At the End of the Day

There is a wonderful French adjective, ‘doux’. It has, at the last count, about eight milli0n meanings – ranging from sweet via soft to gentle. It can apply to puddings, pillows, nuns and endless other stuff besides. There is probably only one word in the Gallic language that is more universally applicable, and that is the noun ‘le truc’. A truc is a thingummy, a wotsit, an oojamajig. If you can’t remember the French for anything from a screwdriver to a specialist cranial surgery scalpel, you need only say – while pointing – “Veuillez passer ce truc-la s’il vous plait”, and it is a case of problem solved.

But my favourite usage of doux is in relation to the weather. “Il fait doux aujourd’hui” means – strictly speaking – “It’s mild today”. However, like most things French, it means far more. Here in the south west, we’ve had a splendidly doux day today. The temperature climbed to 18 degrees by mid afternoon, and where I live all was quiet, slow and gentle.

It was minus-1 when I rose at 6.20 am, and so to keep warm if nothing else, I shot around the house moving stuff about and tidying away dozens of tools. These represented the last evidence of what has been something of a renaissance of the interior here. For the first time, this is no longer a holiday house: it is (for an indefinable future) my home. And homes are about comf0rt, ambience and affinity, not flopping onto a sofa to read the latest Alain Furst spy novel you’ve had by the bed for the last eight months.

By 11 am, it was warm enough to be outside, and so windfall kindling was gathered, and one of the outside lights examined for evidence of possible functionality ‘going forward’ as the corporates say. The jury’s out on this outside light: the wiring looks OK, but it’s unclear as to whether the ability to produce light (this being, on the whole, the point of lights) has been compromised by an incompetent electrician or Chinese manufacture. So the next step will be to replace it with a different type of implement, and see what happens. But it was far too doux a day to get into that: I made a mental note to schedule this one for further experimentation, and then went inside to post something on the site about paedophilia and its alleged congruence with Leon Brittan.

I definitely had an attack of What a Day for a Daydream (the classic Loving Spoonful track) while doing this, mistaking Richmond in Yorkshire with Richmond in Surrey. This occasioned a great deal of ribald Twitter comment from a bloke called Mike Oddpiece – it’s an obvious jeu-de-mot joke, and entirely appropriate – but by the time he began tweeting about it I was already spraying mosskiller outside again, before making a very late breakfast of rolled oats, steamed potatoes and a veggie stock cube. Listen, it may sound hair-shirt, but it tastes wonderful.

By now the day was seriously doux. The church bells rang noon, and I stripped down to a teeshirt….on February 20th. It was time for that vital practice beloved of all dreaming Pisceans, Wandering about the Estate. The walnut and shumach tree saplings were looking good, the two struggling vines seemed to have survived, and the wood store is leaning at a slightly crazier angle than it was last year. The past may be no guide to the future in the financial markets, but when it comes to structures without proper footings, the past is a guide surpassing the most intuitive native American Indian tracker.

I would’ve been cutting grass later, but the Green Beast has a flat battery, and so I was forced to lean back in a canvas recliner and soak up some rays. It was 4 pm when I woke up. There was a slight chill in the air, and so I repaired to the kitchen where a chicken required preparation on North African lines. I brought some wood up to the house, lit a fire and closed the shutters ready for another cold, clear night. I called a few folks on Skype, and rang a good source about what’s happening to gold prices. I ate the chicken, and then had a palate-cleaning salad of carrot, tomato and lettuce.

Perhaps one could call all this doux diligence….except it’s more indolence than diligence. ‘La vie douce’ has a broader meaning than ‘la dolce vita’. A quiet life, a slow life, a gentle life, a life with sufficiency: an existence where the friends are real, the air is warm, the sun caresses, the water is cool, and the smells of a wood fire decorate the evening with more sensuality than any human being really deserves.

I can’t live on senses alone – although it is a hugely healthy way to be. I need the stimulation of debate, humour, controversy and those never-ending Big Issues. I doubt if it is an accident that major news is often described as ‘sensational’ – that is, a revelation that digs deep into our core reflexes, and well beyond anything merging from the left cortex. But during les jours doux, some form of tranquility is present. We must savour that, for there’s not a lot of it about these days.

Earlier at The Slog: the media that dare not speak the paedophile’s name.