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?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Louis and I have had two very pleasant days, one on this side of the veil and one at Home.

Yesterday, Sunday, was the first chance we've had to go out for the day for weeks. Between an autumn that's veered between summer heat and winter rain, and Mum being in hospital, it hasn't been possible. But yesterday I had no urgent tasks or errands, and the weather was perfect: mild, soft, 22C with a hint of a breeze. I took a book and we headed to Fawkner Park to enjoy the day. Fawkner is a better place to be than the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens on a weekend. The Botanicals are overcrowded and noisy. Fawkner has its sports groups (soccer at this time of year, cricket in summer), dog walkers and occasional picnickers, but it's still peaceful. We spent a couple of hours there, reading or just sitting and grappling (on my part) with a disintegrating egg and lettuce roll. Milord looked delightful in his winter cardigan and a vivid crimson tee-shirt that he's just added to his collection. He wore the long jacket not because he was cold, but to match a coat-length one I had on.

Eventually we left, heading at first toward St Kilda and the Esplanade Market, a craft market held every Sunday. Unfortunately this was when my frequent indecision about what to do with the day kicked in. There's so often a conflict between wanting to just spend a day quietly sitting with Louis, or getting a good long walk in, or doing something with a specific aim. Too often it ends up that I do a mixture and don't feel very satisfied with any choices, or change them halfway. That's how it went this time: I decided I didn't really want to walk all the way to St Kilda, and ended up going into the city to look for trims and buttons I needed. That came to nothing, but at least I did think about the conflict of aims, which I haven't before. Maybe I'll be clearer about what I want to do another time, and leave the shopping errands for after work, or for a dedicated shopping day, instead of having a day where I feel I've short-changed both of us.

One worthwhile moment came when we first arrived at Fawkner, and I remembered being at Home the night before, sitting on a chaise-longue on the terrace while Louis painted a watercolour. I wore my pink velvet dress, one of the first he made me, because it goes well with the pink and gold roses we've planted this year, which show in the background.

Another good moment of the earthly day was while we walked on the abortive trip to St Kilda, and I asked Louis what he thought of an idea I had for customising a top (making it into a cardigan instead of a pull-on). He was thinking about it when I heard, "Don't discourage her, Father!" and Philippe arrived with Andr
é in tow. It was delightful to see the boys on this side - they're more likely than anyone else in the family to pop in while Louis and I are walking - and I was keenly aware of getting a kiss on the cheek from both of them, before walking a little way together. It made me think of the end scene of Three Men and a Baby, where the four, Peter, Michael, Jack and Sylvia, walk out together. Fortunately there was no baby in this picture!

But better than the day's events here was the time at Home that night. Louis wanted to finish the watercolour, and the first thing I remember is doing up my dress, and joking that I'm glad I don't have to tape my breasts up to make them look bigger (a reference to a scene in Paper Giants, about the founding of Cleo magazine, which we watched
here on Sunday evening). I don't recall what Louis said in response but I do recall being held tight and a kissed in a way best described as Happy but Intense. Not sure what brought that on, but I'm not complaining!

We took all the bits and pieces - easel, brushes and so on - outside, where Louis arranged them while I arranged myself in yesterday's pose on the chaise, trying to get my skirt draped right.

"I could fall asleep, sitting here in the warm with nothing to do," I said, only half joking.

"Quadrille," Louis answered, looking at our canine friend who'd followed us outside, "Keep your mama entertained. I do not want her falling asleep."

Quadrille took this injunction seriously - a bit too seriously, because he started doing backflips and chasing his tail! I broke up laughing, Louis looked around to see what on earth was happening, and told him he didn't need to be that entertaining. Mr Circus Hound settled down then, coming over to get his head patted, and the painting started again ... briefly. It was only a matter of minutes (if that) before Katie arrived, leaping up onto the back of the chaise.

"Get OFF there, you are blocking my view!" snapped the irascible artist. Needless to say that set me laughing again. Katie ignored him but did climb down onto the couch - which she was probably going to do anyway, since the back isn't wide enough to sit on - and settled in behind my legs, with just the top of her head and ears showing. I suspect they may be in the final painting.

Once again, we had little time to settle down before another interruption came. This time it was Philippe and
André. "We wanted to see what you were up to after yesterday," Philippe said, bending to peck his father on the cheek while André greeted me. Louis was unappreciative of this solicitude, grumbling under his breath about it being impossible to do any painting and telling the boys not to sit just there, thank you. I was having a hard time not laughing aloud. His irritation was all play, of course; he was putting on a show, and very entertaining it was. It showed most clearly when I suggested that the lads could make us lunch, or a snack. He asked if I was going to let them loose in his kitchen, but when they'd gone, the twinkle of pure amusement was there in his eyes, unmistakable. We were playing, all four of us, and a delightful game it was, the game of love.

I don't recall much else about the day. Louis finished the picture,
André sat by the foot of the couch and we talked, Philippe sat by his father, and we went to their home for dinner. What more could someone still stuck on this side of the veil ask?

Florentine Family

Time and energy haven't combined to get me writing the last few days' events at Home, but they can be summed up as gardening, picnics (in our garden and elsewhere), a walk with Philippe, André and a host of dogs, and more garden time, whether working in it or just enjoying it in ways I don't intend to detail here. Last night was something different, though, and I'm going to get it written before the memories fade and the day's computer-induced eye-strain kicks in.

My first memory is of being greeted by Louis, and his telling me his mother wanted us to visit her.

"Does she? I'll have to think of something nice to wear," I said, surprised and very pleased. We haven't been to Marie's home before. That's quite significant, indeed astonishing, when you think about it. For all the healing that's taken place between Louis and Marie over their long lives, he's never actually visited her house. She's only been two-three times to ours, for that matter, and one of those times was for our wedding.

