Something has changed. You don’t get a sunburn when you sip your lemonade in the garden at noon without any sunscreen, you don’t even get a tan any longer, the ice cubes in your lemonade aren’t killed by the sun either, and later in the day, at dinner, when you can rarely see what’s on your plate, it’s not your eyesight that has gone, it’s the sunlight, vanished, at half past eight, of course nobody thought of candles, who thinks of candles in summer (apart from Diptyque’s scented Figuier candles to make up for the missing fig trees in your garden that smell so much like summer in the Mediterranean), so you manage without, facing the fact that summer is gone, autumn is ante portas, you can’t ignore it any longer, you have had proof, the garden’s been full of spider webs, for days (or weeks?), the roses are moribund, their petals have turned from shocking pink to some sort of beige, from Schiaparelli to Chanel so to speak, the hydrangeas have changed from a bright white to a mossy green, leaves have started to come down, so did the ripe walnuts, they’re falling on your head or in your tea, sometimes you hear some squirrels laugh about that, mocking you and your inappropriate need to have breakfast outside, however cold and grey the morning is, your coughing might turn into pneumonia, if you don’t start to wear a pullover, no white after Labour Day, they say, what utter nonsense, your t-shirt’s blue, a dark, intense blue, quite to the black side, not navy, more a Chanel blue, a bleu Chanel, definitely not white, do you hear me, it’s not white at all, why can’t I wear a blue t-shirt after Labour Day?
I’ve spent summers in all of the Mediterranean, and however beautiful it is, none of them compared to a summer in my parents’ garden, not even the sea, although, who am I kidding here, the sea, I do miss, but having breakfast in a hotel, lying on a beach or at a pool, next to people draping their labeled belongings around themselves like an Egyptian pharaoh in his tomb, clinging to their bank accounts, their status is on display 24/7, all year, over-symbolized, logomania in extremis, but no heaven lies ahead here, deadly sinners, all of them, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for logomaniacs to enter the kingdom of God, yes, I’m a Catholic, no thanks, that’s not for me, at least not this year. My Hermès beach towels are off duty, I couldn’t relax anyway, I have to trim something in that garden left to my mother’s devices, planned as an urban jungle, too many trees, too much ivy, too much of everything, lush, overly lush, beautifully lush, hydrangeas emerging from unindentifiable green masses, roses emerge everywhere from ivy, so richly blooming they look like a bouquet, but before I trim something, I’ll look out for some shade, under an apple tree, or the walnut tree, or whatever tree appears inviting…
Some people have an inner child that they allow to, well, come out every once in a while and play, just to make sure they stay human, these guys are to be congratulated, for their wisdom, humanity and charm, I, however, whose inner child has never been locked up, whose emotional intelligence might be the one of Methuselah but whose behaviour is rather Calvinistic, and I’m referring to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes here, not to that repressed guy from Geneva, what am I to do? You cannot let out what’s already out, can you? So I had to come up with an alternative: I let my inner interior designer out, and I pamper him well. I frolic through stores, buy bowls, vases and pitchers from Royal Copenhagen or Lalique, overpriced flowers from fancy stores, those way cheaper tulips from your grocer won’t do sometimes, fruit and cookies and other stuff that just has to be remotely decorative to give me a thrill and there I go, a new arrangement on my Regency table, I’m happy as a child, sorry, as an interior designer and ready to cope with life, business and deadlines.
Today, I was confronted with my life’s awful truth. I have not grown up. Not at all. My mind is not yet of that certain age I am. Not at all. I still relate to Le petit Nicolas when I am re- and re-reading Goscinny’s stories, much more than I relate to these heroes of my own age, say Julien Sorel, Prince Bolkonsky or Tom Ripley, all these grown up people with their grown up problems, I still don’t tidy up my room, and for some ironic reasons I now have many more rooms to tidy up, even a kitchen and a bathroom, and I still get lectured by my mother about that mess I make each time she visits, I still eat way too many cookies while watching TV, always the whole box, and then I feel sick and want somebody to bring me some herbal tea, my mother or at least Antoine, the valet de chambre I’ve had as an imaginary servant ever since I was twelve or so, I was reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey stories at the time, and I was so impressed with his valet, to have someone to draw your bath and serve you tea in bed and tidy up your wardrobe, because, really, one cannot expect me to arrange the sock department of my drawer all by myself, can one? I still hate to go to school, meaning to work, I am still counting the days until the holidays and I still wonder what I shall play with my friends after school and that test in arithmetic, meaning which bar to go to and which drink to have after that meeting with the account management. There’s only one thing that offers some hope that I might finally grow up one day. Lately, I started buying vases and flowers. Now, that’s a very grown up and responsible thing to do, isn’t it?