I had a poor night. It was hot and I was thinking of this and that.
Woken at 7.30 by the sound of creaking bedsprings. The couple in the next room were having sex. They are Belgian, surly and ill-favoured. She is a lip-swallower and he has a damp and shifty gaze which sometimes seems only borderline sane. I reflect that it is nice that they have each other. It is wrong to speculate about other people’s sexual habits, but I imagine as I try to get back to sleep that she is probably of the No, There! school of sexual relations.
Woken again at quarter to nine by the sounds of breakfast being prepared by the hote whose chambres we occupy. We are on holiday. There are four couples, the young Belgians, the old Belgians, a French couple and us. The better half sleeps on. She would sleep through a tornado, witches and all, so I join the others for breakfast. The young Belgians, all passion spent, eat morosely. Like the others they drink milky coffee out of soup bowls, ruminatively waving underdone slices of toast in it, which they then eat. The older Belgian man, a nice man who has a precise way with language, has engaged our hote in a discussion about world economics. Both of them enjoy considering the bigger picture. The otherwise neat appearance of the older Belgian man is spoilt by the total absence of teeth on one side of his face. Possibly a third Belgian man, disagreeing with his views on world economics, gave him a smack.
Running absent-mindedly through my iPod library I find a song whose name means nothing at all to me. I play it. It is still completely unfamiliar. I sounds remotely like the singles recorded in the 1960s by Benny Hill. There is the same primitive instrumentation, the same insistence on a punch line at least twice in every verse. It’s sung in English but in a voice quite unlike Benny Hill’s, sturdy and only marginally in tune. I wonder if it is one of the better half’s Russian troubadours, whimsically reallocated by the computer to my iPod library.
By the route nationale sit young girls, often with a collapsible chair, a parasol and a bottle of Evian; sometimes a magazine. Their skin is brown at the end of a summer spent working outdoors. They give comfort to the men who ply their business along the arid routes of the south west: reps, commercial travellers, song-pushers, salesmen, no doubt, of encyclopaedias and vacuum cleaners. You can see the men pulling up to speak to them, their polyester shirts gleaming white, suit jackets hanging from a hook by the back seat. Sometimes it is not an executive-class car that pulls up but a white van. You can imagine that that might be more convenient – that a space might be found among the paraphernalia of the man’s trade for their loving. Sometimes you see them climb into the cab of an enormous lorry, which for some reason is a less comforting picture. I idly imagine stopping, but it would be no good. In our rented Clio it would be all elbows and knees. Besides, the better half is very strict on what expenses may be allowed against the housekeeping budget.