Tale of a Tent, Textiles. Snakes and Mice.
We wanted to go to Provence for the summer holiday, our friends had just bought a holiday bungalow in the hills behind St. Tropez. Betty had another friend Gilbert, who was one of the founders of L’Arche, he lived in Provence and had a converted grenier that we could stay in. Neither Betty or I had much money at that time, I still had my tent ‘We could use the tent on our way down and back’ I said. She didn’t look very keen, she had never camped before ‘You’ll like it’ I said ‘It’s fun’. Reluctantly she agreed that in the places where we didn’t have friends we would camp.
Our first site was in one of the German towns (can’t remember which one) The camp site unusually was right in the middle of town between the cathedral and the river. She was definitely not a camper completely hopeless, I was left to do everything myself, not a good omen.
However our next destination was Freiburg, our Christmas haunt where we could stay with friends. The Black Forest in summer is so different, everything leafy with watery green light filtering through the trees. The high up meadows full of flowers.
Our next stop was the camping site by the lake in Lausanne. Just behind us across the road was the museum and it announced on huge posters. Lausanne Textile Biennale. I had never hear of it. The next day we went to look, to say it was an eye opener is an understatement. I just couldn’t believe that textiles could be so bold and adventurous. Most of the pieces came from Eastern Europe or the USA.
This whole piece (Peas) was about 8feet tall.
We had to stay one more night before moving on to Provence. That night there was the biggest thunder storm, rain and gale that you could ever imagine. We spent the whole night clinging on to the main tent poles for dear life to stop being blown into the lake, the rain was driving in and it was leaking, the ground was awash. That was it, she was never going to stay in a tent again, as it happened we did have to have one more night in the tent on the way home.
It is true that I had forgotten all the bad times I had had camping and had only remembered the glorious ones. The time at the foot of the Gross Glockner when a flash flood had washed through the tent flattening it.
Or Lido de Jesolo near Venice, a storm was forecast (and we had already just been near an earthquake in southern Italy!) all the experienced campers dug little trenches round the outside of their tents. The storm came with a terrible gale, there was a lone woman with her two children, her tent blew over and caught fire from a camping gas lamp. She and the children were OK but they had lost everything. It was a case of instant international cooperation, within an hour enough money was collected to replace everything. People to people no intermediaries, most human hearts are basically kind and caring.
Below. Camp site at Lido de Jesolo
We drove on through the mountains to Fayence. We knew that the grenier was by the side of the road miles from anywhere, we had been given rough instructions. eventually we came to a completely tumbled down old stone building separated from the road by a ditch. There was a rough bridge leading from the road. We opened the door and it was terrible, dust and massive dusty cobwebs everywhere. On every surface there were mouse droppings and it smelt of what I supposed was mouse urine, there were two ancient beds. Now I’m quite used to roughing it but this was a bit much even for me. It was too late to do anything about it so we just had to cope. It was a dreadful night with mice running everywhere.
When we woke up and looked out, it was in a truly beautiful setting, high up looking over a valley. There was an old orchard leading on to wild country, you could smell the wild herbs and lavender. It would have been the perfect place if it hadn’t been so filthy and mice ridden.
Gilbert came along, to see if we were OK, he could see we were unhappy and offered to get us rooms in a friends house. The friend turned out to be an eccentric old lady looking like a gaunt Miss Haversham. The most peculiar thing about her was that she lived in one room, never moving from it and that she kept a pet Civet Cat in there with her.
Once again the place smelt this time pungently of cat. The cat sat on top of the wardrobe and hissed at us. However we had two nice rooms in her large chateau like house and we were only going to be sleeping there. It was a good road through the hills to Grimaud village where our friends lived (not to be confused with Port Grimaud next to St Tropez where the stinking rich pose on their their yachts waiting to be gawped at by lesser mortals)
Del and Ruth had a very desirable little bungalow, looking out across the blue sparkling bay. The little town that they used was Cavalaire. Cavalaire had a very nice little beach, it was the first time that I ever did topless bathing, and very good it felt too. Del’s wife Ruth was German, they strip off with no qualms at the slightest opportunity, I felt a bit shy at first but I soon got used to it.
Del, an American from rural Iowa had been a conscientious objector in the war and, as in England, they had to do an alternative occupation. He became a forest fire fighter, flying planes full of water to dump on out of control fires. As soon as the war was over he volunteered to join the Quakers to do relief work in Europe. He was a lovely man, gentle and good humoured. For some reason, I can’t think why now, they took us on an outing to a SNAKE FARM, Yes you’ve read it right me to a snake farm. I suppose some would have found it fascinating. A lot of people in France get bitten by dangerous snakes apparently and this establishment extracted the snake venom and injected it into cows to turn it into an antidote. I can tell you it was the stuff of nightmares for me but it wasn’t to end there.
The day before we were due to leave we went for a walk in the bush high in the hills and there I found a sloughed off snake skin, it was perfect and was going to be wonderful as an addition to my natural objects to be drawn (thinking back to the Corsham collection) I put in on the dashboard in the car. When we went to get into the car the next morning there was a huge black army of ants coming across the road in a line and crawling up the car and getting in somehow and on to the snake skin, they were all over it. I had to get rid of it and that was hard because they started to crawl all over me. Ugh! We kept finding ants in the car from that time on.
(to be continued)
NB. I USED TO DO THE BLOG LATE AT NIGHT UNTIL I HAD FINISHED IT, BUT AS IT HAS BEEN 4.30AM BEFORE I HAVE FINISHED ON THE LAST TWO NIGHTS, I HAVE DECIDED TO BEGIN IT, AT LEAST, EARLIER IN THE DAY. THE ONLY WAY I HAVE FOUND OF SAVING IT BEFORE I PICK IT UP AGAIN, IS TO PUBLISH, AND THEN LATER GO ON TO EDIT, IN ORDER TO ADD TO IT, SO YOU MAY HAVE READ AN UNFINISHED ONE. IT IS ALWAYS A COMPLETE ONE EARLY IN THE MORNING !
This piece to be concluded tomorrow.