Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I haven't had a great deal to write about lately, or the energy to do it. Thanks to the efforts of our witless head office, my branch at work is now permanently understaffed, with all that implies. As far as content goes, most of my trips Home have been more of the usual, enough so that it felt repetitive to post diaries here. We've done a lot of gardening, and the only noteworthy item there is that Louis has made - not planted, made - an orchard. Typically, he told me about it only when I mentioned that it would be nice to have some fruit for lunch, like the peaches we ate on my birthday picnic.

"Why not get it from the orchard?" he asked.

"Since when have we had an orchard?"

"Since I made one!" he said, almost jumping up and down, he was so pleased with himself. Rightly, too: we now have an orchard with lovely old peach trees, apple trees, apricot trees, cherry trees ... and doubtless many others.

The events I want to record now happened on this side of the veil, which hasn't been the norm for a long time. We went out on Saturday, intending to head up Sydney Road, a scruffy shopping strip in Brunswick with some interesting second-hand clothes shops. Before that, we stopped in South Yarra for our usual coffee and sit in Fawkner Park, and I asked Louis via the pendulum what he was wearing. Was he in his leather jacket? His wool coat? His hand-knit jumper?

The answer was No to all of those, and in a complete throwback to our early days, it was only by asking a lot of questions that I got the information. He wore a new jacket of green leather. No, he hadn't made it: it was a gift from Kathy, his stepmother. Then he showed me how this happened, because I hadn't seen any of it.

That night, while we were at Home and gardening, Kathy had arrived, and Louis had gone to greet her. I stayed in the garden, presumably thinking she'd come out there. But she was just passing, because she had this gift. Now I haven't got it clear yet, but I think the message was that she'd seen the jacket (don't ask me where) and had the "I know who that would suit!" thought one gets. At any rate, I did get a glimpse during this relayed memory of Louis happily holding the jacket up against himself, pleased with this no-particular-reason gift. He also had the entirely typical idea of not telling me about it straight away, but waiting to spring it on me during our next earthside day.

I had trouble getting the image of the coat: it struck me as an almost greyish green, and I still haven't had a clear answer from Louis about how it looks, save that it's fairly 1970s in cut (like his black one) and has red strips across the pockets.

We talked about jackets in general as we walked from Fawkner, and how few he wears; Louis wriggled his shoulders when he said his burgundy and black velvet ones are too dressy for general wear (quite true, he only wears them to dances and the like at Home). The clarity of those few minutes' conversation is one of the things I prize most. I just wish my memory could hold our talks better.

I tried making a picture of the new jacket that night, but it didn't feel right. When I got the colour to resemble what I glimpsed, Louis told me via the pendant it was wrong; when I tried other variations on colour or depth, none of them got the nod. Very frustrating, and even more puzzling, given how long we've done pictures together this way.

It was the same on Monday, when I found a fine base-picture to use. It's the same source, as it happens, as for Louis' black jacket: the one worn by Sam Tyler in the original Life on Mars. We both fancied that jacket from the moment we saw it. I was pleased to find an easily-workable image, and started playing with the colour again, consulting the pendulum … and getting nowhere fast, just as on Saturday night. Eventually I asked if he didn't want me to do this picture, or if something else was wrong. Was the jacket a colour he just couldn't describe, one too different from earthly colours? Did he simply not want to use the pendant?

That was it. First Yes I'd had all day with the thing.

“Boycott” was the word I ended up using, and he agreed with it (I could sense his laughter). Louis was, in a roundabout way, asking me not to use this process. The general message was to trust, not my intuition, but my mind's eye. He's never done that when we've been writing or doing pictures together. I have relied rather heavily on the pendant of late, so perhaps he felt the need to make a statement!

At any rate, it freed me to portray his leather coat as I'd fleetingly seen it, rather than trying to capture an image only through very sparse and incomplete verbal messages (if the yes/no swings of a pendulum can be called verbal). And very glad I am that the picture worked, and I was able to complete it that night with a background shot of Fawkner to portray him as you see him here.

But that isn't the end of the story of this picture.
When I left work that afternoon, I was met by my leather-jacket-clad husband, and asked him about his boycotting of the pendant.

“Trust yourself, my heart, not the machine. It is not always right, so why believe it, and not yourself? I would not see it speak for you, or for myself, so often. It is not necessary.”
“But it's those times when I do mis-hear you that worry me. When I remember something, or think I do, and it isn't, it's just imagination. 'Imagination' and 'unreal' are still synonymous on the earthside, it's not like at Home.” One can make things real, through the mind alone, in Spirit. Here, I want to recall things that happened, not rewrite history.

“Do so many of those times happen, that you need fear it? I do not think so.”

This much of the talk took us as far as the tram stop, and we resumed after the ride, walking along the Yarra River en route to the train station. Grey and wintry though the sky was, and upside-down-brown though the river was, it was a very sunny day in my world.

“What matters it, if these pictures are not so accurate?”
“It does matter to me! It's like I said to Dr Cara today – I wouldn't be doing these pictures at all if I could take photos of you. I'm not interested in interpretations or artistic statements, not with this. That's fine for painting at Home, but I just want these to record what you look like as accurately as possible. It's the only point of them. I want something for my physical eyes and my earthly memory to hold onto.”

He didn't answer that. I'm not sure if he had realised, even after all this time, how important some physical traces are to me. Omniscient he isn't!

There was a pause as we crossed the river, then Louis took up the conversation again. He talked about a kind of knowing; not relaxing the mind, or intuition, but something different again. I'm not sure what he was getting at, because he couldn't verbalise it, at least not in English. It seems he might have been trying to frame it in French; rather surprising, given verbal language isn't his natural mode these days, but I suppose it is natural to revert to his native tongue as a reference point.

“It lacks the subtleties of French, this English of yours,” he said, with a dismissive flap of the hand.

“It has subtleties of its own,” I said.

“French is more fine.” (Has more finesse, I presume he meant.)

“You can take the soul out of the Frenchman, but you can't take the Frenchman out of the soul.” I was grinning at his semi-serious crotchets by this time.

“Must you have the last word?”

“But of course!” I was laughing to myself, because I'd remembered something from a book on his reign, which said that however much M de Richelieu might persuade, cajole, even browbeat (as much as he dared) he knew that it was Louis who was master, and who had the last word. When my darling asked what I was laughing about, I told him, and he too laughed.

“He wished,” he said, referring to the idea of M de Richelieu browbeating him. “It is a pleasure I have learned to forego,” he added, meaning having the last word.

“If not when I came along, then with the pussycats.”

“Oh, do not talk to me about cats,” he said, waving his hand again and pinching the bridge of his nose. “All I can say with them is Yes.”

Now would anyone be surprised to know I did laugh aloud when he said that? Or that we are both relieved and delighted right now, because I managed to write this without using the pendant, and tuned in to Louis to hear again what he said yesterday? And now I will have to go, because I have a not-leather-jacket-clad king standing with his arms round my shoulders, and we have the all-important television to watch, and cats to cuddle, and later a Home to go to. What more could an earthsider ask?