in the story of a death there was a clinging on to life.