My dad had an odd sense of humor which veered towards puns and spoonerisms.
When we were young, He would ask us…
‘Did you ever hear the story of the three wells?’
Some of us had, having heard it from him umpteen times before, but as there were many of us he probably couldn’t remember who he had already told.
And anyway it was wiser to humour him!
So we answered ‘No’
‘Well! Well! Well!’ He would shout triumphantly.
Now that he had our attention this would be followed with,
‘And did you ever hear the story of the three eggs?’
Again we would chorus obediently ‘No!’
‘Two bad’ and he would laugh uproariously.
On the Island of Batz I found three Wells,
and well…..here is the story of my search for them…
It is day five on the island and anyone following my story will see how, as the days pass by, I relax and grow more comfortable with spending time alone, doing nothing more exciting than wandering the Island on the yellow bicycle.
Now and again I have a brush with humanity and this mostly takes place as I join the morning queue at the boulangerie for my pain au raisin, my pet de nonne and my baguette
I think madame keeps them specially for me because now that the school has opened, there is an increased demand for pastries, and even if I am last in the door, she hands me the warm bag before I even get a chance to make my request.
Although done out of a chance to practice my french, I am grateful that I no longer have to rush up the hill but can take time to observe the bay not only for 16th century french Galleons but now also for that 18th century Corsairs ship too (See previous posts)
After the boulangerie, is the cycle up the hill to the supermarket for the filling for my baguette.
After which ‘Le Monde est mon huitre’ (The world is my oyster)
Originally my aim was to head out, each day, in a different direction, no plan, no map, just a spontaneous following of the small roads that crisscrossed the island.
However, after my discovery of Le Trou du serpant yesterday and the story of Saint Pol driving the beast into the sea and giving one of the Island Wells the cure for blindness, I decide to try and find that Well (and any others I can find along the way)
And so off I go, picnic in panniers, ready for the days findings.
At the crossroads I turn right. This road brings me down a narrow street and onto a small square in the center of which stands a circular stone structure.
Although it is now filled with agapanthus, it looks suspiciously like a Well, not just because of it shape but also because of its position in the middle of the triangular square (My dad loved a good paradox too)
But I may be wrong and unfortunately my french does not extend to discussing such subjects. Plus the only person I meet is an elderly man and he is heading in the opposite direction.
With the first Well in my pocket I’m off again, turning left and passing some lovely blue shuttered cottages, one with the tiniest window imaginable.
In Ireland, An old high stone wall in the countryside usually indicates the presence of ‘The big house’
So I am surprised to see a similar type wall on this tiny island
I follow it along curiously and soon reach a gate that allows me to glimpse inside.
I can see a square walled field with rows of cauliflowers not yet in bloom and huge mullein plants growing from the base of the wall.
I move past the gate and come upon a very exciting find.
Inserted snugly into the wall, its roof and bowl intact and protected by the ancient moss covered walls which jut out on both sides like a pair of sheltering arms is a beautifully built Well.
I have found Well number two.
Maybe this type of structure was to stop cows and other domestic beasts getting in an stirring up the water or maybe it was for resting the waiting buckets on. Whichever it is a thing of beauty and a very practical design
But is it the well with the cure for blindness? St Pols well?
Further along I catch a glimpse of the extensive roofs of the big house and turning left at its entrance I follow the high wall as it twists around the property.
Ahead, in the same way that the Well is inserted into the wall, is a chapel. I can only presume this belongs to the big house because it was common in the 18th and 19th centuries for houses of wealth and power to have there own chapel for members of family and staff.
The lane leads back into open country again and down the hill towards ‘the wild side’
I cycle along a bumpy road that could be straight from the west of Ireland, passing a tethered Connemara pony (I know a Connemara when I see one), feeling very much at home when I notice to my left, a track leading off towards a flat stone slab.
I recognise that familiar shape too and arriving breathless and slightly shaken from the uneven surface I find Well number three. It is so reminiscent of an Irish Well that, together with the wild landscape and the Connemara pony, I have to remind myself I am actually in France.
This is surely Saint Pols Well!
Its position is perfect. A triumphant Saint Pol having successfully thrown/ enticed /ordered the serpent into the sea, would have strode this way, clapping his own back (Remember the agreement was if he managed to get rid of the serpent the island was his) as he headed towards the town.
It would be no skin off his nose to give the Well the cure for blindness as he passed it.
Again I dip my hands in to the water and splash it on my eye’s and looking up from my task I see a path of smooth flat stones leading to another structure.
How clever! The Well feeds water to the communal washing area Le Lavoir
But all this searching for wells and mulling about the history of them is hungry work.
I lay out my picnic and sitting on the low stone wall, look back at the lavoir, trying to imagine the scene where the women of the village would gather to do the weekly washing.
The facility is so well laid out with the smaller pool for soapy water perhaps and the larger for rinsing.
The overflow spouts between the pools, I presume, kept the water flowing, clearing the ponds as it did and the low walls were just made for sitting and gossiping on.
Sadly now it is full of algae and I have no one to gossip with.
A familiar blue figure catches my eye.
It’s Regine and when she spots me, she hurries over kissing me on both cheeks and greeting me like a long lost friend, her ancient Pentax camera bouncing against her chest, her lashes an even more startling blue than I remember.
‘Tomorrow’ she exclaims breathlessly, before I have even time to say Bonjour. ‘The market is on in Roscoff!’
‘It is not to be missed’ She frowns as she takes off her rug sack and rummages in the pocket of it, pulling out her small note book.
‘Regardez! I have a list of the tides and the boat times here’
She runs her finger down the timetable.
‘If you get the 10.30 boat, the tide will be coming in and you wont have to make the long walk along the jetty’ (when the tide is out the ferry cannot get into either the island harbour or the mainland one and instead it moors at a long pier which means the passengers have to walk about half a kilometer to the shore)
‘Are you going? I ask her
‘Bien sur‘ she nods furiously. ‘It is fantastique‘
‘Mais maintenant, I am going to meet my friend at the Creperie Du Phare! Please join us. The proprietors are tres sympathique, the food is formidable!’
And because I miss having someone to gossip with and I like the sound of sympathetic proprietors and formidable food, I decide that I will.