This last ten days I have taken leave of absence from La Chaise. Of course, as a control freak, I could not go without leaving many, many written instructions. I don't know why I bother to bother my little blonde head with these instructions. Arnold knows perfectly well what he has to do – he does what is necessary and is a better judge of that than I am..
And Michelle, my 'housekeeper' to borrow the American term, is only to glad to see us out of the house, so that she can really get on with what she likes doing. This is mostly polishing everything that stands still, windows, copper, silver, floors and airing everything else – beds, bed-linen, sofas, chairs, rubbish bins. Oh, and I must not forget the plants, she takes them over totally, pruned, watered, brought in if the cold, in her view, is too great.
Clea and Jérôme deal with everything else, strange postal deliveries (usually JP's wine), hopeful money collectors for the local football team, the pompiers with their annual calendar of the local fire-brigade volunteers. They also deal with people who come to do things, such as M. Angibaud junior (!) who came to empty the main septic tank before the Christmas invasion. (One day I shall write a brief dissertation on septic tanks and the management thereof.)
A lot of this could be managed by telephone but it is a curious truth that people seldom telephone people who are not in the same country. In fact, in the Dordogne, very few artisans return telephone calls at all – M. Doly of chimney fame being the notable exception. The invention of mobile phones has made life a little easier for, without those, one was always telephoning at the beginning of meals – not good for the digestion of either party.
So the question is: will this absence make me fonder of La Chaise as the ancient proverb (which actually applies to people) likes to indicate? I don't know. Our return is always greeted by a pile of paperwork and old newspapers. The house will be warm, the bed and the fire made and the Rayburn lit. But there is still that slight sinking feeling of jobs left undone when one went away, jobs which get no easier for having been left to stew.
Comparisons are often apples versus oranges and, in the case of La Chaise v. Miramina (the flat in which we are staying now) this is particularly true. The houses at La Chaise are probably a couple of hundred years old; the flat block that houses Miramina dates back to the 60's. How can one contrast and compare views over a green valley with cliff-top views over a working fishing port? Or being woken up by the cry of sea-gulls as dawn breaks ('aaargh' or 'ow-ow-ow') with the screech of the white owl that tears through the night to let in the day?
But there is no doubt in my mind that a stay at Miramina in Sant Feliu de Guixols is a holiday. In other words, it is time off from real life. Real life happens at La Chaise.