It is evening. I am writing on the balcony. The sun is slanting across the chalets. Its light is softening, running to red.
The chalets are mostly white, white legs, white bodies, their gables ends pristine and clear.
Shadows rise. The shadows of electrical wires rise on walls.
The sunlight angles, throwing shadows up and across walls and windows and roofs and the tops of trees. Green on the trees, on the bushes lapping at the feet of buildings.
Madame With The Short Grey Hair steps carefully down her steps and closes the shutters, un, deux, trois, around the crème anglais dashed ground-floor wall of her chalet, after her day of rest and play. Her Monsieur is very friendly, but we haven’t seen him yet – he will come at the weekend. She will paint the steps white in a few days.
We are listening to Last Days. The Safety of The North.
There is a black dress suspended from a hanger on a line on the balcony of the chalet behind that of Madame With The Short Grey Hair. It twirls to the music of old memories. Of a man, his hands around it. Now it is still, just hanging. Considering.
The shadows rise.
The swifts: muscular, powering, angling, calling calling calling as the night approaches steadfastly. The light of the far south is still in their eyes, their beaks, their wings. Their flight rises towards a climax as day wanders into night.
A herring gull raises its lonely ululation, winding it up and out for all the world to hear. A young gull lands on the same concrete pole as the little black songbird was on, earlier. I will learn the name of that bird next week. The gull, cruel of eye, harsh of aspect, its beak blood-dipped at the curved tip. It takes flight, flapping gently, easily, off to a ground roost near the beach for the night.
The shadows of the electric wires have reached their horizontal apex now. White turns to a deeper shade. The sparrows are still chittering. The swifts are still flying, and calling.
I put Goldfrapp on the iPod player. Seventh Tree, the album that emblemises summer for me. Ciara sings along at the sink. She knows that one.
We have eaten dinner on the balcony.
We had quiche from the boulangerie and salad and some pasta that Ciara rejuvenated with Roquefort cheese. And some rosé and some water.
We are laden with the gifts of sunlight on skin and warmth under skin and food and wine. The heat on our bodies, on our faces. There is a chill in the air now, across the balcony, and we are glad of it. Cars wend homeward on the Avenue des Macareux – the Avenue of The Puffins. What a name for a street.
Stillness. Rosé and water. Goldfrapp. A breeze. Swifts. Our new friend, the black songbird with some red in his tail, whose name I will learn next week.
On the breeze the black dress dances now in old, smoky dancehalls. The men all have oil in their hair, making it shine. There is electricity in the air of the hall, making the skin under the black dress tingle.
The sun and the sky are the same colour in the distance, where they meet. There are no words to describe this colour, no paint to show it.
The crimson walls.
Soon the moon will come up out of the sea. Soon the stars will shine. Soon the sun will set down over the hills on La Clape behind the house. Soon the swifts will rise to their high place of rest and quiet and they will drift to sleep in the colder air and dream of African skies.
Soon the crimson will soften and dim, the sky will drift out of blue and into black. The sky is darker than the sea, now, where they meet.
Soon we will stroll down past the chalet of Madame With The Short Grey Hair and the dancing dress, towards the sea. Soon the sparrows will quieten. There is a chill on the breeze.
Soon the moon will rise, red and full, out of the sea to the East.
Now a light comes on, down a path to our left and the side of a white house is lit up and a white car and then there are shadows on a wall, like out of a Hopper painting. We stop and turn to look. Someone, a man, comes out of the house but he’s too far away for us to see him clearly. And then the light goes off and the car starts and the man drives off to live his mysterious life, a life we will never know. We walk on, the gravel crunching under our feet, our voices low.
And now the chalets are not white anymore, but dim and the shadows are still and set into the night and the soft lights of the night. We can see no birds flying. We can hear no birds singing. The stars are out now. And a man walks home with his dog to a place full of his own things and nobody else’s things.
Now we are on the beach and the light is softening towards our sleep and our soft drifting into dreams. Now the warm water is flopping at our bare feet. The air around us is tired after the long, burnishing Mediterranean summer’s day.
Now the ruins of children’s castles are being tickled to laughter by the flapping waves. Now the sun has set over La Clape.
Now the lights of fishing boats are blinking out on the dark endless sea. Now the stars are showing their old light. Now the bats are whipping silently between the chalets picking insects from out of the air. Now we are sipping a glass of wine and reading on the balcony and readying ourselves for the end of this day and sleep.
Now, at last, the moon rises, soft with the red light of the sun, redolent with wisps of clouds to ease its coming. Up over the sea to the East.
Up over the ruined children’s castles on the beach, the waves lapping, the chalets enshadowed, the herring gulls sleeping, the children’s castles sleeping, the children sleeping, the trees sleeping, the hills sleeping, Madame With The Short Grey Hair sleeping, the man with the dog sleeping, the dog sleeping, the black dress sleeping.
The moon is rising, paling, watching. Rising, waxing, watching.