Sitting outside a café this morning sipping an espresso, I wished I still smoked. The figure of a James Dean look-a-like opposite me smoking a Gauloises, reading a book and sipping an early morning brandy almost got me rushing to the Tabac next door.
I resisted. My lungs were wheezing anyway from my first cold in years. The last thing I need was a fag.
But it wasn’t just the Dean character that had got me craving. It was the incredible sun that was reflecting off the ancient slabs of the Place St. Croix that made me feel like I was in an Alpine ski resort. And when in the mountains, for some bizarre reason, despite the fresh air and high attitude, I always want to smoke.
Luckily, the craving passed when Dean started coughing uncontrollably into his sleeve. The thin sliver of brown saliva dribbling down his chin made me remember the downsides: tarry phlegm, coughing, gasping for breath.
‘Terrible habit. Best I gave up when I did,’ I muttered to myself as Dean recomposed himself and took a last drag of his Gauloises before stubbing it out on the floor with one of his two-tone Brogues.
I write all of this because I want to rebuke my baker friend who forecast ‘Rain until February.’ I realise now he was pulling my leg because the weather is as good as any day in November can be in the Northern Hemisphere. Warm, sunny, still.
Naturally, despite the thermometer pushing twenty, most people were wrapped up like polar bears, but that’s France and it didn’t stop me stripping down to my undies (metaphorically) to bask in the late late late summer heat of Bordeaux.
The timing has been very welcome as well. Because with rain brings despondency and with despondency brings me looking for hotter places to live. Penang in Malaysia had a job for a teacher, which got me thinking of Roti Canai, laska and tropical heat.
Now the sun is out again, everything changes. The hard edges of the buildings are blunter, the stony faces of the commuters less grey, the sludgy Garonne a little less muddy. Even zebra crossing etiquette is restored to normal now that the lashing rain has stopped. Everybody and everything looks nice again. Welcome back to Bordeaux.