Saturday, 5 May 2007

An audience with the King of Spain

Yesterday at the Vide Grenier in the village, a magnificent venue to familiarize oneself all the local news and gossip, I was saddened to hear that our dear friend Phillipe le Fou had succumbed, yet again, to his old complaint and has as a result been committed to the large hopital in the neighbouring Town. Phillipe is a charming man and utterly harmless .Some people are hounded by the black dog of depression down the dark nights of winter but for Pauvre Phillipe it is the coming of Spring and the sap rising that sets his restful spirit down the less trodden paths of mayhem.

Thus this afternoon I took the motorcar and Madame Grognonne to pay a visit to Cher Phillipe who, as in previous episodes of madness, believes himself to be Phillipe IV, or to be more precise, King of Spain, Castile, León, Aragón, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Sardinia, Córdoba, Corsica, Murcia, Jaén, of the Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, the East and West Indies, of the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea; Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Milan, Athens and Neopatras; Count of Habsburg, Flanders, Tyrol, Roussillon, and of Barcelona; Lord of Vizcaya and of Molina; Captain-General and Supreme Head of the Royal Armed Forces; and Sovereign Grand-Master of the Order of the Golden .

Whenever possible one must endeavor to address him as “Your majesty” as otherwise one does tend to find conversations can be a bit long winded and fatiguing, and I find that there is also the real danger that, having memorized and recited all his various and numerous titles, one forgets what one had intended to enquire of him in the first place which can be exceptionally tedious indeed!

The Hopital is a palatial white building under a vast blue slate roof. The building , set on three sides ,around a splendid courtyard is approached along a wide tree lined drive through vastly impressive wrought iron gates set within towering walls and surrounded by well kept gardens. Fit indeed for a King. Atop the building , a structure of 4 storey’s high , all of its facades lined with large shuttered windows, stands a statue of Christ his arms out stretched looking heavenwards. I have always thought this to be most inappropriate effigy for such an institution, for he looks more inclined to jump than offer succour, surely not an awfully encouraging figure bearing in mind the tendencies of some of the residents to attempt to do the same.

I do find it quite a trial finding a suitable gift to take when visiting a sick gentleman, flowers might have been appropriate but as some patients have a habit of eating them one must be prudent about which varieties to include in ones bouquet. Last time one of Phillipe’s fellow guests, under the mistaken opinion that he was a goat, ate the charming floral display of foxgloves and wild flowers I had brought with me and very nearly died.

Since Phillipe is currently King of Spain, Castile, León, Aragón, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Sardinia..( Oh lawks I have forgotten what comes next, he would be incredibly upset if he knew!) and whatever other far flung bastions and Islands over which he holds dominion, I thought a hamper filled with some Spanish delicacies might prove admirably acceptable.

I included a selection of Taps, sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, octopus, Gambas al Ajillo,Tortilla, spicy chorizo and of course Seville Oranges, arbequina olives stuffed with red peppers. Calamari, Patatas bravas, stuffed mussels and Solomillo a la castellana. Sadly appropo Spanish bread, I fear that I had to admit defeat and baguettes had to do as our local boulongerie could not successfully fabricate anything more exotic in the way of bread.

I was in a quandary regarding the wine since Spanish wine is, as one knows too well, so inferior and coarse compared to our own French wine and, whilst I did not wish to offend his highness nor did I desire to affront his palate. I settled, therefore and I think you will agree quite appropriately, for A Roche Mazet Merlot from the Pay’s D’orc since, I reasoned , he was not only king of Spain but of Roussillon aussi. I toyed with a Burgundy but since I was planning to share this repas with the king and I personally prefer the more delicate Roche Mazet any idea of a Burgundy was swiftly abandoned. Hard though it is and much as it goes against ones better nature, one must sometimes think of ones own needs occasionally as I am sure you will agree.

The food at “le hopital” is passably good in a homely sort of way and is served in admirable quantities but I think the nursing staff fail to appreciate that, as King of Spain, Phillipes tastes may be a little more refined than that of a Breton peasant. I seriously doubt they are even partially privy to the necessary social etiquette one needs master to address, in an appropriate manner, a crown head of Europe which sadly says very little for the local education here. Thankfully , Pauvre Phillipe bears up very well under the circumstances.

