It was calmer this time. I sat in a park and watched people photograph the sculptures and the church and each other. The pope's old house was across town. I didn't go. I wondered how the current old nazi pope is getting on, with his tour, has it happened yet, has he been arrested by Richard Dawkins.
I took a train to Montpellier. I practised my sleeping man impression and was unbothered by the conductor, if there was one. I remembered to dribble slightly, and twitch.
Montpellier was a cold grey bustle. It was ten past five. Rain was ready. Hotels were expensive. I walked through the end of everyone's working day, queues for everything, roadworks. My bag felt enormous. I got back on the train.
Frontignan sounded alright, it had that gn sound, like Avignon, which is also alright, and Beef Bourgignon, which is tasty. I got off there.
It was an industrial estate surrounded by water, with a bit of old town to bimble round, and plenty of wind to barge through. I bought a bottle of red wine and went back to the station.
It was five minutes down the line to Sete. I didn't bother faking sleep. I thought: How many chances do you get to camp near a backwater industrial estate with an ill wind blowing and a whole horizon to yourself, probably as many as you like, it's not an amazing idea, you don't have to actually go in the direction you're going, it's fine, it's noble, how short is life, not long, and not getting any longer, getting wetter and darker.
I went from the train directly to the other platform to wait for one in the opposite direction. I wished I had a guidebook or three. They'd tell me where not to go. That's why they're good. Why did I ever think it was cool to not have one.
The train back to Montpellier was lively. I dribbled and twitched. As we went out of the station the ticket police stopped the man walking next to me.
It was more appealing with the lights on. I went to an expensive hotel and asked them where a cheaper hotel was. It was round the corner, the hotel Edouard 7, the rain was a bastard, I gave the man some money and went to my room, ate a chicken sandwich, put on some more clothes and went out.
The rain did five minutes on, five minutes off. I felt decent. The O Saloon were doing pints for three fifty. I borrowed a pen.
French keyboards are not designed for the English. They've moved a and m and z and q and apostrophe and comma and full stop. I spend half my typing time pressing backspace. The m is the hardest to overcome, so I'm going to cut down on m usage.
The morning happened. Montpellier has stuff to look at and things to do. I walked around. I decided to go by train to Arles. The train drivers were on strike, or most of them. I waited an hour for a train to somewhere near Arles, where there was a rumour of a bus the rest of the way. I went there, sat at the bus stop, an hour passed, the ten people who got off the train with me gradually went away, as cars pulled up beeping and whooping, and bags were slung in boots, and radios turned up to fuck yeah.
The wind pummeled my face.
A fight started opposite me, across the car park, four or five men doing the about-to-fight dance, in the middle of the road, traffic honking. My bus was nowhere. I walked two kilometres to the next roundabout, then another two to the next one, across sunflower fields, they all had their heads down.
Akim picked me up. His car was all black except for the red seatbelts and he talked very quickly. I responded very slowly and he very generously finished my sentences with words I'd never heard before.
-Rainy times in England?
-Yeah, but it's
-You like French women?
He took his hands off the wheel and stroked an invisible woman.
That was the end of the conversation.
He dropped me outside the walls of old-town Arles. I walked through and around and up and down. It was Van Goghy. I didn't know. I bought his book of letters last year but abondoned it soon after the start because he yelped so much about Jesus and nothing else.
I found a campsite, put the tent up, opened the wine from Frontignan. The sky was clear except for one dark cloud like a sunken ship, with a few more behind it, and as the sun disappeared it started flickering, yellow-white, every few seconds. It carried on for half an hour before any thunder happened.