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.