Kindness, when it is showered upon one, is astounding, especially when it comes from a total stranger. It was our first day of real rest since the exhausting stress of packing up and selling our beloved Cloud Cottage. We were lazing upon one of countless tiny hidden beaches nestling into rhis convoluted coastline, reviving our exhausted minds and bodies, when a speedboat coasted in and dislodged two young women.
I said, “Be careful, we’ve been removing shards of glass from the sand, but there’s loads left.”
They smiled and walked up into one of the exclusive private estates bordering the sought after coastline. The driver, perhaps their father, said thank you and asked where we were staying as he moored the craft. An hour or more must have passed when the two attractive women manifested and asked if we’d like to camp on their land. It was one of those unexpected moments when social norms melt. You are stunned as your brain does a flip. You find yourself beaming like a clown and are lost for words.
Prior to our little venture along the shoreline, we’d been warned to be careful for proprietors can be protective of their private beaches and although this was by a public footpath, we were on an isolated peninsular reaching out amongst the oyster beds in this attractive, secluded corner of Morbihan’s lovely lagoon.
Chatting gaily as we discovered who these intelligent young people were, we wandered over rolling lawns shaded by tall pines and fruit trees. Arriving at a quaint stone house with views over the surrounding waters, we were met by the father, who said, “Don’t camp, use the house, sleep in this bedroom, use up fresh stuff in the fridge. We’ll be away for about ten days.”
B. was offering up his most precious, showing me how to use his state-of-the-art stereo system whose speakers are two metres tall, the TV, telling me to use his motorbike. Beaming like fools, wondering if this was real, if we had fallen asleep and woken in a parallel universe filled with kindness, embarrassing him, I hugged the shy man, kissed the cheeks of the ebullient L and Z. We were introduced another member of the family whose houses are secreted behind subtle hedges on this expansive promontory the family bought from Matisse’s son decades ago.
Due to this man’s kindness, we’d unwittingly exchanged a van full of stuff thrown in during a panicked evacuation of our old home, for a perfect cottage in a to-die for location. Viva La France, a characterful land whose culture is so complex, whose people thrive on emotion, which can be destructive as well as amazing. How often we have experienced these acts of random kindness, be it the lady who swiped away our laundry outside a launderette and washed it in her home as she served us lunch, simply because we had matching Citroen 2CVs; or the grand noble who filled our battered 2CV with the rare, fine wines he produces; and there’s the mountain man who lead me to his favourite gite so I could write a book about his valley.... and more, and more. I ask why this happens to us in France, perhaps because it is a land in love with the present. The sun does that to your brain, and growing up in Kenya, I am like this too. This can be frustrating for my wife. France is full of sensuality and to them, as to me, relationships are vital to life; once you connect with individuals they spontaneously adorn you with their warmth. You feel blessed and humbled by their kindness.
Dazed by B, I wish we could all be this kind. Our fellow humans, our world, our planet, they need kindness rather than what we toss at them. Without such kindness to the multiple processes of nature, our grandchildren will be living in tightly controlled urban environments surrounded by a barren world. Smile, be kind to yourself, know you prefer this to it’s opposite, for we don’t own these spots of land we inhabit, we are merely guardians. B instinctually knows this.