Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Little acts of kindness

A few nights ago, we were sitting outside the Donjon with a carafe of rose (yay nearly summer), watching the world (well BSL) go by. Benito, who spends more time at the Donjon than chez lui, was telling us how he had just got back from a day in Italy, fishing near Imperia for anchovies and sardines, before heading to the market on the way home to buy tomates sechées for €6 a kilo.

Next time he is in Italy, he told us, he will buy us a bag of sun dried tomatoes as they are much cheaper there than here. He was having coffee with one of the village mums, whose daughter Lilou took Oscar and Tallullah for several little promenades around the boules pitch (much to Oscar’s annoyance as he would much rather sit under my chair waiting for crisp crumbs than go for a walk). Benito then went to the boot of his car, hauled out a bag of fresh catch of the day and gave it to the mum as a present, refusing to take any payment.

Whenever Handyman strims the terraces, we get a visit from Rosine with a home made or grown offering. We've had pomegranates, coeur de boeuf tomatoes, tiny chilli peppers and last week it was her legendary limoncello made from the lemons in her garden. She asked for some of our oranges so she can make vin d’orange and marmalade the old fashioned way her mum taught her 70 years ago. The grass doesn’t really need cutting again yet but it will get done pronto because her vin d’orange and marmalade is every bit as good as her limoncello.

My friend Nancy recently set up a Facebook page called Carboot Valbonne and Around where you can post items you want to sell or find a new home for. What a revelation. As someone who has done the real thing too many times to mention (think 5am starts, freezing sleet and people who barter hard to knock 10 cents off a €1 price tag, even when it’s your 12 year-old daughter trying to make some extra pocket money), the virtual kind is so much more civilised, enjoyable and easy, even for an eBay virgin like me.

By now, you might be thinking, what is she on about, and how are all these little stories linked? Well, they aren’t really except that they all qualify as random acts of kindness to make life a bit easier/more enjoyable for someone else.

I gave copies of Breathing Out to Dr Lanvin (aka Clooney) and my chemo nurse Sus and Sus invited me to speak at a support group a couple of weeks ago. I went along not really knowing what to expect and met an amazing group of women who all had a story to tell. Two in particular struck a chord with me. Suzie has been battling some kind of cancer or other since she was 24 and has outlived every medical prognosis given to her. Stylish, smart and with a chic grey crop growing through after 18 months of chemotherapy, she showed me the tattoo she wears with pride on her wrist…Carpe Diem.

Carol, who was sitting next to her, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer when her daughter was a year old. Her prognosis was also bleak but her daughter is now 15 and Carol is the picture of health and positivity. Medical miracles, both of them.

The boss of the cancer treatment centre at the Tzanck set aside an hour and a half of his time to come and listen and afterwards, he asked me if I would give a talk to some of France’s leading oncologists at the ISIS cancer conference here in November. IN FRENCH. What do you want me to talk about, I asked him, feeling hugely flattered and just a little queasy at the thought of pulling this off. ‘Just talk like you did in that room, about how you kept going, why you stayed positive and why you decided to write a book about your experiences,' he said. 'It will help us to hear more from patients like you who have come out the other side. And are you going to translate your book into French?’

Now there’s an idea.