Thierry arrived alone today, Geoffrey being ill. By the afternoon the younger man had recovered sufficiently from a hangover to come and help clear up. The builder admired the lizard candlestick Elizabeth had given Jessica and me years ago that Mike Kindred had bolted onto the back garden wall for me. This led to a conversation about lizards. Those in Thierry’s large garden are big, wheras those in the cracks in my small garden are tiny. Such creatures adapt their size to their environment, like fish in a bowl.
Every child in England grows up with the knowledge of King Henry VIII and his six wives. I had studied this Tudor period for O level at school, for an exam taken in my sixteenth summer. I therefore knew all about Anne Boleyn. ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, the subject of Philippa Gregory’s excellently written and meticulously researched novel about Anne’s younger sister Mary, a previous lover of the king, which I finished reading today, was unknown to me until quite recently. Woven into this tale was, naturally, the story of Anne, a description of Henry’s tyranny, and an exposure of the scheming treachery of the Howard and Boleyn families. The descriptive writing demonstrates a skill in depicting human relationships. It has the ability to hold the attention, despite knowing how this saga panned out. Women, in sixteenth century England, had neither rights nor power of their own. Gregory shows how those at court were simply pawns in the marriage game. Mary was fortunate that her flame did not burn as brightly as that of her sister, whose blaze of glory was all too brief.
Another Ann was constantly in my thoughts as I read the book, because it had been in my late friend Ann Eland’s library, and one of those given to me by Don.
I walked down to Bill’s for a farewell coffee. He shared a small pizza with me. On my return, Sofiene, who had joined Thierry, went to collect two of those he had ordered in Sigoules. Because they were almost half the price a large one would have cost in Bergerac he had assumed they would be small. They weren’t. Naturally, I had to help them out.
On my way back I noticed an elderly woman struggling past the entrance steps of number 8, which spread right across the pavement. As I ascended the hill, bit by bit, she dragged first herself, then her shopping, across them. Somehow, even with an empty bag, she must have climbed the steep slope. I offered to help, and to carry her bag. All she would accept was my hand, with which to pull herself upright. As she almost fell towards the wall of the building, on which she would support herself for the rest of her journey, she cheerfully explained that she was 84 and riddled with arthritis, and therefore had to do these things for herself in order to stay strong. She continued the conversation in which I then hardly understood a word. Eventually, to give my brain a rest, I bade her farewell. Watching her painful progress, I thought ‘there but for the grace of God…….’.
Today’s poem was a rondeau by Charles D’Orleans (1391 – 1465): short and easy.
But for some making good, such as tiling, for which materials have been ordered, the work on the house has been completed to my satisfaction. The place is also much more secure, and the windows at the front now match. No longer will we sit in a draft in the winter.
Today’s 25 degrees of strong sunshine was a pleasant sequel to long months of cold rain and snow.