"There is no need to over-dress," Louis said. "We are but visiting."

"Yes, but remember Marie's reaction when she came here and I was so plainly dressed? I should show her something pretty!"

Marie wasn't in the least disapproving when she visited, only concerned that I didn't have nice clothes - or rather, that Louis hadn't made me any; a sort of isn't-he-looking-after-you-properly reaction. We spent a good time on that visit in the bedroom, while I showed her my finest dresses, most of which are indeed of Louis's making. My
belle-mère has changed in many ways, but not in her taste for fine clothes and jewels!

Upstairs, I did some humming and ha-ing over what to wear, but ended up choosing the season's standby, my 1950s floral dress, with its rose-coloured bolero and a pair of courts (shoes I can't possibly wear here on the earthly side: my feet won't put up with that sort of treatment). Louis had opted for his "royal purple" as he called it - his purple shirt over jeans - but when I decided to wear my bolero, thought he might add a jacket as well. He thought of his black velvet, but it made too sombre a look over the purple, almost reminiscent of his dark, plain attire of his earthly days. A quick change saw him in his white shirt and burgundy jacket, a beautiful combination.

We walked hand-in-hand downstairs, stepping down as if we were at some grand ball, before walking out the front door, crying out,
Marie!" and taking a couple of running steps ...

... before arriving at the front of Marie's house, where she stood in the garden, arms spread in greeting. Actually "house" is inadequate to describe her home. It's a Florentine palazzo, very much a building of the Renaissance city where she was born. One departure is that it doesn't front the street, but has its own narrow formal garden, before and behind. Marie doesn't have a soulmate or partner at present (and no, she is not lonely). Her house is hers, but she uses it as a hotel for friends and guests. I suspect she is seldom alone.

I hung back a little when we arrived, not because I felt any hesitation or reluctance, but because I wanted to see what came next - my beloved running the few paces to his mother, and the pair of them wrapping their arms around each other in a bearhug. If you know anything of the relationship between Louis XIII and Marie de Medici in their earthly lives, you will know why I wanted to see that.

My turn came a moment later, before we went inside her beautiful home. I don't recall a great deal of the visit itself, unfortunately. I remember saying, "Show me your lovely house, ma
mère!" and Marie laughing that I was just like Louis, wanting to see other people's houses - not that she was at all reluctant to show off her beautiful home!

There is one part of the conversation that came back to me, and made me laugh.

"Have you seen Henriette of late?" Louis asked, referring to his youngest sister.

"I saw her but lately, and Charles. He is so quiet," Marie answered, laughing.

"He's the quietest person in the family," I said. "Even quieter than Andr
é, don't you think?"

"He is. No one could be that quiet and live with my son," Louis answered, grinning.

At this there was a crystal-clear answer - "I heard that, Father!" No, Philippe wasn't with us, but Louis had obviously broadcast his sly comment quite some distance. Perhaps the saying "his ears were burning" is close to being literally true in Spirit!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Back Home at Last

A post by Madame

As most of you reading this blog already know, my mother had a stroke on 25 March, and has been in hospital since then. Mercifully it was a minor attack, from which she is recovering rapidly, and is now in rehabilitation. I hardly need say that going Home simply didn't happen during the first days afterward. Between stress and having a lot to do, I wasn't the only one in the family who didn't get a lot of sleep then! It was a huge relief to go Home on the Tuesday night. Louis had been with me here the whole time – he still is – but I was hardly aware of him for the most part. It's difficult to tune in to his presence during ordinary days, and these were far from ordinary.

31 March 2011

I've had exactly the sort of restorative night I needed. I got Home early in the morning, ran upstairs and found Louis asleep in bed! Woke him with cuddles and kisses and pulling the blankets off. I didn't want to make love sexually, suggesting instead that I'd make breakfast. I went to the kitchen and started the bacon and eggs and toast. He came downstairs soon afterward, wearing his emerald-green tee shirt and bringing Katie in for a sniff hello. I joked that she only loves us for the food.

While we breakfasted, Louis said we should go somewhere nice, because I needed it. I wasn't arguing with that! After the meal we took hands and jumped to – Los Angeles! Or if it wasn't LA, it was somewhere very like it, because I'd swear we were at the Santa Monica Pier, and later at Venice Beach. Imagine those places on a spring day, bright and clean and busy (but not too crowded to move), full of people happily walking or dancing or looking at things.

I wore a dress I don't remember having had before. It was tricky to catch in my mind's eye while I recalled all this. In shape it was rather like my white-and-rose floral dress, with a fitted, front-buttoned bodice, three-quarter sleeves and a wide, mid-calf skirt, like a dirndl. I'm not sure of the fabric – it seemed like a heavy jersey knit. The pattern was a tie-dye of some sort, like watercolour that's been allowed to run, in mauves and gunmetal and blueish greens. Hard to imagine on a matte fabric, it's more like what I'd see being on satin, or at least a smooth cotton. But it was a comfortable dress for a mid-spring day.

I asked Louis about the strange matter of time here and There. I fell asleep here about 10 o'clock, Louis had been with me all the time, yet when I arrived There, he was asleep after a night that slipped in somehow. He does't remember it either - did he sleep? Was it a lost night? Goodness knows. I recalled what he said a while ago, that Time is a tangled skein of wool he doesn't propose trying to untangle. I said he was right, and he said he's a theory about it - that it's not only a tangled skein, but that this skein is controlled by a cat.

Makes sense to me. And I had a good laugh when I mentioned this to August Goforth, who wrote The Risen. He said Tim (his beloved who's in Spirit) confirms that this world, the universe and all possible worlds are indeed controlled by cats.

Wise men.

1 April 2011

Woke in bed, and Mr Clever opened the window curtains with a wave of his hand, before we had a hug and cuddle.

