Monday, 17 December 2012
There is no doubt that the mountain in question is an impressive and peculiar shape on our planet.
The approach from Toulouse gives, I think, the best view of it - rising out of the surrounding landscape like a vast Homburg hat, slightly misshapen by its giant owner mistakingly sitting on it. If Mr Spielberg was influenced by it for 'close encounters' I can see why.
I have walked/climbed up it, and down it, and got completely lost on the top of it in thick white fog. Yes, I saw weird lights and colours, but in my head due to an unprecedented amount of exercise, not from alien or spiritual presences.
Today, as we are only half an hour away, I thought I'd go and see what was actually going on up there.
I followed the twisting road up from Rennes les Bains, feeling slightly nervous, my mind full of images: thousands of pitched tents, the throb of djembe drums, smoke from a hundred massed vans selling nettle fritters and samosas. Or perhaps a vision of colour: exotic robes of red, orange and gold, lines of bowed praying figures, or stalls selling statuettes of the mountain, postcards and gifts: my aunt went to the end of the world and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.
I parked and did the tour of the village. One thing that struck me straight away was the abundance of fairly decrepit property for sale. If we were to believe certain articles, everything down to the last fetid shed would have been snapped up at a vastly inflated price. The bar was shut. Nobody in the streets. I did talk to a dog for a while.
The church was open, which is unusual these days. Most village churches are shut sadly, due to people nicking everything that's not nailed down. I wandered around, asked God what he thought about the end of the world and admired the exquisite light patterns on the powder blue walls as the occasional sunbeam broke through the rain clouds.
Out in the wet street again I came across Madame Avid, I think she said her name was; rather a good name I thought. She was cleaning her windows with over-manic energy for someone who was destined to have them covered in a film of space craft and rock dust in a few days time. Her husband appeared and we all talked for quite a long time on the subject of everything being blown to bits. "Rien va arrivé, rien du tout!" I agreed with her, nothing was going to happen. But we did have a great meeting of minds that the world is in a most appalling state and this is probably some sort of major wake up call.
As they had lived in Bugarach for about forty years, I asked them for their personal impressions of the mountain that towers above them: 'Definitely very special. It is a mountain on its head, the younger rock being at the bottom of it, magnetic - planes don't fly over it as their controls won't work.'
I thanked the couple, took a photo of them next to their gleaming windows and continued my walk around, instinctively ducking as two huge fighter jet-type planes shot over the mountain, presumably with no control for several moments.
Back on the main drag I saw an old man in a very new-looking blue anorak who refused to say hello to me, and another dog, slightly larger than the previous one.
Near the 'Marie' or town hall I finally found the action.
The mayor was walking about looking frightfully important with several firemen who were engaged in setting up a 'poste de secours' to rescue hapless folk on the day. This was great; a whole bunch of people appeared, well, four actually, with cameras and tripods. We all stood in the rain for a while the firemen shouted at each other and the kids looked on from the local school. I interviewed some of them.
"Do you believe in aliens?"
"Have any of you seen one yet?"
" Yes . . . me. I saw one this morning sitting on the school roof."
"What colour was it?"
"Do you think the spacecraft is really going to come on the 21st?"
"But what about Christmas then?"
I said goodbye to the photographers I had met who had been staying in a tent since the 28th of November . . .? and went back to the car.
On the way I met two beautiful Chinese lady journalists who had come for the day . . . from China?! Why not stay for the whole event? We had a chat and then I watched them walking off in their dainty shoes trying to avoid the horse shit scattered liberally over the road, umbrellas straining against the gusts of wind whipping round the mountain.
So that was it. I didn't see the fifty bikers who allegedly passed through all in white robes, or anyone with a sign saying the end of the world was nigh. I drove around the base of the mountain and everything was as it always is up there. Trees, sheep, wind, birds. There was a faint grumbling sound; perhaps the wind carrying the sound of a tractor from a nearby field, or maybe the vessel concealed deep in the rock having a last run through - if that's the theory you are following.
'Break fluid levels OK? indicators all right? Yep. OK we're all set then.'