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6:24 AM

Sablet, its clock tower, and the Dentelles de Montmirail
Sablet, its clock tower, and the Dentelles de Montmirail

About a week ago, we went to bed leaving the laundry drying on the clotheslines on our upper terrasse, just outside the bedroom. This was after an extended period of hot weather – high 30s – and unceasing sun, so it seemed a reasonable thing to do. Until just after dawn, that is.

The early-morning sky was a vivid orange, there was rain pouring down, and loud thunder was a-rumbling, acting as a sort of alarm clock, reminding us to bring the clothes in before they were completely soaked. Afterwards, as we began to dry ourselves off, there was suddenly a blinding flash of bright electric light and, simultaneously, a deafening, crackling boom that startled us so much we were glad for the room we were in. We were sure lightning had struck in our small courtyard, just outside the window.

It was 6:24 AM.

How can we be sure about the time?

Virtually every photo of Sablet features the bell tower and its 4-sided clock. That's because it dominates the Sablet skyline, the way the Eiffel Tower dominates Paris. You always know where you are and when you're close to home.

You also always know what time it is because of the demi-hourly tolling of the bells. On the hour there are one to twelve tones. On the half-hour there is a single tone. But no longer, at least for now. For that lightning strike wasn't in our courtyard, but just a bit up the hill where it hit our neighbour, the bell tower. Since then the hands have not moved and no hour has been tolled. Here's the bell tower tonight, shot from our upper terrasse. 6:24 AM.

How quickly we had become used to the bells telling us what time it was when we lay abed. Or at noon, reminding that the shops were going to close for lunch in fifteen or thirty minutes, so we'd better have provisions for lunch. Now, since we pawned our watches and iPhones soon after we arrived here (wine bills are steep), we wander through the day timeless, asynchronic, without a common clock pulling it all together.

à la prochaine,

– Diane & Mark

photographs copyright Mark Craft

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