13 Aug 2015

Les petites choses: how little things are so often the big things

It's the little things: a child standing on her head on the town beach, the creak a fresh baguette makes when you press it gently, the morning light squeezing through shutters. Holidays might be planned around the big things - bank accounts and airports - but the little things make them memorable. Here are more: a sip of chilled rosé, children laughing along the seashore, the taste of salt water on your lips, the scent of crepes as you pass a café.

6 Rue du Docteur Rostan
Antibes, France
I've been back to Antibes for the first time since we left in October 2011, not to our old house but to a delightful little apartment so lovingly cared for by Una Hennigan and her partner, Pascal. And what could be more appropriate for a writer than (what I'm sure is) a quill carved into the stone plaque above its doorway in Rue du Dr Rostan? 

I did walk past our old house one evening, when it was far too late to think about ringing the bell to say hello to the people who bought it from us and are still living there. There were lights on in the stairway and I could see through the open window to the polished red tiles that swirl up through the house's four storeys. The pretty bleu-lavande shutters almost glowed in the near-dark. They must have made changes in the last four years: I know they installed a pool in the garden. I imagine that the four old palm trees may have
Villa Les Marroniers, our old home
been felled after we had to have two of them treated and capped 
in the last weeks before we left because of a red weevil infestation that was quickly and tragically decimating thousands of palm trees along the coast. But the greater part of me didn't want to see the house again: it was home for a while and I loved it then but it doesn't feel like a part of me any more, though the memories remain beautiful.

And I made new memories this time: swimming from the town beach each day, feeling the remembered weight of two boxed millefeuilles in my hand as I walked home from the patisserie, visiting the restaurant at the Commune Libre du Safranier, a little community within the old town established in the 1960s specifically to celebrate and preserve Antibois traditions and culture. And an even more profound memory too: of a time of ease and laughter, of sweet and salty mussels, chilled wine, fresh baguettes and olive tapenade, shared with my step-daughter, Zoe, the first time we've ever been alone together for longer than a day in the 30 years since I've known her. 

Plage la Gravette, the town beach, Antibes, France.
A part of me wondered whether I'd be gently haunted by regret when I returned to Antibes, that a yearning to still be living there would arise in me, that a seed of dissatisfaction might be sown in my life now. But there was none of that, just a comfortable familiarity with the town, its ambience, its alternately vibrant, charming and astonishing rues and allées, as if the old stone of its walls and streets were welcoming me, not home, but with homeliness. You still belong here, they might have been saying, no matter how much time passes between each visit, no matter how long you stay. Au revoir. Bienvenue. 


Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about street sounds.