Victoria Jelinek


XXI: Book Club

“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.” Jane Austen

Geen-Tea-2I went to ‘Book Club’ this evening. Was loath to go after last night out at two bars with all the drinking, smoking and haphazard talk. Have been ‘twitchy’ and irritable all day as a result. My poor family. Self-recrimination ‘cause I’d had one drink more than my ration. Which was already really hard, given that we were out for hours. Self-recrimination ‘cause I’d been visibly irritated and uncomfortable with the drinking and smoking around me, and that’s not nice for those out to have a good time. Self-recrimination because I should know better than to put myself in the line of temptation. And yet. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I’ve been near-to-tears all day. And, well, ‘Book Club’ is normally a large group of women in what is essentially a ‘book swap,’* drinking a lot of wine and chattering.

So I went late. And, I went only ‘cause it was a bonafide friend hosting it at her house and I wanted to support her. I brought a thermos of green tea and ginger to drink and in order to keep my hands busy and to keep me drinking SOMETHING while, ostensibly, everyone else drank copious amounts of wine. But it wasn’t like it usually is. For one thing, it was just our host, a dear friend of hers, another American who, while I may not agree with her politics, is an avid reader and I trust her judgment on books, as well as our host’s twelve-year-old daughter who is also a reader, and who makes short stop-action films. They were finishing dinner when I arrived, and the daughter had made a peach cobbler. They also weren’t drinking alcohol, just Perrier, and later, tea, so I didn’t feel tempted or preoccupied with others drinking. Best of all? The conversations were dynamic and interesting. We talked about films, and books we’d recently read, and television programs – both in French and English – and we talked about curricula – both French and American – and we talked about travel, and we talked about exercise ‘fads’ sweeping the globe. It was a good evening. Nothing was discussed in too much depth, as I would generally like to do, but, I am, arguably, too serious.  Ultimately, it was an entertaining evening.

What a happy surprise! There’s a moral here I’m sure. Perhaps it’s that I need to only hang out with people who enjoy talking about subjects I also enjoy talking about? Even if that means I am not as social as I generally like to be. There are several people in the valley whose company I find engaging. Perhaps it’s that I can’t be in bars? I suppose it’s like a junkie going to a shooting gallery. Certainly, I can’t be in them for too long. In my previous homes – Portland, New York, Los Angeles, London – I would have discussed the subjects we discussed this eve, such as literature, film, culture, education (and, ideally, some politics!) every time I met up with friends. However, perhaps in those cities it’s more obvious to find more people and situations in which to do so. I mean, my coterie of friends in each of the aforementioned places were filmmakers, writers, painters, musicians, artists, and conversational skill is highly valued as a source of creativity and collaboration. Moreover, these types of people are generally more expressive. Whereas where I live now, people are outdoorsmen. Mountain people. They like to climb, hike, ski, and maintain their fitness in the outdoors, preferably at altitude. That’s their passion and their focus. Not ‘wrong,’ just not me. While I appreciate the mountains, I am claustrophobic in them, preferring the sea always (“Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer”). As a result of both the environment and the community’s subsequent interests in general, I’m often self-conscious, frustrated, and isolated here.

More so now that I’m trying to substantially reduce my drinking, smoking, and drug-taking after 33 years of ‘caning’ it. Additionally, the social life I’ve primarily known here is centered on boozy lunches, afternoons, and dinners…at restaurants and bars…with those that flock to and spend a lot of time in them. However, for whatever reason, tonight I made the happy discovery that while the people and opportunities like this evening might be few-and-far between, there ARE, indeed, situations like tonight. I’ve experienced them here before. Evenings in which I will not spend the entire time ‘clock watching,’ leaning on, or ‘clucking’ for my ‘crutches,’ and can, instead, enjoy what I perceive to be good company. Is this a new direction? It could be. It should be. Is it evidence of a whole new me? Perhaps not. But, perhaps, it is a peek at what the future could be like here, for the remaining years I am here, and that’s a relief from the bleak perspective I’ve been viscerally feeling for the last couple of weeks.

*We don’t read the same book and then talk about it like a traditional “Book Club” does. It’s for Anglophone women to have a supply of reading material without having to buy books, which is a great idea in theory.

Advertisements


The Baby Diaries 19
December 25, 2013, 2:43 pm
Filed under: The Baby Diaries | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” Erma Bombeck

vin chaudWhen my first nephew was a child, I remember thinking that Christmas was definitely for children. He “oohed” and “aahed” at the Christmas lights, the decorations, the colourfully wrapped packages, and his excitement for everything was so palpable that it became infectious for us grownups, making our Christmas truly joyous and warm-hearted.

Now I have a child of my own. And I’m in the French Alps, which is an idyllic setting for the holidays. It’s snowing here as I write, and the chalets everywhere are emitting tufts of smoke from their chimneys. There are Christmas lights along the streets, and a huge Christmas tree in the village square. Moreover, there are all sorts of activities in honour of the Christmas season: Pere Noel (Santa Claus), will pass through the village on a sleigh Christmas Eve and Christmas day; the local community centre hosts animated Christmas films most evenings; there are carollers and little musical concerts with flutes and violins and even accordions; snow “sprites” will ski down the slopes all day Christmas Eve; there is a torchlight ski with the children from the local school skiing in decorative formations down the slopes; there are Christmas story readings at the local bibliotheque (library); and, of course, Midnight Masses in every chapel and church that dots the countryside. Additionally, each of these celebrations provides the additional luxury of vin chaud (hot wine) and chocolat chaud (hot cocoa), courtesy of our local mairie’s office (and our various habitation taxes – fees we pay to live in the province). I intend to take my son to most of these events, even if he can’t quite grasp what is happening. My hope is that some part of his brain will register the festivities, the gathering of people in song, music and celebration, and it will begin his love affair with this season of the heart. At home, I find myself singing the classic Christmas songs to him, such as “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” in anticipation for his understanding the pleasure of this season.

But I may be optimistic. Just short of nine-months-old, my wee one is able to pick up a toy and throw it, but not to crawl over and grab it, so I’m not sure if his sensory register is sophisticated enough to make any connections between the specific time of year and the celebration. He’s also eating a mushed up version of Christmas dinner, that doesn’t quite give the same pleasure as loading one’s plate full of gorgeous, especially tasty offerings…ah well, it’s an excuse to attend the festivities and to eat to my heart’s content!