Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

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Credit: AtanasBozhikovNasko

Sometimes, when the weather is fine, Treena calls up the stairs: ‘Why don’t you sit out on the terrace and get a bit of sun?’ Our little terrace faces nearly due south over the village pantiles and a succession of forested ridges as far as the littoral mountain range. It’s a sheltered, sunny spot with a great view. First-time visitors gasp and reel and whip out their phones when they go out through the kitchen door and clap eyes on it.

At this time of the year, the burnished yellow of the plane trees adds variety and interest. But before I came here to France I lived on the south Devon coast and I’m an acute and severe critic of views. One might say that, lacking a winding river or a glittering seascape, it’s a bit monotonous. I give it an eight out of ten.

Anyhow I’m now too sapped to be much interested in creation or long views of it, preferring introspection or the printed page, and I would rather lie propped up on pillows than sit outside on a folding chair. This bedroom has become my world, with its two square windows flung open in daytime to the high air and birds soaring at eye level. I’ve everything I need to hand on the bedside table: my pharmacopeia, reading light, chargers; my little sentimental row of treasured old books, some from childhood; a tea caddy for useful small objects such as pencils and scissors; and my solid brass pill pot. Mine is now a torpid, interior world; it’s cerement cotton pyjamas and fluffy socks. So I decline Catriona’s healthful invitation and stay put.

I’ve recently finished a bout of palliative radiotherapy and now I’m starting on another round of chemotherapy, also palliative. Dr Deville the oncologist is doing his level best to keep his English patient afloat and I go down to Marseille for an infusion once every three weeks.

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