This morning I finished reading Henri Troyaut’s novel ‘Grandeur Nature’, which I understand, not quite literally, to mean ‘Real Life’.
It is the story of how a son’s success in a similar field to his less talented father destroys what is otherwise a loving family of three. Despite Antoine Vautier’s unsuccessful struggle to land suitable acting roles, his wife Jeanne is most attentive to him. Their teenage son Christian is then persuaded to appear in a film and is an overnight sensation. Antoine becomes imbued with jealousy. Jeanne, having thoughts only for their son forgets her husband. He has a brief affair. Christian has a bad review and becomes ill. The remorseful husband returns home. Although old family routines continue, nothing will ever be the same again.
The author has a beautifully flowing style and an ability to bring characterisation to life with detailed description of simple things, like Jeanne’s laying out Antoine’ s cigarettes and other requirements on the table for his return home. The contents of rooms, the nature of accommodation, or the style and condition of clothing are all revealing. I first encountered such skill when I was a teenager reading Chaucer. Troyaut is equally at home when writing of thoughts and feelings.
What really destroys poor Antoine is that he has become, to reviewers, nothing more than the father of the young star. All his acquaintances wish to hear about is the latest news of the boy.
The day in March 2004 when Sam rowed into Port St Charles, Barbados, was the day I became Sam’s Dad. Rather than be destroyed by it, I basked in parental pride and satisfaction in his achievement. During the two weeks Jessica, Louisa, and I were there, before and after the arrival, powerful rum punches were administered each evening, and after the delighted Kenneth Crutchlow, founder of the Ocean Rowing Society, and the race organiser, had had a few, he would lapse into cries of ‘Who named that boy (Samson)?.
Ken had been at the quayside to join in the family photo. That was the moment a Nottingham radio station chose to ring me for an update. I was on air.
The plan this afternoon for our trip to Hare Lane, New Milton, to look at a house, was that I would leave on foot a bit ahead of Jackie, and she would follow on and pick me up in the car. If I reached Swan Green before she arrived, I would turn and retrace my steps. There is a fork in the road just above ‘The Splash’. As I arrived at that point first I had to make a choice. Left or right. Now Jackie always takes the right fork, but she knows I always take the left one. If I took the wrong fork she could well arrive in Forest Road before me. I decided that because she knew which one I normally took, she would do the same. As I approached the main road to Emery Down I half expected to see her sailing past. She didn’t, but as I continued in the direction of that village, she drove along the road towards me. She had, of course, decided I would take the right fork because I knew that was the one she normally took. I must confess she had wondered how on earth I could have reached Swan Green, where she dutifully turned around, in the time available.
‘Leathers’ in Hare Lane had, apart from its size, and the fact that it backs onto fields, nothing to attract us. I wandered into one of the fields. There was enough equine excreta to suggest that horses were kept there, but it was only a pair of deer that high-stepped away from my intrusion.
We went on to ‘The Cottage by the Green’ in Pennington. The location is attractive and the house characterful, if rather small.
September Cottage in Brockenhurst has a garden which is completely concreted over. The building itself looks interesting. To the side of it lies Brockenhurst College and the bus station. Opposite is a pub car park. We arrived at the optimum possible time to savour the thriving ambience of hoards of teenage students streaming from their daily confinement. Many poured on foot through the car park, skilfully avoiding their fellow escapees who sped past in their motors. A scooter and motor cycle enclosure was rapidly emptying whilst a whole garage of buses was filling up.
We went home for dinner, which, after Jackie had cooked it superbly (I have to say that in order to persuade her to like my link), consisted of roast lamb followed by New Forest ice cream – in her case strawberry, and in mine rum and raisin. I drank Wolf Blass Winemakers’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. Jackie had been quite rightly encouraged to buy this after Luci had served a wine from this vintner’s on 21st September. I had not sampled it before.