Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ça gronde

I love thunderstorms, and we just had a good one. I knew it was brewing as soon as the house got very quiet, the daylight became weak and blue and when I looked out I was not surprised to see menacing clouds. Then the house shook and the sky rumbled before emptying it's swollen belly of hail stones. And as I stood at the window watching my poor tomato plants getting assaulted, I was a little girl again in the heart of France, thinking: " ça gronde!". It growls. We often had thunderstorms in the Auvergne. Violent ones that would build for days, circling our small valley and causing the villagers to talk of nothing else, speculating as to when the sky would unleash it's fury onto our terracotta roofs.

In school, the children could sense the storm's presence and we were distracted. We rarely had the lights on in our one room school. Our Maitresse preferred the ample natural light that flooded in through the large windows, and seemed rather suspicious of the overhead fluorescent lamps and the electricity they wasted. It was only when we were squinting to read our texts that she would sigh, look to the ceiling in resignation, and appoint a student the privilege of flicking the switch. You can understand that the computer our school was given sat at the back of the class, collecting dust. I don't think she could find the switch. I doubt she looked very hard.

During a storm our Maitresse knew there was no point in trying to teach us the subjonctif. We were as excited as the dogs throughout the village, and had we been allowed, I think we would have barked our heads off too. However, we were allowed to close our books, put the caps back on our fountain pens, and become spectators. Lights were left off, and we watched lightning dance across the hills. The younger children, who were afraid, were allowed to leave their desks and gather by her side, and we would all count together: "One, two, three,'s only four kilometres away! Hope none of the sheep get hit by this one!" And we would talk of the lightning rod at the top of the castle and on the church spire, comforted by the fact that they would protect us from the skies. And they did. Many years later, I learned that my teacher, by then retired, was visiting her daughter during one such storm. The house, not far from the school, was hit in a brilliant flash of light that came down the walls and blew the television and all electrical appliances, leaving them smoking. No one was hurt, but I think it did nothing to quell my Maitresse's distrust of modernity.

No comments:

Post a Comment