rue St Jacques from garden on corner 2.13

Last night I watched ‘La Dame En Noir’, the French version of ‘The Woman in Black’, a gothic treatment of Susan Hill’s ghost story.  Directed by James Watkins, this was beautifully and terrifyingly filmed in marvellously muted colour.  In order not to spoil it for future viewers I will simply say that Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the lead role, as is the supporting cast, especially Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer.  Hearing dubbed French supplemented by subtitles in that language I was able to follow it well enough.  Afterwards I watched it in English.  The actors’ voices were then much more part of the performances.

I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to the supernatural, but, even on second viewing, I lost count of the number of times a shiver ran up the back of my neck and tugged at my facial muscles.  The last film scene that had that effect on me was the revelation of Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho.  That was in my teens.

6 rue St Jacques through disused garden gate 2.13Except for the climb back into Sigoules, my walk today was comparatively flat.  On the D17 towards Monbos a woman from the boulangerie was delivering bread to homes on the outskirts.  I took a right turn to Le Bricoty, right again to the Cuneges road and finally right into my village.  The two tracks off the main roads are heavily pock-marked with various materials providing in-fill.

It was just as well that I returned as the church clock was striking noon, for Sandrine was waiting outside to take me to the airport.  ‘It’s Tuesday the twelfth’, said I.  Once again confusion had arisen when booking with her mother last Friday.  Tuesday is ‘mardi’; noon is ‘midi’ or ‘douze heures’; the twelfth is ‘douze’.  Sandrine was perfectly relaxed and most amused.  As she speaks perfect English I said: ‘Lost in translation again’.  We parted with ‘Mardi douze [at] midi [or] douze heures’ from me, and a good shared laugh.

Soup 2.13Pizza slice 2.13Frangipane tart 2.13Yesterday’s soup in Le Code Bar was even better the next day.  This was followed by a large slice of delicate pizza.  The sweet was a toothsome frangipane tart.  Unfortunately I managed to lose the photograph I took of the main course, so I will have to paint a pastoral picture.  This was a beautifully presented terrace of tender duck breast medallions lying at the foot a glistening rocky hillock of dressed pasta garnished with cheese.  The usual lettuce leaves provided a deciduous foliage, and what could be seen of the huge chromium oval platter was a surrounding lake.  Once again I was full to bursting.  Stuffed for the next twenty four hours.

After lunch the fierce wind and I chased last autumn’s maple leaves around the garden.  Since neither I nor my neighbours have such trees I’ve no idea where they are coming from.

I usually have two books, one in English and one in French, on the go at any one time.  On completing Marguerite Duras’ ‘Emily L’ this afternoon I was struck by several contrasts between, and one coincidence in, that and Juliet Barker’s life of Wordsworth.  The French novel is short and concise; a small format paperback with large print running to 152 pages.  The English biography is immense and dense.  It is a large format hardback comprising almost 900 pages of very small print.  Although I didn’t know it before my reading, the novel also features the life of a poet.  It will be some time before I finish the biography, so here I’ll just say a bit more about ‘Emily L.’.  The novel uses the fascinating device of what Jackie would call ‘people-watching’.  The four main characters occupy a bar overlooking the Seine.  The French narrator, falling out of love with her male companion, concentrates on an English couple clinging to love despite the woman’s destructive alcoholism.

The thoughts of the Frenchwoman and her conversation with her man, always using ‘vous’ rather than the more intimate ‘tu’, are interspersed with the words of the husband across the room.  His wife mostly looks at the floor whilst he soliloquises.  Emily is the successful poet who has lost her muse.  We learn why.  An excellent story of the sadness of dying romance, it is given pace by the brevity of the sentences.

People-watching in restaurants is clearly an universal phenomenon.  When in Le Code Bar I listen to all the voices around me, hoping to catch a few words of French.  The speakers’ confidentiality is quite safe with me.  I don’t understand enough.


Last night I finished ‘Best Views from the Boundary’, a light hearted collection of Test Match Special lunchtime interviews by commentators featuring people from other walks of life who share a passion for cricket.  Lily Allen was a surprise, and Daniel Radcliffe, on his eighteenth birthday, took refuge from the film world.  Surprisingly, I thought Henry Blofeld, who is rather the butt of his colleagues, the best interviewer.  Brian Johnston, cleverly, had the tables turned on him.

This morning I began ‘Death in Holy Orders’ by P.D. James.  Having forgotten to make the revisions to my next Independent crossword puzzle, I then spent a couple of hours on them and attempted to e-mail my editor.  My laptop was continually timed out.  I had to tap it all out again on my Blackberry.  No signal.  I went up to the market square where there usually is one.  No ……. signal.  AAARGH!  Anyone who has read the posts from 25th. July will understand.  But I am a persistent fellow and eventually I managed to send it and visit Carrefour for some handwashing powder.  Running out of time to prepare for Don, including doing something about the kitchen, I took a brief stroll around the village. Pallets Sigoules 8.12 After this I vetted Mike’s amended clues for his potential Listener crossword.

My frustrations this week pale into insignificance when compared to my move from Newark to Hyde Park Square.  Using Chestertons, a national estate agent of renown, I had rented a one-bedroomed flat in this salubrious area of Central London.  It was being refurbished.  Despite my misgivings, during the six weeks prior to my occupation I was constantly assured that the work would be finished.  It wasn’t.  I arrived in the evening to be told I couldn’t take up residence because there was no gas certificate.  Remaining firm I advised the agent to get one immediately because I wasn’t leaving.  This meant a fitter making a hectic trip across London.  One was eventually produced.  My furniture was to arrive in the middle of the night.  I stayed put.  There were no curtains or blinds.  The shower and bedroom were full of builder’s rubble.  A cupboard still contained a defunct boiler which I had been assured would be removed.  Only half the new power points worked.  A live wire was hanging loosely from a wall.  I sat on one of the loos and was horrified to find a pool of water surrounding it when I got off.  Neither of the WCs had been fixed to the floor.  I decided to have a bath, turned on the hot tap and walked away.  On my return the bath was full of cold water.  The taps had been put on the wrong way round.  To drain the bath took an age.  The gas cooker was subsequently declared unsafe.  I could have blown myself up.  There was no splashback to the kitchen sink, and the kickboard fell off when I was nowhere near it.  I could go on.  However, you’ve got the picture.

Most of these problems emerged during the three weeks I was there.  I would visit the agent with a supplementary list almost daily.  On one occasion, when I said I’d had enough, the agent said she’d see if the landlord would release me from my contract.  ‘Landlord release me!’, I screamed.  I went into a high-pitched rant.  When I’d finally finished there wasn’t another client in this vast open plan office just off Marble Arch.  I’d cleared it.

There just has to be a washing machine in this story.  Except there wasn’t.  There should have been.  But it never arrived.  When I’d accumulated several bags of washing I gave the agent a choice.  She could either pay for a visit to the laundrette or I would bring her my laundry and drop it in the middle of her office.  She took the payment option.

I eventually received a total refund and a very nice three-bedroomed mews house off Bayswater Road for the same price.

Don was delivered on time by Lydie.  After giving him the guided tour we repaired to Le Code Bar where we both ate delicious duck pizzas and creme brulees.  I drank rosee wine and Don Leffe.  We had a lovely reminiscent conversation of which, as I am too far gone tonight, I will speak tomorrow.