“My father wants to see you,” he said, and we got up to begin our day. I don't recall the conversation upstairs (even assuming there were words involved rather than direct thoughts/feelings) but I know the gist of it. Louis thought I should wear my rose floral dress. I thought it too formal, not really comfortable (mentally as much as physically) for just sitting around in at Henri's house – he wasn't planning an outing, was he? Louis said no, but I'd sat around in the dress before, so why shouldn't it be comfortable this time? I bowed to his greater wisdom and put it on. He wore his emerald-green tee again, but as he started pushing his feet into his plimsolls, I pointed at them and said, “Hey, mister, if I can wear this dress, you can at least wear dressier shoes!” He put on a yes-ma'am air and put some smarter shoes on. I believe he'd just gone for the plimsolls without thinking!

We breakfasted on scrambled eggs, toast with honey and coffee. I think Juliet and Quadrille came in asking to go with us – the details of memory are muddled at this point.

The last part of the day I recall was arriving at my father-in-law's home and him rushing up, arms outstretched, crying, “My daughter!” in greeting. As if that isn't striking enough (though it shouldn't be; Henri was always demonstratively affectionate) he was wearing a fisherman's jersey! It was a big, thick-ribbed, steel-blue sweater with a heavy roll-neck, and looked great with Henri's heavy beard – Ernest Hemingway eat your heart out! Henri didn't keep the knit on all day; it was too warm, he'd just worn it to show Louis and me, and was soon plucking at it and saying he'd take it off. It's nice to see the knitting bug is spreading through the family, though somehow I doubt Louis or Philippe will be sporting cardigans any time soon.

But the really fine part is that I finally have a clear image of my mother-in-law, Henri's soulmate, whom he met when she crossed over. The best description I can come up with is that she looks like a pint-sized version of Queen Latifah – a little taller than me, a little bigger. Her name's Kathy (which explains why I've always had the name Catherine tripping round my head, though I thought I was confusing it with Henri's sister Catherine) and she's a Londoner. I gather she and Henri got together in the 1970s.

I wish I could recall more, but having finally seen her clearly is a big breakthrough!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Last Days of March

A post by Madame

It's been some time since I posted; not because nothing has happened, but because time and inclination to write didn't coincide, and then a major earthside event put travelling (let alone recording it) off the agenda for a while. These entries will be abbreviated, because I'm going from rough notes and don't have clear memories after this length of time.

23 March 2011

We went on a picnic with Henri, the boys and their respective spouses last night. It was in woods somewhere – not near our home, but somewhere frequented, because there was a picnic table and bench there. I have vague impressions of clinking glasses, singing (Louis brought his lute and Philippe, a small Spanish guitar), laughter and talking about what we'd been doing lately. I suspect there may be a minor French invasion of Sissinghurst sometime soon, after Louis and I described our day there. I wonder how Vita and Harold will feel at having a pack of unruly Bourbons come a-visiting?

24 March 2011

Katie about three years ago
I arrived Home to find Louis already breakfasting. He'd had his bacon and eggs (mine were keeping warm on the stove) and was sitting, elbows propped on the table, eating toast and honey. I set the coffee heating and had my breakfast, soon joined by Katie. I told her I was sure she'd already had her share and was just being greedy. She ignored this and helped herself to some scrambled egg.

After eating, Louis and I went to the shed for our tools. I mentioned liking a particular shovel, finding it a pleasure to use, and had to laugh at myself for sounding like Eric Olthwaite (for those who don't know the name, he was a character from Michael Palin's series Ripping Yarns, a terribly dull man whose great passion in life was shovels). Louis and I had fun steering the wheelbarrow, one hand each on the handles – not the easiest way to guide it! We spent the day marking out the knot garden with tape measures, stakes and string, and started the planting. In the evening, I copied the Iron Age stew featured on Time Team the night before – eel, salmon, sorrel, hawthorn, coriander and so on.

25 March 2011

The knot garden is finished! We didn't need our shovels today, just trowels and seed trays. We had lunch in the turret. I said, “You rest, I'll make sandwiches,” to which my gallant man said, “I am not resting while my lady works,” took my hand and we went inside. Digging around in upper cupboards, I found a jar of fish paste, which made Louis wrinkle his nose a bit and say it must have been inspired by all that Victorian or Roman stuff (from things I'd been reading lately). I took the lid off and had a taste.

“It's actually not bad,” I said. Louis had a taste, agreed, and we used it for our sandwiches. It was sort of like pureed sardines, for want of a better description. We took the sandwiches, apples (I laughed about copying autumn fruits in spring) and a couple of bottles of drink – think of ginger pop or some such thing – out to eat in the turret. We talked about how to surface the knot garden's perimeter path, and I had the idea of a plain tessellated path, in a soft sandy colour.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Downs and Ups (part two)

A post by Madame

Fawkner Park was a strange place, this morning: greyed out with mist, but humid. Not a comfortable combination, nor one conducive to tuning in to the night's memories. More annoying than that was the way my mind kept harking back to the nobody's-reading-my-stuff business. Even when I started to see what had happened overnight, that thought kept intruding. Then something I read in The Risen* came to mind. The authors (August Goforth, who's earthside, and Timothy Gray, who's in Spirit) speak at length of the ego-mind, the biological-psychological “self” distinct from what they refer to as Authentic Self (which I'd call soul), that does a fine job of messing us around. I think of ego-mind slightly differently, more like the screw-ups society imposes upon us: things like religious guilt or materialism (the idea that this physical world is all there is, and anything else is delusional). The readiness to feel put out or insulted is a large part of it, too.

Regardless of definitions, the point here was that the way to deal with ego-mind is to acknowledge it with kindness, with love, and move on. Which is essentially what I did, once I recognised the rerun thoughts for what they were.

