Friday, October 31, 2008
Just spent a week in south-west France on a family holiday - took the cheap Ryanair flight to Carcassonne. We took a day trip by train from there to Toulouse. Cold, wet and windy, just like home, Carcassonne's 14thC fortress tremendously impressive, the town like something out of Madame Bovary - what little was there closed after 6pm, and it felt very provincial (tho welcoming and relaxed). Watching vast flocks of starlings circling the town in the dusk to roost in the trees of the main square, as shop-keepers closed their shutters and took their wares indoors, it occured to me that one of the attractions of France to certain English people - myself included - is nostalgia; partly, I think, for a time when Britain was not totally at the mercy of the free market. Carcassonne was full of small family businesses and locally owned patisseries and cafés - not a Starbucks or Cafe Nero in sight. In Toulouse I found several excellent independent bookshops of the type that have simply disappeared from the UK. One in particular had a huge stock, and I managed to pick up books by two poets I'm interested in - the Morroccan francophile poet Abellatif Laâbi, and Edmond Jabès. What with John BR's book delivery last week, I don't know when I'm going to find the time to read all this stuff.