Friday, 16 July 2010

14 Juillet at Grez-sur-Loing

It's now mid-way through my 31 day stay at the Hotel Chevillon as recipient of a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. Mid-way and yet I feel as if I've been here all my life.

Keith stayed for almost a week but if he'd stayed longer, as we would both have liked, I wouldn't have given time to my writing and that is the point of being here, so leave he had to.

Since then, the paper journal I'm keeping has filled with various thoughts, impressions and musings. None particularly given by a 'muse', perhaps, but valid nonetheless as a record of my time here. I've also taken dozens and dozens of photographs of views ranging from the vast open plains to the tiny world of a grasshopper. Wild flowers, sewn (presumably) at the edges of the fields, also feature in my photographic record. Each photo is a souvenir but also a tool for research to draw on when writing.

For the last week, I've set to work on writing the novel, the idea for which won me this fellowship. I've taken a huge sheet of paper (A2?) and have plotted out the entire story on a time-line. I know what's going to happen, now, and how it's going to end. All I have to do is write it! I like to plan my writing because once the plan is done the writing comes a bit like following a recipe or a knitting pattern. Or maybe the instructions that come with flat-pack furniture from Ikea (whose furniture fills this house). With writing - unlike with furniture from Ikea - there's always room for a little spontaneity, so the story as it's planned may not be the story that appears eventually on the page. Those damned, insistent characters will go and do something their author doesn't expect!

So far, in the last four days, I've banged in almost 10,000 words. First draft stuff, sure to be whittled down, but it's good to see the numbers in the left hand corner of the screen mount up. And there's so much time, here, with so few distractions!

One distraction I did manage to find was the 14 Juillet celebrations. The little town of Grez-sur-Loing knows how to party. This photo shows the Place de la Republique early in the evening. After the majorettes had performed and everyone had eaten their fill of Moules Frites Fraiches and whatever the bar had to offer, the dancing began. Oh, the open air French family parties I remember from the past, when we lived to the south in Cap d'Ail! The air balmy but milder in the evening and heavy with lavender scent. The teenage girls unable to keep away from the dancefloor while the teenage boys are out of sight, frightening the townspeople by firing bangers, firecrackers, or whatever they're called. Then, the mothers and grandmothers dancing with the youngest ones while the fathers and grandfathers stand around, as strong a presence as the earth and winning points just for being there. And this Grez party was just like the ones I remember from the south, except that there was no Keith for me to dance with, along with the rest of the older couples, after the children had gone to bed!

At eleven o'clock, the crowds flowed over the bridge and through the forest, young ones carrying paper lanterns held out on canes, half a mile or so to the lakes where the fireworks that followed mirrored themselves in the placid water. While the swans and ducks, presumably, hid their heads under their wings and tried to sleep!

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