This is you, isn't it, ego-mind? Look, I know you're upset by this. So am I. But it is, there's nothing we can do about it, and focussing on it's not going to help. We went Home last night, so let's focus on that instead.

Amazingly enough, it worked! I'm not used to telling myself to stop thinking something and getting a result, so thanks to August and Tim for that.

So, what happened at Home? Better than I would have expected. But then, I should have expected it, this being Louis involved!

The first thing I recalled (before getting ego-mind to butt out) was arriving Home, opening the front door and calling, “Sweetheart?” Louis hurried downstairs and we hugged, but instead of my usual “What's for breakfast?” type of enquiry, something else altogether came to mind. Different needs and appetites, as it were, and certainly a lingering wish for comfort. Louis swept me up, then paused, looking around trying to decide where to go - upstairs? The fur rug? Decisions, decisions! I said, “What about the couch?” and that did nicely, thank you.

Segue to drying ourselves after a shower and me asking what he wanted to do today.

“A rest from gardening, I think,” he said, towelling his hair. “Perhaps enjoying a garden instead?”

“Visiting one? That'd be fun. Any ideas where?”

“Shall we go to Sissinghurst?”

“Oh, YES! Let's see the spring planting!”

For those who haven't read it, we visited Sissinghurst-in-Spirit last year. For those who don't know what the earthly Sissinghurst is, it's one of the most famous gardens in England, created from the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, and now owned by the National Trust. My mother and I visited it in 1993. We were devilish lucky to get there at all. We found out about a day trip there and bought tickets just in time for the last day of its open season.

For our visit to the permanent Sissinghurst, Louis and I put on our glad rags; this was going to be a special day out, not one slobbing around like backpackers. I haven't mentioned it here before, but at Home I have a 1950s-style floral dress, very similar to the one in the picture, which I've worn a few times. I chose that, and asked Louis to wear one of his coloured shirts, rather than a white one. I wanted to see him as glorious in colour as I was going to be. He went for the rich purple, as you can see. Dressed, we held hands and stepped over to Sissinghurst. 

A spring day at Sissinhurst-in-Spirit, with Vita's tower, where she does her writing, in the background.
I don't remember seeing any other visitors, although Louis says there were some around. What I do remember is being greeted by Vita herself. I say “herself” because I've liked and admired her and Harold for years, and there is still, even over There, a certain feeling of meeting a celebrity (and one not just famous for being famous). I might say that Vita, who had her share of snobbishness in her earthly day – not surprising for a scion of the Sackvilles of Knole – was quite taken with having a king come to visit her garden. 
 
I don't remember the talk in detail, but some snippets came through: Vita calling “Hadji!” (Harold's nickname) to bring him to meet the visitors; asking if she remembered looking from her tower window last year and seeing someone in a crimson cloche hat, because it was me (she did), and talking about how Louis and I are making a knot garden partly inspired by Sissinghurst. Louis had the plan of our garden with him, and we sat looking at it and talking about what flowers might go well for the colours we want. I remember telling Vita how I have no interest in gardening on the earthly side, which surprised her somewhat. “Latent,” is all I remember her saying in response, though I know she said more than that. 

Vita and Harold in the early years of their marriage.

I didn't tell Harold we have a cat named after him (Hadji). Maybe when we know them better ... after all, they have said they will visit us when the garden is planted! It's quite bizarre to think of the two Hadjis meeting. It might not happen, of course. Our Mr Hadji is just as likely to be his usual unsociable self and hide under the bushes somewhere. He hasn't changed much since the earthly days when he would disappear under my bed at any sign of visitors, and my girlfriends dubbed him the Imaginary Cat.

Vita and Harold took us up to the roof of the tower, and we looked over the beautiful countryside. I told them about my earthly visit in '93, and how popular Sissinghurst still is. Harold seemed pleasantly surprised. “It's just as popular as in your time there, possibly more so,” I said. “It's greatly loved.” They opened the garden to the public in the 1950s, and enjoyed the visits of their “shilling people” as I think Vita called them. The garden was well known from her newspaper articles and radio talks and lectures on gardening.

So that was our day at Sissinghurst. I don't remember what else we did, or how we spent our evening, but it lifted me right up to have my darling husband think of a jaunt like that. I could say so much more, but what else is there that I haven't said so many times before?

*The Risen: Dialogues of Love, Grief and Survival Beyond Death, by August Goforth and Timothy Gray. Available from http://www.therisenbooks.com/


Downs and Ups (part one)

A post by Madame 

Monday on the earthly side wasn't the sort of day I want to repeat. It wasn't that anything serious or unpleasant happened, but a combination of smallish things left me feeling flat, verging on miserable, for most of the day. I'd slept badly the night before, with bronchial coughing waking me repeatedly. As usual, that meant I didn't get Home at all. I wouldn't call that a disappointment – disappointment to me has an element of surprise to it – but it was a pity not to have the revelation of the night's doings to look forward to. It also meant I was tired during the day, which of course makes one more prone to feeling down (it does with me, anyway).

The other element is the ongoing one of so few people reading this, or the latest posts I've done on FanStory. Time, other things to do, illness, higher priorities – I know perfectly well none of it is a slight, but when it covers almost all the people invited, it feels that way, rationally or not. And yesterday was one of those days when reminding myself of this wasn't working.

The first step up from this was Someone coming online – you know who you are, Miss! - and offering a cyber shoulder and a hug or three in understanding. So mwahs to you, again!

The second part was Louis arriving at work about thirty minutes before I was due to leave, and giving me a whole-body hug. It was like the times in reiki sessions where I've felt pressure all over me – not distinct hands, as many people feel, but an all-over, undifferentiated pressure. I knew he was standing behind my chair, his arms wrapped round me, but the feeling was more widespread. Maybe his aura was hugging mine, who knows? It's an engaging image, if nothing else. Whatever it was, I sat quite unable to type or do anything else for the moments it lasted.

