If the pulse of a small town is its railway station then Moulins fails and La Tour du Pin wins: it has a healthy heart. On Saturday mornings it is full of young and old, arriving from Grenoble and Lyon, and going there. Perhaps it is for a weekend break, big overnight bags are the norm. The centre is still busy I’m accosted by the Red Cross, asking for money, the shops full, the cafés too.

Perhaps it is the sudden arrival of sun, rather than the station, but La Tour du Pin seems more alive than the towns of the Loire – maybe travel options are closer, the “south” and the “mountains” are asserting their allure. People here look less weighed down, though there are plenty of small and large young families around. Asking for a cyber café I’m told three times in less than an hour, “we are too small for that,” but size isn’t everything. Looking outwards helps. Last night at dinner in the square I sit next to an Irish couple who speak so softly, so happily – and so un-understandably – that I can’t bring myself to talk with them: whatever their secret it is better it stays that way. The square ebbs and flows, fills with kids playing soccer and families having dinner. Sphinxes with their secrets; but not for the likes of me.

Thre are expensive “retreats” around here, spas and health farms, cycling holidays being advertised. This is less than an hour from Lyon’s steamy embrace, it’s fluid, fluent night-life for all tastes, but that hour brings on another kind of experience.

In Tom’s day these were staging posts to the alps, and the “horror” that would bring. I imaging these days would have been punishing. His methods of writing must have been by forcing himself: following his schedule would kill a modern writer, nothing getting done. At least his options are narrowed: a church, somewhere to stay. Perhaps everything was so new it stayed in the memory to be written up in Venice. Now there are too many options, things to observe as “meaning” something. Betwixt the alternative hipsters of Lyon and the smiling but silent types of La tour du Pin.

At the station the train is delayed – indeterminately – and the likely lads start playing their music. Instead of conversation they flip thumbs over the phone keypad on some kind of game:

“What score?
“No problem.”

Then the music goes public: French rap, they say it is very political. Just as acclimatisation begins the track jerks to Gwen Stafani and the boys grunt along; then it is just mainstream US rap.

In this desire to play out loud anything more than just trying to establish a root, a meaning, in a place?

“Look me in my eye.”
“Look me in my eye.”
“Look me in my eye.”

Just another public show, another anxious attempt at self-definition?

About robhunt510

Writer, artist
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