During our La Clusaz chalet stay last week, my wife told me she had had a pre-ski chat with a Frenchwoman in the boot room. When my wife’s French finally proved unequal to the Frenchwoman’s, she admitted it. The woman broke into English and continued the conversation. Eventually I came up when the woman (who had seen us together at meals) asked, “Where is your husband?”
“He’s writing,” my wife said she’d explained. “He’s a writer and gets inspiration here.”
Yet “inspiration” sometimes appears from the strangest of directions. A couple of days later after we checked out, we were sort of surprised to find the driver waiting to take us back to Geneva Airport was not the limo guy who’d dropped us. Instead, it was a woman of about 40.
As we headed off in her immaculate, small SUV, softly spoken she too revealed she spoke English well. She became easily the chattiest airport driver we’d ever recalled having in France. Soon she was on about the region, the weather, the lack of snow, the scenery….
Eventually conversation shifted to the people. “French people are, uh, very proud,” she smiled and suddenly observed from behind her sunglasses. “I think we are more proud than other people. Not very nice. That is what everyone says.”
We replied generally that we haven’t experienced that. We’d both been in the country a lot over the years, we said. We’d found most French people are much like others elsewhere, although in big cities everywhere people often just keep to themselves more.
She explained she had visited Canada last year. “In Montreal, if you look lost, people ask, ‘What are you looking for? Can I help?’ They don’t do that here.”
“Oh, Canada,” I said…. but I don’t believe she quite got that reference.
“If someone came up to you offering to help in New York or London, you might think they are trying to pick your pocket,” my wife joked.
“So in those places it is really just like in Paris then,” she laughed.
Driving through villages en route to the motorway, at one point she stopped behind a car turning left. She couldn’t get around it on the narrow road, so she had to wait until it turned. (“When there is two buses going in the other [opposite] directions on this road,” she remarked dryly, “it’s not a good thing.”) As she waited, I noticed signage directing visitors toward a town center, which included a church and the town hall.
I’d had NOTHIN’ worth mentioning the entire week writing-wise (in fact I’d gotten only a little done that I think is worth keeping), but it hit me then and there. I realized what I needed to do to tie together the new manuscript in terms of narrator and fictional characterizations for the story. It was so bl-ody obvious, I was furious with myself that I hadn’t thought of it before.
See? Yes, inspiration does come. Sometimes, it takes being driven down a narrow, winding, Alpine road.
Yesterday, when I let my wife in on my literary “epiphany,” she needled me, “Yeh, you just find Frenchwomen inspiring. All it really took was a Frenchwoman in a car.”
Smart aleck. By the way, I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” I feel if you think you have it, it’s merely that you haven’t quite yet found what, uh, drives you forward. 🙂