I shall skip the rest of the day – walking through the Botanical Gardens on the way to the train, watching Time Team in the evening and getting a much-needed early night. What matters is what happened overnight, and the memories this morning. I shall post them separately, since they take up a bit of space.




Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Wall Completed

A post by Madame

Saturday 19 March 2011

Things happened all over the place – here and in Spirit. It's been a busy Saturday, one way and another!

Not a picture of us in the Fitzroy Gardens, but Louis was wearing this jumper.
These memories came while Louis and I were out. We were en route to Smith Street, a shopping strip that has a section of factory outlets I hoped would include hosiery stores. Having been pleasantly surprised by the success of a just-below-the-knee length denim skirt I bought recently (I haven't work a skirt that short in decades) I wanted to get some coloured tights or leggings for cooler weather. It's not that easy to do, since the makers' mantra seems largely to be “Colours are only for those under a certain weight and age. All other women are to wear black.”

Smith Street is in Collingwood, which meant that the routine Louis and I have followed lately on our Saturdays out wouldn't work. We've taken to stopping at the Café de la Place and Fawkner Park, just as we do on weekdays, for coffee and the chance for me to do reiki and remember what happened at Home during the earthly hours of night. But those stops lie well off the route to Collingwood and would have taken a serious chunk out of our day (a major consideration when using public transport). But the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens lie on the route, and have a coffee shop (albeit far inferior to the Café). After the unspectacular coffee and a good but expensive cheesecake, we made our way to a broad-spreading oak, and there Louis was able to trigger my memories.

Unlike most of my recent trips Home, I woke in our bed that morning. Louis was just waking, too, and we lay cuddling and comfortable, just happy to be there. The only odd thing was that I could smell scrambled eggs. Louis teased me about thinking about food, but I could actually smell them. I shrugged that off, but a few minutes later I could smell coffee. Now coffee being heated is a much more distinctive (and un-ignorable) scent than scrambled eggs.

Breakfast couldn't have cooked itself, could it?” I asked Louis, not thinking for a minute that it could, but almost wondering if he'd set it going, though he didn't seem in any hurry to get up.

Then we realised what was going on: the kits had sent up the coffee odour to entice us to come downstairs and feed them. Little wretches! Like they can't feed themselves. But then, it's like Louis observed about Katie the other day: it's just not the same as having someone serving you.

We threw on our white bathrobes and headed to the main room, where the cats were indeed all sitting around looking alertly at the staircase. I swept them a bow and we presented them with their breakfasts, and headed into the kitchen for our own. I had the scrambled eggs on toast their first scent-temptation had suggested. Louis had his usual bacon and eggs, because, as he said, he has Obligations to the queen of the house. He called to Katie to tell her breakfast was served if she cared to come and have it, and eventually she did fly up onto the table to join in. Louis cut a portion of bacon and told her plainly that part was hers and the rest was his. I doubt she took a whisker of notice of this little lecture.

After eating we had our coffee and talked about what to do during the day. I asked Louis if he had any plans or preferences; he favoured going on with our wall. That suited me; I was enjoying the work and it was coming along so well. We went back upstairs – I had one clear image of his bare legs and feet on the stairs above me – and dressed.

I don't remember word-for-word our conversation upstairs (or for any of the day, for that matter) but I do recall saying it's pleasing that our clothing seems to be self-cleaning, and that we could always do naked bricklaying, but that might be a trifle eccentric even over There. Louis agreed to that. I also said I was glad the bricks aren't of the sort that would break toes if they landed on them, since Louis was busy shoving his plimsolls on; he agreed with that, too, saying he had no wish to wear steel-capped boots.

Once again we headed outside, and the one thing I noted was that Louis stopped to remonstrate a little with one of his dogs. I haven't noted this dog before; he's a brown and white hound (one from Louis's earthly days, I think). He'd dug a hole in the lawn and Louis said, “I trust you will fill that in, sir,” or something along those lines. The dog looked somewhat shamefaced, almost like a little kid, but I gather that yes, he would fill in the hole he'd dug. I registered his name almost as “Bo,” while recalling this, though I'm sure that isn't how it would be spelt; he's not an American dog, after all. It's probably Beau, shortened from “Beau-something”. Regardless, it's nice to have a clearer glimpse of one of our canine friends.

The rest of our day only showed itself in glimpses: I know we had slices of roast meat in bread rolls for lunch, and thick soup or broth with crusty bread for dinner, after showering and changing. We'd dressed after our shower because we had the feeling someone would turn up for a visit, but I'm glad to say we were wrong. Our evening was spent on the couches, reading to each other.

The wonderful and unexpected part was that I had two days at Home, on this one earthly night. It's rare enough to get more than a day and night there, and rare to get back after I've woken on the earthly side, but to combine them is very special indeed. I remember waking that second morning, thinking I'm still here! and holding onto my sleeping husband. It wasn't long before he woke, with the same delighted reaction - “You're still here!” - and we fell into giggles, and onto each other, for a morning romp.

That's all I recall from the second day; I asked Louis what else we did, and the great news is that we have finished our wall! It's all done, and now we can turn to laying out and planting the knot garden it is to frame.

All these memories took perhaps twenty minutes to relive, and rather longer to record on my phone. Once it was all done, we continued to Smith Street as planned, searching for stockings. I had no luck there at all, so we came back through the Fitzroy Gardens (this would have taken a couple of hours altogether) and caught the tram to Bridge Road, another shopping strip. It was devoid of anything but black stockings, too (I eventually found some in the city) but it did inadvertently provide the highlight of the earthly day.

