Text read by Mary Peters

Frank frets over an unusual encounter.

I can thank my lucky stars that the man was a teacher. This thought is my lifeline, my safety net to the experience I am about to embark upon.

But, as is with most good stories, there is an overture.

Had Jean-Yves Ragot’s wife not taken part in one of my English courses, had she not had a quiet word with me about that class, had she not actively encouraged the Brida Journal and the Brida Project, I would not be having this conversation with her husband. Michèle is the sort of person who has a permanent question mark floating above her. There is something that puzzles one. Slowly it emerges. The patchwork family which now houses 12 grandchildren. The casual remarks, dropped like a handkerchief, waiting to be picked up and returned. In the summer comes an invitation for some coffee in the Blue House. And when the two halves present themselves as one whole, I still see the question marks. Months later, I realise, I am using the wrong sense. Do not look, listen.

At some point the handkerchief is dropped for the umpteenth time, “Jean-Yves writes an email about his work, would you like to receive them too….?” Meekly, I pick up the handkerchief, say yes and hesitantly something arrives. I read, it stirs, I listen, it stirs…but the end of year exhaustion is too great. An idea formulates but my body is crying for shutdown.

Eventually I open the door to this new world. Again, the question marks are jumping around, telling me to do something. But what? A question mark whispers into my ear, “you are using the wrong sense. Do not look, do not listen. Feel.”

And so, I jump into swimming pool and swim in music.

It is just over a week before Michèle and Jean-Yves come here to discuss his work. My head is spinning. This is one of these golden moments which I do not want to screw up. But how?

How do you talk to the man when he writes and then sings?

On en crève
De tout c’qu’nous n’disons pas
De ces mots que l’on garde pour soi.
We’re dying
Of all the things we don’t say
Of these words that one keeps to oneself.

He does not make it easy:

Qui, même toi
Que je n’connais qu’depuis si peu de temps
Mais avec qui je viens d’passer de superbes
Toi qui es là
Un peu paumé.
Yes, even you
That I have known for such a short time
But with whom I’ve just had a wonderful time
You who are here
A little lost

A little lost?

Je connais Paris, ville d’art et de misère
J’ai vu Venise et les grandes villes d’Italie
J’ai vu Munich et son Octobre de folie
J’ai voyagé dans tellement de contrées.
I know Paris, city of art and misery
I saw Venice and the big cities of Italy
I saw Munich and its crazy October
I’ve travelled to so many places.

I breathe a sigh of relief. I can look him in the eye. We share common ground.

But, before I know it, he pulls the rug from under my feet.

Mais mes voisins de palier, de quartier
Je ne les ai jamais bien regardés
But my neighbours on the landing, the district
I’ve never looked at them properly.

Yes, I admit, I had not heard of the person nor his music, although he lives only 15 km from me.

As I swim to the deeper end of the pool, I meet Madame Louise. She must be a beautiful woman as I listen to the softness of the music with a hint of melancholy.

Comme si c’était la première fois
Puis elle regagne à petits pas
Son vieux fauteuil où elle s’assoit
L’instant sacré est arrivé
Quelqu’un va enfin lui parler
As if it was the first time
Then she returns in small steps
Her old armchair where she sits
The sacred moment has arrived
Someone will finally talk to her.

The song softly unfolds and reveals a deep humanity, so elegantly portrayed, so simple yet so complex as life can be.

A lap or two later, as I continue swimming, the humanity is perhaps a little more risqué.

Le diable au corps
J’en redemande encore
Je calcule, je manipule
Le diable au corps
J’en redemande encore
Je fais tout ce qu’il me plait
Sans vraiment penser
Au mal que je fais
The devil in the body
I want more
I calculate, I manipulate
The devil in the body
I want more
I do whatever I like
Without really thinking
To the evil that I do.

Yes, we were young once. How could we forget?

As I continue swimming, I encounter Mathieu, Julien, Fabien and Benoit.
They are a cheery bunch, as the music tells me in a slight up-tempo gallop.
Who are these characters?

Mathieu, Julien Fabien et toi Benoît
Venez, venez tous voir passer
Passer là-bas sur le grand sentir
De splendide cavaliers.
Mathieu, Julien Fabien and you Benoît
Come, come and see all of us pass by.
Passing over there on the big trail
Splendid riders.

And as I look “over there” I notice something else, up in the sky. I meet an old friend, whom I had not spoken with since I lived in London, some 30 years ago. And the mist in my brain begins to clear and I begin to see, to hear and to feel, all at once.

File, file, redouble tous tes efforts
Comme Jonathan Livingston le Goéland
Monte encore, vole de plus en plus fort
 File, file vers une nouvelle aurore.
Go, go, double your efforts
Like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull
Go up again, fly stronger and stronger
 Flying, flying to a new dawn.

Working with another client, we stride through several “self-help books” as our discussion material. Jonathan reminds me how easy it is to glide through the sky and be different. And how to look for that next air current to propel us forward. Afterall, we just need to look, listen and feel. The seagull replaces the shrink.

The freedom that we experience here saves us from certain problems.

Avant de juger un homme
Il faut marcher sept lunes dans les mocassins
Before judging a man
You have to walk seven moons in your moccasins.

The teacher would not be a good one, if he did not let a little mystery enter your thoughts.

As-tu déjà songé
Au mystère de toute rencontre.
Have you ever thought about
the mystery of every encounter.

How do you prepare an “interview” with a teacher, a poet and a composer?

Et dans l’odeur d’un bon café
Laisser s’approcher la journée.

Dans mes périples, j’aime flâner, m’attarder
Faire des rencontres, discuter dans un café

Et quoi que to deviennes
Quand l’aventure s’achève
Même si tu ne vole pas aussi haut que tes rêves
Non, ne regrette pas tes envols de joie
Découvre une autre voie
Mais surtout n’oublie pas

Mais tout ça bien sûr tu l’sais déjà
And in the smell of a good coffee
Let the day approach

In my travels, I like to stroll, to linger
Meeting people, chatting in a café.

And whatever you become
When the adventure comes to an end
Even if you don’t fly as high as your dreams
No, don’t regret your flights of joy
Discover another way
But don’t forget.

But of course, you already know all that.

Would you like to swim in music as well?
Take the opportunity here: http://jyves.ragot.free.fr/

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