Ahhh, France! You know the place; every café table set for lunch by 11.30, a Kooples every 30m, and everyone can make a pout that can stun from 50!
I’m in Aix-en-Provence. I drove here, from London, via Evreux, Orleans, Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier. Orléans was gorgeous, Clermont-Ferrand wasn’t. I’m on a sort of farewell Tour de France before I move to Tel Aviv in a few weeks. It will be a permanent move. At least, I don’t have plans for it to be temporary.
I truly love France and almost everything about it. Confit de canard and rosé with an ice cube. Handsome boys with narrow shoulders and beautiful, slim-hipped girls. There are more man-buns, beards and tattoos than there were last year. And then there’s the men, too!
I love how everyone sits down to eat and has warm conversation while they’re eating. I haven’t yet had nearly enough confit de canard or foie gras this trip, but tomorrow I’m going West, to Aquitaine, to correct that. I love chansons, and can even bear an accordion playing nearby for three minutes, more or less. I guess I don’t love the country’s racial tensions or the banlieues, or Marine Le Pen, but I can’t do much about those. I love France as a visitor.
Aix is beautiful, at least the centre is. I like the centres of things: cities, politics, violet creams, the chorus of songs. The outskirts, the crunchy outer bits, radicalism, they’re for the young. I was 58 yesterday. I’ve never worried about my age before, but 58 does make me shake my head. For the first time I can say, with a quiet ‘yikes’, that I’m nearly 60. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of my move that’s unnerving me.
There are many beautiful fountains in Aix. They trickle or spout, muzak for the street, the soundtrack to the city, making everything cooler and even more beautiful. The most unusual look like boulders covered with moss and lichens, a broadleaf plant sprouting here, maybe another one there, too, until it is just so. They are, I suppose, a conceit, a sort of joke on the natural world. Look, they’re saying, you’re good, but we can make nature even better. You dip your hand into the water and it is beautifully, satisfyingly cold. Your whole body shivers with cool pleasure. Sitting in it would be lovely, but I won’t.
Many French Jews have been moving to Tel Aviv in the last few years. I think they’re going to smooth some of its edges down, frenchify it a bit. Tel Aviv is at least as warm as Aix. Warmer, I should say, in high summer. There are fountains, but not enough. I want to campaign to have more, many more, built. On street corners and in squares, anywhere there’s space, really. Now that would be a good use of my time, wouldn’t it. All I have to do is go, find somewhere to live, learn the language, find work, find a group of likeminded friends. Easy as. Pas de prob. Oy. And that’s why I love fountains, France and fifty-eight.