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The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David


Things Sartorial... 

      You can tell the London holiday makers a mile off: they’re all wearing black.  Even in the heat, even in the south of France, they’re clad in head to foot funeral outfits.

      I know why, of course.  Black is slimming, black is flattering to pale skin.  Black is grown up and sophisticated.  It’s effortlessly stylish.  Black is practical because the dirt doesn’t show.  You can tip pizza toppings and red wine all down your front without having to run off and change.

      Well, that may all be so, but the women round here don’t give a damn about any of that.  As soon as the sun comes out, they’re scrambling into their summer clothes; frilly skirts, gypsy tops, flirty frocks and girlie sandals.  And I’m not just talking about lithe young teenagers.  Their mums join in too.  Bright colours, flower prints, pastels... nothing is too unsophisticated, nothing is too young.  Alice bands, swinging pony tails, cute little plaits.

      I love it.  Who cares if they’ve got a bit of middle-aged spread?  Who cares if their bra straps are showing?  Who cares if their legs aren’t perfect?  In their multi-coloured summer finery they look joyous and comfortable and feminine.

      The trouble with black is that it’s hot.  It’s formal, and black clothes usually feature structured lines rather than elastic waistbands.  It is unforgiving to all but perfect complexions.  Black is self-conscious.

      Sophisticates from London swelter behind their Ray Bans, gazing incredulously at the local matrons in their cool floaty skirts, wondering how they dare dress like little girls - and meanwhile the matrons are happily shopping and chatting and flirting with the stall holders, absolutely obvious to anyone else’s opinion.

      I often wanted to grab these trendy Londoners and force them into pretty coloured frocks.  I daresay they’d hate it, but maybe they wouldn’t?  Maybe they’d discover how great it is to be cool and comfortable and not to give a damn whether or not you look hip. 

      Isn’t that what holidays are for?  Forgetting the rat race, not bothering with hairspray and lipstick, collars and ties... aren’t they made for flopping about in whatever comes to hand?

      Isn’t that the whole point of coming to the Cevennes - because it’s unfashionable and remote?  Because you don’t have to keep up appearances in a town which still has a discotheque?  I mean, you don’t have to be trendy here.  This town still sells housecoats.  The kids still think that Dr Who scarves are groovy.  There’s still a shoe-mender in our local town.

      Not that people wear shoes in the summer.  Flip flaps are pretty well universal, along with sandals.  Yep, you can still buy Jesus Creepers here.  In fact, there’s a nice man in the market who makes them to fit, in various colours.  Caramel, pink, green, purple, scarlet, red, chestnut... anything except black.

      So I don’t understand why people travel all this way just to sit in on the cafe terraces, stuffed into tight fashionable black outfits and looking not only uncomfortable but seriously out of place.

      Ah well, I’m obviously missing something.  Not that I give a damn.  Let them wear black.  It’s none of my business, after all.

      But there’s no way I’m joining in.  I’ve been letting out last summer’s frocks (strange how the cold weather shrinks them, isn’t it?) and ironing my gypsy blouses.  Summer is here and I can’t wait to prance round the market in my Provencale-print layered skirt.

      Long live un-cool. 

Next column will be uploaded around 1st June.

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