Lacoste: The Phantom Bank in the Novel “At Last” by Edward St. Aubyn; Cash, Gas and Bread in the Luberon

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Lacoste: No banks here

In “At Last,” the British novelist Edward St Aubyn winds down in acrid ironic prose drenched with dark humor the lacerating saga of Patrick Melrose, born into the high tone world of the upper crust and now long liberated from the ravages of addiction, confronting with stoic detachment life without his mother – the narrative taking place on the day of her funeral.

Here we find Patrick, having gone to New York to mind after the administration of a trust of which he is the ultimate beneficiary, in discourse with legal counsel Peter Zirkovsky:

“Your mother must have been keeping it as a nice secret surprise,” said Peter with a big lazy smile.

“It might be that,” said Patrick tolerantly. “Where does the income go?”

“Currently we’re sending it to….’ Peter flicked over a sheet of paper, ‘the Association Transpersonel at the Banque Populaire de la Côte d’Azur in Lacoste.

‘Well, you can stop that straight away,” said Patrick.

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In the Vaucluse, there are no branches of the Banque Populaire de la Côte d’Azur; the bank, true to its geographic moniker, only serves the departments of the Alpes-Maritime and the Var.

There is a Banque Populaire (BP) in the Vaucluse, yet there is no branch in Lacoste. One does find the BP in Apt.

In fact, Lacoste has no banks, and for that matter no boulangerie; the village is essentially denuded of commerce except for two cafés and a small épicerie in the Espace La Costa frequented by snack-hungry students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

PBV can’t count the times, during the summer season, that in some café, at a farmers market or a vernissage, slightly-disoriented visitors to the Luberon would ask, “Where is the nearest ATM / cashpoint , or is there a petrol / gas station “dans le coin” – the inquiry premised on an urgent need for funds or fuel.

Prefaced with the observation that such conveniences are few and far between in Luberon, this is country mind you, a reply would provide the curious with precise locations since after some time living in the region you have a map of DAB’s (distributeur automatique de billets) and stations essence embedded in your memory. Yes, those, as well as boulangeries open on Sunday or Monday.

Now, in the here-is-something-useful category, people arriving in the Luberon for a séjour of a week or longer would be well served to jot down upon arrival – with assistance from their hosts – the nearby locations of:

  • ATMs / Cashpoints
  • Gas / petrol stations (the supermarket Intermarché in Apt sells gas and there are road signs pointing to their 32 stores in the Vaucluse.
  • Boulangeries – usually closed on Monday although in towns where there are several boulangeries there is one open on every day of the week.
  • Farmers markets, which migrate from village to village during the week, e.g. Lacoste market is Tuesday morning. Since gites rent from Saturday to Saturday, the farmers market in Coustellet on Sunday mornings is a good start.

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And don’t forget to set yourself right with a good rosé for an apéro and a bottle of locally-produced olive oil.

Niggling note on French grammar: Association Transpersonel should be Association du Transpersonnel (2 n’s).

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