Our petite voyage went very well and we were received with typical Spanish courtliness but King Phillipe IV and his inner circle ( who presently comprise the baker from Chateau Neuve who thinks his pan talks to him in Arabic, young Arnaut Mouton who has an unfortunate fixation with sheep, and Eduuarde Dubois who sadly imagines himself to be a horse chestnut tree, until yesterday he also had a lady in waiting by the name of Marie Antoinette but sadly she has quite lost her head today )

Our afternoon went splendidly and we all had a wonderful time, so pleasant for me to have an opportunity to discourse in Spanish with another nearly as fluent as myself. There was however one small problem when l’heure de départ arrived and we found the nursing staff rather reluctant to allow us to leave. They were it seems operating under the misconception that I was a patient and Madame Grognonne my keeper. It could all have ended horribly, since Madame Grognonne refused obstinately to verify my sanity. It was only when I demanded to speak to Monsieur Le Director by name , one Xavier Le Dingue who has luckily dined en Famille Chez Nous several times and who, unable for technical reasons to declare me wholly sane kindly conceeded to sign my release papers with the proviso that I was to remain under my husbands care and direction. . I am now therefore officially in the charge of Chief patissier who finds the whole incident highly amusing much to my chagrin!


The illustration is a reproduction of a painting of Phillip IV of Spain and III of Portugal painted by Velázquez. Phillip le Fou,(our dear friend and current King of Spain) has a reproduction of this same portrait in his rooms at l' hopital. I feel I should say in his defense that Phillips Le Fou has a mother who is of Portuguese descent which I feel probably answers many questions regarding the origins of his madness.


muddyboots said...

hmm, king of spain eh? Good job this is not 1588 & we have good queen beth no2 on the throne not Lizzy mark 1. If he thought he was le roi soliel, that would be interesting indeed. Did they really not use oubliettes /sale de bain / chamber pots?

sally's chateau said...

Your connections are truly awe inspiring and doubtless down to your pedigree. Mind you I do notice, when I am inclined to look that our own Royals, the younger ones it is true, tend to mix with folk of a rather dubious nature.

Anonymous said...

Glorious blog, UPL, thoroughly enjoyed myself reading it. 'Re the house on Sorrento Point? Well if you have €26million to spare, fire ahead. The one two doors up went for about €14mill a few years ago. Cheap neighbourhood really
:-0 ;-)

snailbeachshepherdess said...

where do you find all these wonderful stories, your imagination must be running riot 24/7?

merrsf said...

Well done cousin. Great blog ! I always knew that your were the literary one in the family. Wonderful stories, wondefully told. A perfect way to spend those days enjoying the balmy 48 degree of an early French summer while, over here, I sit here shivering in the 80 degrees of a late California spring.

Hopping Moon said...

I laughed out loud reading this lovely blog.

I rather like the idea of being a chestnut tree - very still, deep roots, with exceeding wisdom and great patience. Also dressed in beautiful Spring finery - very fitting to meet a King!

bodran... said...

Your absolutly barking mad lol, in fact i think you may be writing from a padded cell........can i join you please xxxoo ragrug..i love the way you've done your page and the pictures xx

Posie Rosie said...

Just catching up un peu, I have been out planting and haven't had time to indulge in blog land, so here I am. Must pay far more attention, am totally enjoying your blog, but did get a bit lost, again, well totally and utterly lost to tell the truth, was it le vin?!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

I always carry my forged release papers with me - saves a lot of time . . . . Ebayed the straight jacket . . got a brilliant price.

Pondside said...

I had to get up mid-blog and get something to eat - I loved the snack that you brough to the King of Spain!
Have heard lots from my daughter who seems to be eating nothing but baguette and cheeses, but having a wonderful time!

ChrisH said...

I wouldn't even dream of suggesting that you ease up on the absinthe especially as I about to hit the surgical spirit myself. Cheersh Chrish