I'm sure I have mentioned before that I am intrigued by the way chains of thoughts are linked together in people's minds. It's a bit like word association. For example, we can get from mountain to chocolate in just a few easy steps that cam be followed and understood by just about everybody: mountain - wind - storm - teacup - teapot - chocolate. It was a similar process that led me from Carmargue to Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. But just for fun I'll explain backwards.
DCI Banks is the hero of a series of books written by Peter Robinson which are set in Yorkshire. In the books, Mr Robinson almost waxes lyrical about the countryside, almost but not quite lyrical, but enough for me to picture the beautiful Yorkshire dales. Like any other reader, I also formed in my mind a picture of what DCI Banks looked like and how he acted and reacted. I enjoyed the books I had read and eagerly anticipated the television adaptations when I heard they were to be shown.
But what a let down. The actor playing Banks looked nothing like I had imagined he should and either he or the director seemed to have formed a completely different impression of the man's character so that it wasn't the DCI Banks I thought I knew. The same went for the female lead, DI Annie Cabot. And the location manager must have been instructed to find the least attractive parts of Yorkshire as there was no sign of the gorgeous dales scenery - just pylons and mine spoil tips. And most of it shot in murky light.
It's not only people that are pictured in the mind, or my mind anyway. I do the same with places I have never visited or of which I have never seen pictures. And sometimes that can result in disappointment (as with the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen) or surprise. It was the latter I felt when the Old Bat and I visited the Carmargue village (as I expected) of Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer. I had read of this southern French village which is hemmed in on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and on the north by the wild marshes of the Rhone delta. In my imagination I saw a handful of low cottages huddled against the elements, built in a line either side of a somewhat decrepit church on a bank barely above the level of both sea and marsh. In May each year gypsies would arrive for their pilgrimage and festival when the village would come to life.
In reality, I drove along a wide highway with a scattering of farms and houses until we came within a mile or two of Saintes-Marie. Now there were riding establishments every few yards, each with a row of the famous white horses hitched to a rail. Then came the hotels. This was no village where the inhabitants eked out an existence based on fishing and basic agriculture. We parked in the centre of the town, surrounded by shining white buildings and bright flowers. The shops sold all the usual tourist tat and beach impedimenta such as buckets and spades and shrimping nets. There were restaurants, cafes and bars. It was Margate transported to the Med!
We found that the church roof was accessible to visitors and I left the Old Bat sitting in the sun for a few minutes while I paid my 50 cents or so and climbed the stairs. I even managed to scamble up the gently sloping roof to sit astride the ridge but had a nasty few minutes when I tried to get back down and my vertigo kicked in. (Yes, I should have known better.) But I got a few pictures while I was up there.