She’s with her young neighbour or helper, and beckons me over for coffee.
Carmen, chain-smoking, small and frail, with her sad clown face.
One old dark-skinned woman flashes me a gold-toothed grin, and offers me five million francs if I will marry her son.
I also make polite conversation with two young Frenchwomen, who assure me they are finding this experience ‘géniale’, and we exchange the usual small talk about the weather and where we are staying, raising the banal to the bizarre under the circumstances. Rashida is ready for me again, and this is her grand finale.
Rich and reckless, you outstare the sun, Though one by one, your maids of honour lose their heads. Raddled, wrecked, you bow your head and fade to rest. Years ago my sister, my 15-year old nephew and his girlfriend had come over to visit us in our Andalucian mountain town. The stable owner took one look at my sister and I, and prodded her oldest horses awake.Unscrewing my eyes I can see a blue hedgehog, a plastic toothed brush for scraping burnt-on grease off saucepans.Nothing to worry about after all, this must be the head massage.She ‘massages’ my back as though she has a personal grudge against me; it’s like King Kong playing scales on an inflatable piano.When she’s finished with me, she motions me to sit up, then with a firm push on my back, shunts me across the slippery floor.I travel surprisingly quickly towards the rest of my group.Back outside in the changing area, these once intrepid, assertive women travellers wait passively for towels and the return of our clothes.I dry myself on what is surely a floor mat, hoping that the faded rust-coloured marks on it are part of its original pattern, and climb gratefully into my cotton and linen protective armour.Clothed, I feel better already, more in control of my destiny. w=200" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-745" src="https://elegantvariationsajournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/chocsongpic-e1491717741337.jpg? w=676" alt="Choc Song Pic" srcset="https://elegantvariationsajournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/chocsongpic-e1491717741337200w, https://elegantvariationsajournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/chocsongpic-e1491717741337.jpg? w=150 150w" sizes="(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px" / by Catherine Bowman. Or a ‘trail poem’ in which each line begins with the same word and leads to the next related image/idea. w=649" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-649" src="https://elegantvariationsajournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rose_mortalitas-e1491149630706.jpeg? w=676" alt="Fading roses have a beauty of their own" srcset="https://elegantvariationsajournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rose_mortalitas-e1491149630706649w, https://elegantvariationsajournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rose_mortalitas-e1491149630706.jpeg?We can only shout across to each other in hurried Face Time calls or Whats Apps. Sunday 26 March Forgot to set the alarm last night. And a big tub of purple hyacinths for the dining-room table. Daybook: Saturday 18 March 2017 Sat 11 March I am pottering along our sunlit Main Street, a favourite Saturday thing to do.Tottered out of bed at 7.45 am, deducting brownie points for lateness, then realised the clocks had sprung forward this morning. And a Mother’s Day card with soppy soft focus roses on the cover and a rhyming tribute inside. Up into the pine and eucalyptus wood around the seminary. Working on a poem, part of an exercise in assonance. The now-familiar shops and faces, bathed today in golden spring sunshine.