I resumed duties at my African news console at AFP on Thursday after more months on sick leave than I'd ever care to know again. It's good to be back on the job, taking note of warnings of a need still to go relatively easy. Eventually, I shall be making up my mind about the future of the log, but this is no time to rush any decisions.
Before I returned to the office, gloomy clouds that often weigh over the Paris basin from around now until late spring made way for sunshine. The opportunity for some "park-hopping" was too splendid to miss. I walked to the Parc Montsouris, one of the biggest inside city limits and, to my mind, the least "French" of the bunch. It's a place where you can breathe, much liked by joggers and by students who lounge on sloping lawns. Thence, I made my way on to the Jardin de Luxembourg, with its renowned if uncomfortable metal seats, savagely hacked rows of trees ... and wretched "keep off the grass" signs that have fortunately disappeared from most other such spots. I prefer to wander the wooded paths on the outskirts of the place, which is a good departure point for the final stroll home.
Those hours marked the end of a strange time I may always think of as a "summer that never was", except for therapy for a breakdown, a few treasured days spent with people I love and the start of a long process of recovery.
My outstanding musical companion that fine day was Jolie Holland (home), whose newly released 'Springtime Can Kill You' bears a title full of resonance for me, but not quite how she means it.
The Texas-born woman's 'Escondida' kept me strolling along to smart lyrics and a sometimes deliciously bluesy country sound in her folk music and roots. Such a sound also suited me on a train last Sunday, another day so unexpectedly glorious that I phoned Catherine and asked if she was planning an afternoon walk. She was and we did in beautiful autumnal woods in the western suburbs of the city once I'd made my way out there.
Much has happened since August, but mostly deep inside me. A few log entries reflected this private quest, but all that park-hopping and occasional train rides to the Versailles region for outings with Catherine, my former wife, and Marianne, the Kid, have really been about walking my way free of forgotten events in a very distant past. They needed so much to be confronted that they apparently bubbled to the surface rather like lava in a volcano over many years.
All I know for now about boiled lobsters is that they can be very fond of trip-hop music as well as songs that seem to arise from the sea-bed of other people's minds and pearls in their oysters. For now it suffices to drop a name: Valérie Leuillot. Hers is the delectable voice in a self-described French group "that never quite was", Autour de Lucie (home, Fr.), who cut some fetching records between 1993 and 2004. Each has a different flavour to it, combining sophisticated, upbeat sounds that navigate their way through a cheerful rock style with something increasingly poetic, particularly in the later releases.
You can acquire quite a taste for soul-searching folk music and haunted ballads if you find yourself facing the kind of repressed memories that finally came back for me.
All the same, listening to musicians who have emerged over a period roughly matching the long career of a perfectionist Kate Bush, from the zany days of the late '70s to her recent incarnation on 'Aerial' -- with its luscious 'Sky of Honey' suite for the second album -- I've yet to find my favourite "boiled lobster without a shell" song.
I owe the accurate description of how you feel on first pulling through the treatment I needed to a loved one who has experience the same thing and was able to warn me what comes next. The real breakthrough -- I made mine early in September, when others were swifter to know it than I was -- is inevitably followed by a time in which you reassess your life in light of what you've relived and learned from it.
I guess I'm still doing that reckoning.
This lobster is currently dreaming to the delicate beauties of 'Faux Mouvement' album (2001), one of still far too few by such gifted French musicians to have made headway in the English-speaking world, where Valérie Leuillot reminds me to be grateful to women who have been here -- and many who aren't -- for giving so much of themselves to help enable all of us to find out who we are...
7:06:40 PM link