This is, apart from the furtive lines of the Pyrenees, the very first sketch I did on our last trip to France. It was the Sunday – the 18th of April, we had arrived the evening before in Tarbes (my home town in the Pyrenees) the sun was shining, and we had decided to have a bike ride to a neighbouring village called Bordères-sur-Echez. Now, Bordères is a place where I spent many happy hours in my childhood. I had relatives there, and I used to visit them, especially for the town feast in August, where I loved to spend my time on the Dodgems. By the way, I still love it, and never miss the occasion to jump into them when I see some. Nowadays, at my advanced age, it costs some effort to overcome the shame, but the lust is normally stronger! But I am a wild dodgem driver, and I never get away without incurring some bruises… I remember once, in 1968 when we had the Student Revolution in France, I was supposed to be at a demonstration march, but instead I went to the dodgems, and got a big black eye in a wild maneuver. As I came back home my parents thought I had been beaten by the police!
In Bordères lived the cousin whom I used to call “Tonton Popol”. In fact “Tonton” is a childish name for “Uncle”, so perhaps he was an uncle and not a cousin? I don’t know… I don’t know either why “Popol”… in fact I have no idea what his real name was! Anyway, I loved that guy, he was enormous, a whole ton of kindness, and he loved me too, and he took me fishing with him. And always when we came back from fishing, he unhooked the best ham from where it hung under the roof , that delicious home-made ham (yes, they killed their own pigs and made their own stuff out of it) which was normally reserved for special occasions, and cut me a big slice, together with a big slice of the “pain de campagne” (countryside bread). And after the ham, he cut me another slice of bread, put a big knob of butter on and then powdered sugar: I loved it!
Anyway, that Sunday, Kevin and me rode to Bordères, and found at the entrance of the village a pretty boutique where Kevin bought me a great top. I wanted to visit the daughter from Tonton Popol, who still lives there (she is 85 years old now, and he of course is gone!), she was a tailoress in her earlier days and used to sew beautiful clothes for me. But I didn’t remember where she lived. The boutique owner found her address in the telephone book and we rode to her house, but unfortunately she was not there. A pity, I am sure she would have been happy to see me, last time was more than 10 years ago… who knows if I will ever see her again alive.. at this kind of age, one always wonders if it will be the last time… my problem always when I say goodbye to my parents, I cannot help to think….
We went to buy some bread at “La Mie du Pain”, the local bakery, and Kevin couldn’t resist to buy some macaroons on the Sunday market. While Kevin was eating the macaroons, I did that sketch of the bakery… and for some mysterious reason, the trees there became Mr and Mrs Baker advertising for their business… apparently I was still under the influence of the Fantascapes, seeing people in every tree!
After that we had then a further bike ride, stopped once by the river Echez, where I did some other sketches. There was the church and the cemetery nearby too… I don’t know why, I like cemeteries, and I like to draw cemeteries. in fact I think I like to paint crosses… but I wouldn’t search for any deep psychological meaning in that fact, I guess I simply like the crossing of a vertical and a horizontal line, even if my own lines are never quite horizontal and never quite vertical… Never forget that I am a mathematician in my heart and in my soul.
The old guy sitting outside the cemetery? He simply appeared in my drawing, the ghost of Tonton Popol perhaps? A little too slim though, but who know what ghosts get to eat? Certainly not home-made ham!
Well, this was it in Bordères. we then rode back to our motorhome in Tarbes and had a lovely lunch with the lovely bread from la Mie du Pain!