The weather here has returned to its normal, unremittingly grim pattern, although the grimness does not begin to compare with the horrors of Superstorm Sandy. (Sending good wishes to all of you who are affected by it . . . take care.)
What to do, therefore, but think back to the beginning of the month and reflect on the joys of that brief window of sunshine in France? The day after our choral exertions at Notre Dame in La Ciotat was free to do with it what we liked and someone mentioned the town's Sunday morning market. Several of us were off like a shot. After all, even if one cannot summon up much interest in everyday shopping for essentials, the lure of a good market is hard to resist.
La Ciotat's market snaked around the harbour and was rather wonderful. There was, of course, the best of local produce:
There were olives and hummus
teas and spices
pottery in hot, southern colours
and these . . .
Parisian chic doesn't really cut it in this small corner of the Beautiful South, where there is a penchant for figure-hugging frills, glitter and ornamentation, albeit in neutral colours - black, grey and taupe. I spotted these in the main shopping street that runs down to the harbour:
I was feeling rather proud of my restraint by this stage, just taking photographs and not actually buying anything. And then I noticed a jewellery stall, covered with silver rings, bracelets, earrings, all presided over by the impressively named Mohammed Ahmed Almoctar Dit Hamada, a Touareg silversmith and jeweller from Nigeria. Game up.
Wherever I have travelled, but especially in India, the Middle East and Latin America, I have bought locally crafted silver jewellery, mainly rings and earrings. However, I had recently lost one of the rings from India and the finger that it had graced was looking a little bare. I'm never quite sure how this jewellery thing works, why one piece appeals more than another, but my eye was drawn to a wide silver band, with traditional Touareg engraving.
'Do you have this in my size?' I asked Mohammed, pointing to the middle finger of my right hand. His eye was as accurate as those of the amazing fitters at Rigby and Peller, who can tell someone's correct bra and cup size at a mere glance. He plunged his hand into a large bag under the stall and produced a ring, which, just like Cinderella's slipper, was a perfect fit. We engaged in some good-humoured bargaining, settling on a mutually agreeable price, sealed with smiles and nods.
It did mean that I'd blown the money intended for a prix fixe three course Sunday lunch at a harbourside restaurant but that didn't bother me. Three of us, who have known each other for years, since long before we joined the choir, decided to have a budget picnic lunch instead, courtesy of the market. We sat on the steps of the harbour, looking out to sea, talking easily as old friends do, tucking into savoury fougasses and enormous, juice-dripping crimson tomatoes and giant peaches.
Now, in the depth's of England's autumnal gloom, all I have to do to conjure up that day is to glance down at my hand, look at my Touareg ring as it catches whatever light it can, and remember bright sunlight dancing across the Mediterranean.