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!