In the window of one small shop – the jewellery, bags and accessories variety – I saw a white cotton scarf, printed with flowers and leaves in dark pink and mossy green. Those colours go with pretty well everything I wear, and I liked the scarf. Five minutes later I'd bought it.

When I came out of the shop, I had the strongest impression from Louis – one of those how can you doubt this? moments. He was laughing over the fact that on a trip to look for stockings, I should buy something about as far from them as possible (only a hat would be farther than a scarf!). More than that, he knows my weakness for scarves. His laughter was of the “that's so like you” type, but just saturated with love. Yes, he was laughing at me, but in a way that – how can I describe it? – filled me with delight, with the feeling of being loved, not the feeling of being teased or put down. Not that I need say he never does that, but it's hard to describe what this moment was like. He had his arm round me and kissed me on the cheek, and raised my happiness level a notch or three, as he so often does.

The Turret Installed

A post by Madame

I've fallen behind in writing what's happened at Home lately. Time and energy don't seem to have coincided!

18 March 2011

I arrived Home in the front driveway, walking along and singing or calling out (I can't remember which) to Louis. He threw open our bedroom window, and came to greet me. I mean exactly what I say, there: this isn't one of those “writer forgets to describe character's path” moments. He didn't go downstairs and come out the front door, but stepped out the window to where I was. It was like he had a curving ramp of air, and seemed to half-walk, half-drift down. When he arrived on ground level he knelt, throwing his arms wide in a greeting that was both romantic and self-mocking; he was obviously still mentally laughing at the image of Buzz Lightyear in Spanish mode.

Once he'd stood up and greeted me with our usual hug and kiss, he said the coffee was brewing, and we linked arms to go inside. Breakfast was piles of toast and honey, this morning (I presume the Poor Little Cat had bacon prepared for her, but I don't remember it). I do remember a grey tabby rubbing around my legs, and reaching down to find it wasn't Katie but Thomas, Tomtom, who crossed over in 1993. As I said to Louis, it's confusing having so many repeats among our cats. Three grey tabbies, two all-black cats, two black-with-bikini cats … Cindy and Magnus are the only uniquely coloured ones there, and on this side, Maddie is close enough in colour to Magnus that I still think it's him when I see her from the corner of my eye.

We had our toast and coffee, and had a bit of fun trying to drink the coffee with arms linked, like a couple with champagne glasses. The consensus was that it was romantic but too complicated!

The best part of breakfast was, ah, some mutual grooming at the end. Honey is messy stuff, after all. However that had to be curtailed. I was sitting on his lap and there were hints that we might get seriously distracted from the day's gardening if we pursued this any further. I won't repeat what Louis said (it's one of our few running jokes I have kept relatively private) but it made me laugh.

From breakfast we took ourselves to the shed, and I have keyhole-glimpse clarity of seeing him pushing the wheelbarrow with our bits and pieces in it – those lovely arms and hands gripping the handles! - and his trowel shoved into his back pocket.

The first task of the day was to finish the turret-cum-garden seat. I think I've mentioned that we opted to do it together, by mind, rather than try to make it physically. It was a simple enough matter: holding hands and visualising the form we wanted, and asking the energy around us to take that form. And there it was … a circular stair-tower, open into the new garden plot and with the new walls emerging from it, with a couple of steps leading up to a seat that takes up the width of the circle. I'd asked Louis (only half jokingly) when we started if there would be room for lovemaking inside, and he said he would make sure there was …

I was jumping up and down with excitement when our turret formed. It looks so good, it's solid and looks old (it is meant to look half-ruined, like the wall) and has bonded with the brick courses we'd already laid. It has a window above the seat, and a partial roof at the top (slate, I think) to offer some shade. It's a different sort of satisfaction from physically making something as one does on this plane, but the pleasure of seeing something one created is still there.

We spent the rest of the day bricklaying, and singing. That's all I recall; I'd been standing a quarter-hour in Fawkner Park while this played out in my mind, and needed to get moving to get to work. The only other information I have is that I returned Home after being woken by a coughing fit here (the cold I had a few weeks ago is making determined efforts to return) and that we had the whole day together … and had the energy for two rounds of lovemaking during the night There. Which may explain why Louis had no plans to do anything other than sit in his rocking chair that day!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Spring Market

A post by Madame and Monsieur

I greet you, my friends. My lady and I have had a splendid day at Home. Let me tell you what we did.




This was the day when the spring market was held, of which my lady spoke some time since, when we stole food we had made for it, for our picnic upon the hills. We did not take all the food, for we had made much, but we had to make haste to replace it, when we knew the market was to be held at last! It was a simple matter to put soup on to heat, and to make new pastries, and good things to eat. My lady thought it cheating, to do so with our minds, but I told her it was but her earthly thinking that saw it so, for it is normal do make things so here. She was ready to be assured, believe me! We put our hands together, and asked of energy that it should take form, and there, et voila, we had our food again. We packed it into baskets, and made it ready to take upon our bicycles, for we wished to spend this fine mild day riding also.

***

I saw all this in first person, but Louis's described it all so fully (and some bits I don't remember at all, though they came through clearly while he dictated this) that I won't need to add much. I will say this, though … I'm pretty sure I caught him sampling some of the things as we put them away. Taste-testing, he called it. Quality control, no doubt.

***

We had help in the kitchen, for Quadrille and Juliet were most interested in the proceedings, and watched keenly. Master Quadrille sat to attention, with his pricked ears and head tilted, as if waiting to understand words, while Madame Juliet walked about, waving her tail and being underfoot. I believe she has taken lessons from the cats in that matter.

My lady had the thought to bring our bicycles to the front of the house, to our kitchen, by work of her mind, which is not something she has done alone before. She called them to herself, and there they were, but it is harder than one thinks when one is still embodied on the earthly plane, and she felt it. She sat for me, and I put energy to her, for I did not want her waking in her earthly body, because of anything happening here! She said she doubted it would be so, for her body slept deeply. That was true, and I was happy it was so.

