The Lord's Shepard

We had known it was a “white road” when we had found it on the map, but when my wife and I got to the start of it, we hesitated.  There was a sign at the junction, and it made us stop and think: RD 103 EN LACUNE CIRCULATION DANGEREUSE ET DÉCONSEILLÉE.

En lacune wasn’t a phrase either of us had come across, and we had left our French-English dictionary back in England.  I did, however, have a Latin-English one back in the tent.  It wasn’t there because I had expected to meet ancient Romans—though a couple of thousand years ago, we might well have come across a few in the Alpes de Haute-Provence.  The book was a stowaway; it had found its way into one of my hastily packed bags.  When I looked up lacuna later, I found that the reason that we use it to describe a place where something is missing in a manuscript is that the word’s primary meaning is “a hole.”  By then, though, we had worked this out for ourselves, for the RD 103 has more holes than surface, and what surface it has is covered with stones, rocks, bigger stones, bigger rocks, and—at the point at which we decided our car wouldn’t take any more—boulders.  Driving up that road had indeed been “dangerous,” and we could see why the sign advised against it.

The drive had, however, been spectacular.  The RD 103 followed the river, the river followed a gorge,...

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