Autumn afternoon

Photo ©fr::lb:User:Ernmuhl


Walking through the city, in my hand the keys to the house in the countryside.

Not the big barn door key, an antique almost the length of my forearm but the house door and the veranda door. We need spares cutting.

The air is hot, sky blue, and the key-cutter hums to himself.

Even the traffic lazes along, slow and steady.

I jaywalk across the boulevard, up to the triumphal arch and beyond to the cathedral square, where a mime artist, spray-painted gold, jerks into movement and a guy falls off his bicycle in surprise. The Spanish punks with their sleeping dogs laugh, but on the whole, nobody notices.

Past the town hall and the cobbles, fishscaled and uneven, along the railings of the municipal gardens and the art gallery to the park, resin-scented and dappled with hot sunlight, where two policemen are arguing with a young guy sitting on the back of a bench with his feet on the seat. But nothing is happening, the boy sits and the other policeman watches the girls in the café opposite. Then the older policeman huffs and puffs and they get back on their bicycles. The air is too hot and calm and peaceful to make a fuss.

The shopping mall is a hideous sixties pile, built when there was a lot of money for big projects, but maybe not much of it went the architect’s way because the result looks like a heap of old Daleks and giant leggo blocks stuck with beach pebbles to remind us, I suppose, that somewhere quite close is the ocean. But inside the concrete pebble-dashed bunker, there is quiet, no music and no crowds. I need a frying pan to take to the new house, and some Italian cheese, because shops in the countryside are sparse and Italian cheese will be a luxury. The boy at the checkout is getting everything wrong and the women at the next tills, older and maternal, laugh and help him out. The queue gets longer, but nobody seems in a hurry.

Walking home, the air is hot and lazy and the pines chatter with children going home from school and the shadows are a little longer.

I walk in the golden light falling, down the street that says Cours d’Albret on the nineteenth century enamel plaque, and Cours Messidor engraved in the stone beneath, reminding me that this city was once the seat of revolutionaries, and I wonder if they were as sleepy as we are now.

In the hot autumn light, gold and pine-scented, the city has a friendly, comfortable feel. But the keys jingle jangle in my bag and the song they are singing is of cool stone and trees where orioles warble, shading a stream, and morning light falling through open shutters onto a small piece of terracotta-flagged floor that my feet will tread gently back and forth until I make it my own.

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Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

11 thoughts on “Autumn afternoon”

  1. Such a lovely reflection, Jane. I felt like I was wandering with you–although it is nothing like my suburban New Jersey area. Wishing you all the best in your new home! (Enjoy the cheese.) 🙂

    1. On days like today I appreciate the town. It has everything we need in terms of material comfort but I miss the countryside which has nothing but peace and quiet. We’re supposed to be taking another van load of stuff over on Thursday. Just as long as the van man doesn’t do a disappearing act.

      1. We have to drive to most everything around here. It used to be all farmland around the school where my husband taught. I couldn’t live there, and it’s not every far out in the country. I appreciate the peace, but I also like to be able to get to restaurants, movies, shows, museums, etc. We’re only about a 2o minute drive into Philadelphia now. Good luck with the moving. I hope if the “van man” does disappear he does so before he has your things! 🙂

      2. We’ll be an hour away on the train but I know what you mean. We’re social animals and although I never go to the cinema or the theatre, or eat out or really do anything cultural, it’s good to know that I could if I wanted to.

      1. The last few days before any change always brings with it a wind of ‘what if’ and ‘what are we doing?’ But I know you are going to turn the sticks into stability, structures and stories xx

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