When we came home this afternoon the sun streamed onto the terrace and into our kitchen like a warm welcome. I took my book and pen outside and started writing. That’s the thing about writing in this ‘loose pyjama’ way. You just do it whenever. No rules. No constraints. No guilt.
I used to think I could only write in the mornings. I used to think I needed large blocks of time. These last four days have blown away those self-set limitations.
So I wrote on the terrace for a bit. I looked out over the Luberon Mountains. Wrote. Heard an engine in the distance and watched a tractor chug up a driveway to one of the farms among the vines. It occurred to me that Peter Mayle had once lived outside Menerbes in an old stone farmhouse. ‘A Year in Provence’ was based on the year he renovated it. I wondered if it was one of the farms I could see from here.
I googled him and Menerbes. Of course there was no address. But I did learn he had lived at the base of the hills. Then I remembered him writing about how he walked to Menerbes on a fire trail that ran behind his house. That he had an enclosed garden and a swimming pool.
Feeling just a little bit stalkerish I google-mapped Menerbes and searched for the firetrails. There weren’t many of them veining the foothills. I changed the view to satellite and checked the farms that backed onto the tracks. There were four.
Could it hurt if I went for a walk tomorrow along the firetrails at the base of the mountains? Afterall, it was a house I was stalking, not a person.
There’s nothing new about pilgrimages to see famous places or people. The pilgrims’ path to Compostela. Hemmingway’s haunts in Paris. Monet’s garden. Les Deux Magots where Satre and Beauvoir hung out. The Sex and the City Tour in NYC.
As I looked down at the farms, none of which could be Peter Mayle’s, the candidates were all around the next spur, I wondered why I was so interested in finding it.
Was it because I knew the stories of his time in that house and wanted to see it? I knew the stone table soaked up so much moisture it was too heavy to move out of his driveway for nearly a year. That people he barely knew in England rang to invite themselves to visit for the holidays. The walls of his house were knocked out to make a beautiful big kitchen.
Or did I want to see where he lived the dream that I had always wanted to live? Which made me wonder something I was astounded I hadn’t thought of before. Was I living my dream in his village because of him? Because of some weird subconscious belief that his achievements would rub off on me?
Was this what impelled me to come here, and was now urging me to traipse over kilometres of firetrails searching for a house with an enclosed garden and a pool?
Or was I like those other readers who he and his wife found swimming in their pool one hot afternoon because his book made them feel they knew him. Was it an invasion of the new owner’s privacy if I just walked past and looked in? And if, just maybe, my camera shutter went off a few times.
Maybe I need to sleep on these questions. You know how sometimes things percolate away all by themselves.
I’ll decide tomorrow.