Monks are very hard workers. At Plum Village there are acres of land to be tended beside tending to the cooking, washing, cleaning, and of course the nurturing of the spirit of the sangha. On one compassionate day a week, there is no work. This is Lazy Day! On my Lazy Day, I accompanied several other retreatants to the nearest town of Duras, not knowing anything about it. So when I came upon the signs for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, I realised this was the place that Marguerite Duras adopted as her name.
This was La Place de la Resistance. Marguerite Duras, who was born in Saigon, French Indochina, led a fascinating life, becoming part of the French Resistance. I was thrilled when I saw a street named after her. And to think of the connections between Vietnam and France carrying back all those years.
Duras was sun soaked, geraniums bursting everywhere and history beckoning with crooked rusty fingers.
Before I could eat my first mouthful, a woman appeared hesitantly at my elbow. "Er, would you mind," she said. "I'd like to bring my grandchildren over to see The Snails." "Yes! Yes, of course!" I grinned, manically, as I watched her entire family troop over to observe me Eat Snails. "Can I take a photo?" asked a wee one, wielding a deadly digital camera. "Er... right, excellent," said I, hoovering up that first bite under the eyes of all sorts of strangers.
There was a beautiful statue dedicated to Duras A Ses Enfants, and later, as we trooped back to our Hamlet, I turned once, to breathe deeply the memory of my first French town since Verneuil-en-Halatte in 1996 when I lived with my French exchange family. Pour moi, c'etait bien sûr, la place de la resistance.