***

I actually felt a little giddy after doing that. I hadn't felt like trooping out to the back yard and physically trundling the bikes and their trolleys into the house (the kitchen is in the front wing), let alone all the way around it. Making the bikes come to me – and it was a case of willing them to be here – worked, but took a bit more energy than I'd expected. Worth it, though!

***

We packed all within the baskets upon our bicycles. I do not know what persons call them, but they sit upon their own wheels, and are towed when we ride. It was baskets within baskets, all packed and safe, and our soup tureen keeping its heat, for all the length of the day. We cycled from our house, down our entry-way, and upon the smooth grass and lanes that are near our lands. It was a day of fresh mildness, the sky a little pale, and some breeze only of our riding; a day where we needed no hats nor scarves, but let the wind blow our hair. There was no haste, we rode at ease and talked when we would, nor hurried enough to make our dog-friends trot. They had much sniffing and circling to do of all things we passed, after all; that is a dog's business.

***

Louis wore his hand-knit and jeans; I wore some sort of sweater-jeans combination too, but I don't remember what. It was a pale enough day not to be squinty; no hat-with-brim required!

***

It was not yet the lunch hour when we reached the village where the market is held. Persons were there already, many friends we have known from previous visits, and persons we have met elsewhere, or never met at all. All were busy, with things to share or show or look at. They greeted us happily, crying, “It's Louis and Louise, with a feast!” and wishing us Happy Spring as we mingled with them. There was great pleasure in this, in the revival of friendships, and talk of things done or seen. Our stall was soon set up, and cups put our for persons to help themselves to soup, and plates put out for sandwiches and all good things to eat. We spent some time there, but more looking at other things, and admiring crafts, or things persons had made. A band played, and my lady and I took pleasure in dancing and laughing, for it brought jokes from the earthly plane to mind.

***

Jokes is right. It was a brass band, though not a big loud one, mercifully, playing cheerful music we were happy to dance to. I said at one point, “This is getting too much like Midsomer … I hope we don't see Tom Barnaby around.” (For anyone who hasn't seen Midsomer Murders, it's set in impossibly bucolic English countryside, populated, it seems, largely by obnoxious yuppies and serial killers. There's often a village fete going on, and it's a sure thing there'll be a murder, especially if Inspector Barnaby is there trying to enjoy a day out.)

The other joke was even better. Louis did a few steps of a flamenco-type dance, or a Spanish dance, at least: stamping on the spot and clapping his hands, all wired Spanish pride. But then he stuck his arms out wide – he was doing his Buzz Lightyear impersonation! We watched Toy Story 3 the other night, you see, and I was in fits laughing when Buzz was accidentally put onto a Spanish setting.

***

My lady looked much at hats, and I rolled my eyes, and spoke of them as I would were we in her earthly hat-shop, but here she heard me with her ears, not only her mind, and when she punched my ribs, I felt it, and laughed when I had breath to do so. I should not mock her hats when she is in my same flesh! But she repented enough to give me a healing kiss, so I should not complain. And in truth, the hat was fair, I say it now. We laughed much with the maker of hats, telling her of what things we do upon the earthly plane, and the jokes we have there each time we visit this shop, and how good it is to carry that joke to where we both live.

***

Now that part of the day I didn't remember at all – though thumping him in the ribs came clearly to mind while I typed that for him! Serves him right, him and his hat jokes.

The part of the day I do remember last was unexpected and very moving. We were packing to go home when Juliet came up, standing with her paws on the handlebars of my bike and whining ever so slightly. I asked what she wanted – she didn't seem upset, which I wouldn't expect There anyway – and crouched down. She practically pushed herself into my lap, wanting cuddles and wanting them now, and licking my face a little. Louis stood watching it, compassionately I think (can't think of a better term, anyway). It was like something had snapped, almost. Juliet wanted something she hadn't wanted before – she was my dog, my doggie. What brought this on? I haven't the slightest idea, it took me completely by surprise.

***

What else can I tell of our day? There is one thing of importance, which my lady has told, but which I must add to. When Juliet came to ask for closeness as she did, it was not truly known to me, but not wholly a surprise, as it was to my lady. Does this make sense? It does not, I know, and I laugh, for I cannot say it better. I shall say this, I sensed something growing in her, or opening, a natural progression, and a slow one. Things are done in the soul's own time, and none know why it may be swifter or slower for any person. But for Juliet her time has come for a person her own, a human person I mean, and for her that person is my lady. I do not know why this dear friend I have known long (she came to me within my first century in Spirit) has moved to this stage, but it gladdens me, my heart is stirred to see her like this. My lady has said she is a quiet dog, a dignified dog, but she was less so, she was wanting tightness, and the holding of the heart, this day. It surprised my lady much, as she has said. It is a good thing. Our family grows, and it grows also within itself.

Be blessed, dear friends.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Sparkling Champagne?

A post by Madame, with conversational help from Monsieur

WHAT a beginning to the day! It started simply enough, with the morning breakfast routine on this side of the veil, but came close to disarray when dear, dear Metro ran its trains twenty minutes late. No, I have no idea why; they weren't deigning to make announcements until I suggested it might be a better idea than having to individually tell all the people lining up at the ticket window. Bright they are not.

If I worked in an office with an unreasonable manager, this would have been really annoying, but my boss is of the Normal Human Being variety, and when I rang to say the trains were running late he laughed at the use of the word “running” (I changed it to “trundling”) and said he'd see me when he saw me. So I cut out my coffee-stop, but didn't have to cut out time in Fawkner Park with Louis, which is what really matters. I don't much like being late for work, but I won't lose that most precious time of the day if I can help it. And how glad I am that we had our time there, this morning!

