Languedoc Languor and Midi Time
Saturday 1 March 2008, by
Time in the western world is a rectilinear diamond cut obstinately right angled object. Tomorrow lies 24 hours in the future, in one hour is exactly 60 minutes away.
Calendars, agendas, watches all mark the corners and junction points of human interactivity..
In the eastern world it is a more indefinite force, that can be stopped for meditation, started for action - a different way of looking at life and living.
Looking at the mores of the Midi, the region of southern France stretching from the mountains down to the coast - languedoc and its neighbours, it is quite likely that some of the Eastern mystics came here on vacation and took home as a souvenir a piece of languedoc time.
In the Midi, time is not rectilinear, time has no sharp corners, it is a rounded curving smokey substance, that can not be grasped by the hand or often by an outsider’s mind.
The first experience a lot of us have with this is when a builder tells you he is coming "demain" which translates literally as tomorrow, naivete and foreigness persuades us that this means in 24 hours time. It does not, "demaing" means certainly not today, perhaps this week, possibly this month and possibly never. When and if the buider turns up, he will be astonished if you point out that you had been expecting him weeks ago.
Our first Languedoc house was in the small village of Valros in the Languedoc wine producing plains. it had a decent sized courtyard, but we decided to add a roof terrace. For this we needed an RSJ, a steel beam. Because the house was large and wide, the RSJ had also to be large and wide.
I went to a steel yard in Beziers and sat in an office with the owner, discussed dimensions and ordered the RSJ. A delivery date was fixed, which gave me time to lay the concrete pads on which the beam was going to sit. It also gave me time to arrange more hands for the day of delivery.
The delivery date came and we were all there waiting. Floors had been opened up and parts of walls knocked down so that the beam could be manhandled into place. The delivery date came and went, the beam never arrived. On ringing the steelyard, I was told that the beam would be delivered the following week on a Thursday, it wasn’t.
As we were rebuilding and renovating through out, I gave up chasing and continued with other jobs. Suddenly with no warning, three weeks after the agreed delivery date, a large truck and my beam arrived. The steelyard owner was with it and he was very surprised I had not guessed which day he was actually going to deliver.
A walk up to the local cafe resulted in us finding enough hands to shift it. The beam, incidentally, was 6" deeper/taller than that which had been specified - the steelyard owner said he had done this because it would be stronger - the results of this difference in dimensions, the heights of the pads we had prepared etc., is another story.
As life in the Languedoc passed on, we have become accustomed to this and can accept appiointments, dates and hours as being wispy insubstantial things with resignation and content. It isd a large part of the pleasure of living in the Languedoc region of southern France.
It is not just us expats, the French from the more northern regions also marvel at Midi time.