I am living proof that brains shrink during pregnancy. Since my first days of queasiness some years ago I have been coaxing the wrinkly grey stuff to liven up a bit. I began gently, looking at pictures in Heat magazine. When the neurons started buzzing, I stepped up to photo captions in Hello, and soon I was reading whole advertisements in Vogue. And so on, until today when I find myself re-reading A. S. Byatt’s Possession, that thumping great, many-layered romance.
And lo and behold, I come across a description of our very own Fontaine de Vaucluse: “a sight awesome and sublime enough to satisfy even the most romantic traveler….a vision of green water and louring rocks…In front of the cavern, which is fringed with fig trees and fantastic roots, several white rocks rise among the surface of the fast-flowing stream, which seeps away into a mat of flowing green weeds…”
This describes the very source of the Sorgue river, where it sometimes shoots, sometimes flows imperceptibly, out of the ground at Fontaine de Vaucluse. This spot first attained literary prominence as the place where the 14th-century poet Petrarch mooned for 16-odd years after the lovely Laure, recently married to Hugues de Sade – ancestor of the dastardly Marquis de Sade.
No doubt there is something extraordinary about Fontaine de Vaucluse; it is the place that lingers most in the hearts of all our visitors, and, it seems, Dame Byatt’s too.