We stopped among a trio of Moreton Bay fig trees, away from the people walking to work and the schoolchildren running around. I didn't even start to do reiki or open my chakras as I usually would. Louis said not to bother, he would do it all. I had no more to do than stand still and feel the energy, and feel his fingertip upon the “third eye” chakra. Close the real eyes and see …

I arrived Home, as usual, sometime in the morning, calling hello and seeing my lovely man hurrying down the stairs, beautiful in his jeans and long-sleeved, snug-fitting burgundy tee-shirt.

“What time is it? Is it too late for breakfast?” I asked, after being caught up in a hug-kiss-and-spin.

“It is never too late or too early for breakfast,” said the master chef, and we bounced off to the kitchen. I say bounced advisedly, because it was another of those days when we were fizzing with happiness.

In the kitchen, Louis started preparing his usual bacon and eggs, while I opted for porridge with a large dollop of honey. I think it was the honey that caught Louis's attention.

“You tempt me, Madame,” he said, looking at it rather narrow-eyed.

Not being a man to resist temptations these days, he joined in the porridge making and limited the bacon to a small helping for a certain grey tabby. It wouldn't do for her to feel deprived and unloved, after all.

Our whole conversation at breakfast was full of fun and laughter. We talked fast, chattered really. It was extraordinary, standing there in Fawkner Park and half hearing, half reliving it. I only wish I could record it all at the moment, because it disappears so fast from the memory. Even earthly conversations do that, and with one recalled like this it's even worse. I'm relying on Louis to help me get this written, because while his memory may not be perfect, it is at least better than my earthly one!

“Do you want to work in the garden today?” I asked.

“I do, it is too fine a day not to, and I want to work on our wall.”

“Are you going to wear that top? I don't think it's a gardening shirt. It'll end up tragic like your purple tee.”

“My purple tee is not tragic. It bears the marks of honest toil.”

I snorted. “It may not be tragic but I don't see you wearing it to go out. Oh, I shouldn't have said that, should I!” - I laughed as I said this, because he'd got that speculative look I've seen many a time. “I can just see you wearing it to some do at the boys', just to wind them up!” I should know better than to say anything he could take as a challenge. He has centuries of unused mischief to get through.

“I should! It has the dignity of labour. Oh, I am in the mood for such folly today,” he said, which was true. I said fizzing before and it's the word that comes to mind: he was full of laughter and excitement, and I laughed just seeing him. He was also in a hurry to be outside, turning around and setting the coffee heating with a wave of his hand. He's not given to doing things “spirit-wise” mostly. He even pulled me onto his lap while we had our coffee; I squealed with laughter, just as silly as a schoolgirl, and we earned a disapproving look from Katie, who was sitting on the table eating her bacon. The disapproval seemed to be as much for the amount of food given her, as for our antics. She plainly thought she should be able to pick over Louis's plate, rather than have to make do with a cat-sized helping.

“Poor starved cat.You can have as much to eat as often as you want,” I pointed out to her. “You don't have to rely on this.”

“But it is better to eat food made for her, that someone has prepared or been put to the bother of doing,” Louis said. “It is like stolen food tasting better.”

Katie's answer to that was another dirty look aimed at both of us, before she went back to eating.

Once we'd gulped down our coffee – literally, I managed to spill some of mine – we got up and Louis stripped off his tee, revealing the purple one underneath. He'd only worn the burgundy one during the cool of the morning. I was in my usual arrival-garb of shirt and skirt, which isn't my gardening gear.

“I'm not even bothering to go upstairs to change, “ I said, and did one of the things I can do in Spirit – waved my hand and changed on the instant to my own tee and jeans. Louis pouted a bit.

“I would have liked to see the middle stage,” he said.

“I'm not letting you see me naked at this time of day. We'd get distracted and then we wouldn't get the gardening done, would we?”

“But I was thinking of the day and how warm it will be upon the earth, when the sun is high,” he said. “We must stop to rest and eat, after all.”

“Yes, and if we stop to eat and rest and other things, I know I'll need a sleep afterward even if you don't! We can't do gardening AND other things during the day!” I was laughing again. I've no idea whether he was being serious or just teasing, though I suspect that even if he was teasing, he wouldn't have let on if I'd taken him up on it!

We walked through the house to collect our trowels and other bricklaying paraphernalia. Our new garden is proceeding apace; we've laid quite a few courses. The corner turret is grey stone, and the two walls red brick, rather like Tudor bricks, narrow and flat. We've been tossing up whether to build them to a certain height and then do the rest by thought – erecting scaffolding isn't really in our plans – but it might not be necessary.

“Do you think we could just do the turret by thought, and then make the walls entirely by hand? They don't have to be terribly high. We could probably do them just standing on a stepladder once the turret's in,” I said.

“It is worth considering. Are you enjoying this work this much?” Louis answered, smiling and pushing his hair out of his eyes.

“I am, you know. I've never enjoyed work like this before.”

“You have never had perfect fitness before,” he answered.

“That's true. I doubt I'd enjoy it much earthside, though, even if I was perfectly fit and strong there. I suspect the company plays its part.”

I don't recall any more conversation from the day. I know we did sit in the earth, leaning against our new wall, to eat lunch, but rest and eat was all we did.

When all this had played through my mind's eye – or mind's cinema? - in Fawkner, I asked Louis if there was anything else from the day I needed to know. He smiled and said “One thing” - and I saw a glimpse of our evening. We had bathed, obviously; we were in our white bathrobes, sitting on the fur rug before our fireplace (spring is hurrying along, but it is still cool enough to want a fire at night). We had strawberries and champagne flutes, although I doubt we were drinking champagne; it was more likely that hybrid wine-cider drink we both like. That was all I saw, and really all I needed to. Our day plainly ended at least as well as it began.