I travelled this morning by cab to Southampton Airport for my flight to Bergerac where I was met by Sandrine who drove me to Sigoules. Sandrine, who speaks very good English, is the daughter of Lydie Semprez who is Taxi Eymetois. For three years now I have been driven to and fro by one or the other of these delightful women. I never know which of them will meet me, but they are always on time, and when it is not possible for either of them, Lydie’s husband occasionally obliges. When I pulled out my wallet to pay, Sandrine reminded me that I had paid in advance on my May trip because Lydie had had no change.
After opening up the house I walked to Pomport and back. This is a four mile round trip through hilly countryside comprising woods, fields, and vineyards. The roadside is full of wild flowers and at this time of the year is most verdant. On this overcast, yet warm and humid, afternoon the only creature I met with whom to hold a conversation was a donkey who shares his his long hillside habitation with a family of goats. Although he fell into step beside me and treated me to assinine utterances we didn’t get very far because I don’t understand his language and he didn’t understand mine.
There is a leisure centre at the bottom of the hill leading from Sigoules which has been derelict since I took possession in December 2008. There had been plans for renovation to take place the following summer, but I expect they fell foul of the credit crunch. However, there are signs of work in progress at last. Watch this space.
Further on, up the hill towards Pomport, by the roadside on the edge of a wood, is a memorial embossed: IN MEMORY OF SIRON AND LAMY SHOT BY GERMANS 23.4.1944. In front of the stone is a pot containing geraniums and sweet peas. I reflected that almost 70 years later I have a good life and their’s was cut short.
On my return journey Lydie drew up alongside me in her taxi. The first time she had driven past me had been rather different. In my mobile phone memory I have the numbers of three taxi firms; Bergerac, Sigoules, and Eymet. Early in 2009, not realising that Lydie is perfectly happy to start a journey from Sigoules, it seemed sensible to use the Sigoules firm. I duly made a booking by telephone. This was for Chris, Frances, and Elizabeth to be driven to Eymet. Setting off earlier, I was to walk and meet them all there. Just before the time due for the pick-up I received a phone call from a woman checking whether I wanted the trip from Eymet to Sigoules, or the other way round. A little puzzled, because the Sigoules company was run by a man, I said the journey was from Sigoules. Continuing on my way I soon noticed the Eymet taxi speeding in the direction of Sigoules.
I then had an alarming thought. Which company had I booked? Checking the calls in my mobile phone memory I discovered it was the Eymet firm. Panic then set in. I couldn’t phone Chris because there was no signal at the house. I imagined Lydie turning up at the empty property and my siblings walking up to the Sigoules taxi firm to ask where their transport was. To compound the problem, my family members did not speak French and Lydie had no English.
Consequently I had a very uncomfortable continuation of my walk. I needn’t have worried. They managed to communicate well enough and were soon beside me on the main road from Bergerac. We have not looked back since. Now, of course, Lydie and I know each other’s voices.
Today I began reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ ‘Whose Body?’
This evening the clouds had dissipated and I dined alfresco at Le Code Cafe, two doors away. At a table prepared for me by David, the proprietor, I enjoyed vermicelli soup, roast duck and frites, followed by a delicate pear flan, with half a carafe of red wine.
Afterwards I watched ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ on my laptop. This slow-paced under-stated film, directed by Tomas Alfredson, which nevertheless demanded, and held, undivided attention, was excellent. Gary Oldman as George Smiley, gained the plaudits, but no film featuring Kathy Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt, Roger Lloyd-Pack, and Mark Strong, could possibly go wrong.