Last night I watched Michel Hazanavicius’ ‘The Artist’. This tribute to the silent movie era was fully deserving of its dozen prizes. Shot in black and white with music for sound, it was a courageous effort which paid off. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were magnificent in the lead roles. John Goodman as the determined director and James Cromwell as the loyal chauffeur also excelled. All, as in the days of silent films, made their faces and their bodies do the talking. Especially as I cannot lip-read, I have to confess to struggling a bit with the total lack of speech, given that we did enter the world of talkies, but eventually I saw the point. When George Valentin finally gives up his futile battle against the arrival of talkies, he has a nightmare in which we hear giggling chorus girls and a falling feather’s thunderous landing; after the dance sequence from the speaking picture Peppy Miller has persuaded him into, we have a few seconds of colour and audibility. That was when I twigged. The moment was as magical as the sudden advent of colour much nearer the beginning of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
My reading this morning was a continuation of Juliet Barker’s ‘Wordsworth. A Life’, another of Ann’s books I had begun last week; and the first few pages, in French, of Marguerite Duras’ ‘Emily L.’.
The wintry sun penetrating the diminishing cloud cover this morning produced a halo effect as I took yesterday’s walk in reverse. Artisan M. Pazero’s dogs took a great interest in my passing, the fawn one being far the more vociferous.
As I laboured up the sloping path to the hilltop, a young woman sped past me. I amused her with the quip that she was too fast for me. A few yards further on she stopped, tapped her head, turned, raised her arms in a gesture of exasperation, and, smiling in resignation, retraced her steps. She had obviously frogotten something. ‘Too quick, perhaps?’, I risked. This amused her even more and she said ‘enjoy your walk’.
Less vibrant than in other seasons, the winter landscapes have their own muted colour.
Trudging these gentle hills I thought of Wordsworth, throughout his boyhood and early manhood covering perhaps thirty miles a day in the far more rugged terrains of Lakeland, The Alps, and North Wales. It has taken me a lifetime to discover the pleasure of solitary perambulating contemplation he knew as a youngster. He was no less gregarious than I, but my young manhood was more involved in cricket and rugby than in the less obviously energetic pursuits. The teenage poetry which John Harriot, my A-level English teacher, had encouraged me to write, had been abandoned and replaced by the maintenance of my cricket averages.
At twenty, the age at which I married and started a family, William Wordsworth left his lover and their child in her native France. It was to take me another fifteen years, through Jessica’s influence, to discover the country in whose language I had gained a by then dormant A-level in 1960.
Today’s gourmet lunch consisted of the noodle and cheese soup; quiche, and battered seafood medallions with tomato sauce and mustard mayonnaise; confit of duck and ratatouille; and apple tart. I don’t normally mention the free bread which is always constantly replenished, but today I was treated to some left over from last night’s private party. Still fresh, it was laced with bacon. Delicious. The main course Frederick first placed on my table was whipped away with the comment ‘you had that yesterday. It’s a mistake’. I had, indeed ‘had [it] yesterday’. The duck was it’s replacement. Fred managed to knock my water over my second bowl of bread. Very apologetic, he insisted on changing it. Then came the next mistake. The poor chap, obviously rushed off his feet, brought back the same damp offering. I didn’t mention it. But neither did I eat much of it. I hope he doesn’t notice.