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Tuesday 4 July
very warm and sunny

only a small bit of state bread for breakfast
so I walk to Grandfresnoy
yesterday’s cycling left tender traces
there and back takes about an hour
I see 6 cars
the shop has a limited selection
which is good enough
am easily undone by too much choice

on the way back I see a woman
une vieille femme, she calls herself
I boldly comment on la fleur dans sa chapeau
she tells me a lot of stuff
with wild gestures
it’s local gossip, I guess
as she points her chin this way and that
she has a bad heart – flatttens both hands against her chest
and is 87
she has a tranfixing dark boil
I try to focus on her gleeful eyes
as she rushes on about the queen
and her hats
tells me to say ‘hello’ to grande-bretagne
I wonder briefly about the grande
in grande-bretagne

I mooch about the sheds and barns
gather up some chairs
acrylic sheet
a strange red metal thing
and arrange them on the lawn
like props on a stage
it is hot, the wrong part of the day
to be moving stuff around
I take some photos
and think how this is
very much H’s place
she is embedded here
each object speaks with
her musical french voice
which echoes round the garden
sometimes laughing and garrulous
sometimes low and earnest

the question of what to do
on an artist’s residency
is in the air
I photograph
I walk and plan some shots for film
I talk to H about her past
the unknown outcomes niggle
and interrupt the process

the builder arrives for an aperatif
he is chatty, en français
I think
I’ve ordered some wood from him –
30m in 2m lengths
hard to be sure
he asked a lot of questions
that I frankly didn’t understand
still it’s in character with the
‘find it and use it’
nature of the project so far

late afternoon dissolves into evening
and I am sitting on the terrace
with assorted woofers, H and the builder
knocking back the kir
and black olives
5 out of 8 of us speak good french
so 3 of us just observe
the builder is makes a joke about
killing pigs
he enacts the knife going into the pigs neck
with snorting sounds and much laughter
we laugh a bit …not sure where this is leading

for supper the 2 Belgian ladies
have made an assortment of quiches
(is there a theme here ?)
cheese & ham, carrot & salmon
quite tasty
followed by tart rhubarb tart
with a curdled something on the top
the latter is met with something
a little like dismay
forks tip tap on plates politely
we all look into the middle distance
willing it to disappear ….