Standing on a gravelly crest overlooking the Gironde, Monsieur Propriétaire breathed in deeply and slowly, sensing the warm air, which moments before had been hanging lazily over the vines, gradually filling his lungs. When he could inhale no more, he closed his eyes and focused, mentally acknowledging his expanded chest, his raised ribs and clavicles and momentarily floundering in the dark for some sense of his taut, quivering diaphragm. The recurring doubt about the exact location of this muscle entered his mind once again – “what did that yogi say about it?” – but he quickly pushed this intrusive thought to one side, into a dark alcove in his mind palace where he also kept the memories of his first wife. And his second wife too. And his third. Now struggling to maintain his focus, as faces of past loves flashed before his mind’s eye, he exhaled, forcefully pushing the air out through his nose again, as quickly as he could.
The weather, thought Monsieur Propriétaire as he opened his eyes once more and surveyed the landscape before him, was perfect. He normally undertook his daily Pranayama exercises in his study, exactly 45 minutes before his regular breakfast of unsweetened seaweed juice, three vegetable nori rolls and powdered egg albumen, but Eva – his fourth and current wife – had suggested perhaps he should try it in the open air instead. It had been a good suggestion. It was late-July, and even at this early hour, the sun having barely begun its ascent across the celestial sphere, it was already warm. Looking to the horizon, as he readied himself for the next inhalation, he could not see a single cloud. It had not rained for weeks, and everything was beginning to look rosy in the vineyard. Thank heavens for small mercies. The rain had been almost non-stop until June, and his team had been miserable. “It’s looking like 2013 all over again”, his technical director had told him only one month ago. He had since changed his tune of course. The talk now tended to refer more to 2010, or 2005. That, thought Monsieur Propriétaire, was more like it.
And yet he still had problems. Well, to be specific, two problems.
Problem number one was on the home front. It was when he and Eva were returning from their most recent trip to the Yoga Community in Nepal last September that she had raised the question of her 40th birthday celebrations. He winced as that number popped into his head. Several of his friends had counselled him against the marriage, their concerns naturally based on the 18-year age gap. So far they had been wrong, and he had been right, although to be fair at least one of their predictions had been correct. Eva did turn out to have expensive tastes. Regular trips out to the Community in Nepal, with Yogi Shiva Rea. The rented apartment in Monaco. That week of tennis coaching in Mauritius with Roger Federer. And next, her birthday celebrations. “Who would you like to sing at the party?”, he had asked. He wished he hadn’t.