Without having mentioned your list of household wants, Monsieur Drouet’s son, the scooterist, comes over with a table, a chair and a radio. You don’t remember sending up a prayer for these items, so you make a note to get down on your mental knees later. He also brings radishes from the family garden. And lettuce, onions and parsley. These are almost more pleasurably received than the unexpected loan of the radio. You take the chance to ask him for a saucepan, and he invites you back to his home for an apéritif – it is a little after twelve. In the simple dining room, the first room arrived at via the front door, Damian produces a bottle of Canadian whisky to which you give an assenting nod, and pours himself a Ricard.
He sits with one arm resting on the table tightly clutching his glass. The whisky loosens the rudimentary French lodged precariously in your memory. Between dark brown hair and moustache, he has a sharp pair of eyes as yet unglazed by too much of the liquid in front of him. His head appears older than is suggested by the rather teenage clothes he wears about his slight but wiry frame. He would drive a burgundy four-door Renault but, he confides, he lost his license for drink-driving; apparently he is still entitled to scooter about. He has no fixed occupation, plays football for the team in the next village, used to compete at clay pigeon shooting, and dreams only of having his own sleepy village bar. To this end he spends much of his time where you first found him, slowly knocking back the Ricard, occasionally serving behind the bar when either the woman with the cash-till eyes or her droopy-faced husband are out. The couple are childless, and Damian is their spiritual, if not legal, heir. Certainly his moustache is well on the way to looking like Droopy’s. Madame Drouet, coming through from the kitchen, is unflustered by her son’s account of his essential inactivity. You suspect his father is more than occasionally inflamed by it. But despite his devilish name and idle hands, Damian is for some reason disposed to be friendly to you, and you are grateful.
Madame Drouet, built on as small a scale as her husband, is spry and playful, her joy inextinguishable. You will never see her pensive, or too far from a smile, although sometimes she will appear tired. So far, she is the only villager who speaks slowly for you. How to explain to her, when she asks what you do at home, that you are a photographer, but you haven’t brought a camera with you. So you tell her that you are on holiday from two jobs – photography and an office. She asks you what then will you do with all your time, and you cannot say, because you don’t know yourself.
It was getting repetitive, taking shots of repetitively similar-looking quartets, quintets and sextets playing repetitively similar three and three-quarter minute pop songs based on the repetitive premise of repeated verse-chorus sequences with inevitable middle-eight guitar forays and slogan poetics. With reasoning so slow-dawning that it could hardly be described as logical, you arrived at the idea of six months of photographic celibacy. And when you ask yourself why others give up drink, or sex, or chocolate, or love, or writing, it’s no easier to put together a chain of thought that reaches back to first causes. The simple answer is because you’ve had too much of all that you’d been pointing your camera at, and the shutter release no longer does for you what it used to. But the simplest answer is no answer at all.