Monday, 14 May 2007

Horse whisperings Chez Loufoque


Madame Grognonne arrived back Chez Nous shortly after our picnic luncheon yesterday, smelling slightly of alcohol and accompanied by none other than Henri Jacque Le Cravacher himself , who had , it would seem, come to inspect our petite cart in order to properly ascertain which horse might be best suited to our needs. Happily they appeared just in time for Madame Grognonne to clear the debris of the repas away, which was most agreeable, as I find it incredibly jarring on the nerves, watching the children making endless journeys to and from the kitchen teetering awkwardly, their arms full of china and glass. I am always anxious they might break something irreplaceable .

Although one does, of course, not wish to make personal remarks one can not help but notice that Henri Le Cravacher is a frightfully strange little fellow, diminutive even by Breton standards, with a look of an slightly deranged under nourished child about him, He was, for many years apparently, an exceptional jockey with a glittering career ahead of him until that fateful day when he was discovered “in flagrante” with a rather fine filly belonging to Le Duc de Bourgogne, a bottle of absinthe, and a pair of too tight jodhpurs. It was all rather sad really, and I shan’t elaborate here, but suffice to say he was banned from racing for life and has been reduced to cleaning out the stable at St Juste. A terrible waste of talent evidently, but when one is cognisant with the story in its torrid entirety one can fully see why such harsh steps were necessary .

Monseuir Le Cravacher walked briskly about the governess cart inspecting it from all angles and tapping its wheels with the tiny toe of his long brown boots. He hunched down, balancing upon his heels, and popped his head between the shafts to inspect its under carriage. He tipped it backwards and forwards and ran his hands over the brass and woodwork and clicked his tongue between his teeth. I have never seen a more thorough inspection although I would be the first to admit I have no idea at all what it was he was looking for. Finally he had the children climb in to the back of the cart and Madame Grognonne trotted off between the apple trees at great speed pulling it behind her , the children cheering and hollering with glee, whilst he ran along beside encouraging her to greater momentum. It was a most impressive sight believe me.

Whilst Madame Grognonne was recovering her breath, and the children were rushing to fetch water and towels with which to rub her down, Le Cravacher crouched down at my feet and, sitting cross legged like some tiny Korrigan , proceeded to inform me that he felt, not only had we in our possession a very fine little trap but that he was confident that he could, this very day and for only a very nominal fee, lay hands upon a fine little steed which would quite admirably fit the bill as a carriage horse for us. It was, he informed me sincerely, a jolly creature with a high prancing step and a amenable temperament which would, he was sure, perform very impressively between the shafts. As you might imagine I was very excited.

The horse in question is a retired harness racer or “trot monté” in French, and he assured me was a bargain as it had raced several times at the prestigious Vincennes hippodrome near Paris. I am still a trifle unclear as to how he has this valuable horse in his possession and why such an excellent animal is available for such a small sum but must presume that he and Madame Grognonne have struck a bargain of some sort over the price.

Whilst I took the opportunity to retire to my room for a period of relaxation and contemplation, a daily routine to which I do try to adhere whatever distractions manifest themselves, Monsieur Le Cravacher instructed the children and Madame Grognonne on the care and husbandry of horses and, generously bestowing upon them the depth of his technical and professional knowledge, aided them in preparing the old stables for their new occupant.

I , to my utter shame, have no equestrian experience what so ever having only vague childhood remembrances of the governess cart and a rocking horse in the day nursery. However, Monsieur Le Cravacher has promised to be on hand if ever it necessitates and assures me that there is nothing to the business of caring for or harnessing of a horse that a child can not swiftly learn. Recalling my brief meeting with the rather imbecilic farm boy in charge of the beast who towed our automobile home the night of le fete de muguet, I think I can see his point.

Having accepted a few bottles of eau de vie and a sum of money in small coins , he being rather eager not to have a cheque written to our account, Monsieur Le Cravacher has promised to deliver the horse after dark this evening together with food and bedding and all its other accoutrements. It would appear the horse has as yet no name, rather odd bearing in mind its apparent pedigree but then, as I mentioned previously, I know nothing of these matters, so the children have decided upon the name “ L’esprit deTempete” and are going to call it “Eclaire” for short. Delightful names if a trifle dramatic for a pony who will no doubt turn out to be have a docile and plodding nature.

Tomorrow morning, weather permitting, we are planning to launch ourselves upon the world at large and perhaps travel as far a field as the river to bathe. I am even, under the circumstances, reconsidering my idea of painting Madame Grognonne as the Goddess Athene and wonder whether Lady Godiva may not be more appropriate as a theme, although perhaps I had better wait until I see whether the horse is up to carrying her weight before I come to any final decision.

For the first time in a many months I can truly say that I retire to my bed ce soir feeling certain that my life holds the promise of adventures to come. It is all terribly exciting!

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The Illustration is by a painter named Degas and is entitled “race horses”, hardly an imaginative title I dare say but nevertheless not a bad little picture. To my amateur’s eye I feel although the horses are fine, the jockeys seem a trifle large for young men who live almost entirely on fresh air and eau de vie and probably haven’t eaten a proper meal since they were apprenticed aged 7 years old to the racing stables.

11 comments:

Frances said...

How formidable to be looking forward to adventures.
Anyone who has read your words will cheer any future possibilities.
(Devil/Prada was somewhat filmed round the SOHO neighborhood where I worked prior to taking on my current promotion. Still not sure that is truly is a promotion ... could be more or a long sentence with possible parole.)
That Degas actually painted subjects other than horses. I had the immense pleasure to see a huge show of his works at the Met in the late 1980's. I have long been a fan of his paintings, drawings, prints -- that exhibit stays in my mind even decades (!) later.
All of your visual choices are superb.
A demain.

Pondside said...

Oh, Un Peu you are truly une femme formidable! Imagine - you have uncovered the governess cart and found a horse, all without Le Chef. He will be so impressed with your energy and initiative. I think you might like to got out shopping for a proper outfit in which to drive the cart.
We really have to find you a producer for the 15 part series I know that this could be!

sally's chateau said...

Has Madame Grognonne considered my most kind invitation to come and 'refresh' herself at Le Chateau ? although she may find it a trifling quiet after all the excitement you so obviously all enjoy !

toady said...

You'll have something for the roses as well.

Suffolkmum said...

You are formidable. THough not sure whether the pony will trun out to be docile, he may live up to his name. Great picture.

ChrisH said...

Much jollier over there than over here where Tom is a tad tetchy.

Posie Rosie said...

Bring the cart over herem un peu, Meg is going to pull carts, she could give you a lift home...just found your hubby online, don't think I managesd to post a hello, but was mighty impressed.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh dear I fear it will all end in tears!

Inthemud said...

Such excitement, can't wait to hear more of your adventures.

muddyboots said...

things you need to remember with 'osses.
the front end bites & the rear end kicks! Give both extremities a WIDE birth.

Tristessa said...

You write very well.