Thursday, 19 July 2007

Madame Grognonne and the dinner of the living dead...


I feel quite exhausted, frayed and frankly fragile as I write my diary. It has been an unexpectedly eventful, not to say vexingly traumatic, week what with the village firework display resulting in the burning down of the belfry and the arrival of the body of poor Loic on a handcart accompanied by a band of peripatetic Pompiers. Then just as we were coming to terms with our grief, the most unimaginable thing happened sending all our emotions into disarray again.

Madame Grognonne and I were both so shocked we were forced to have several very large restorative absinthes and a lie down in a darkened room and believe me when I tell you that choosing to lie down in a darkened room in the company of Madame Grognonne and a unspecified quantity of absinthe is an activity to be considered only in the most extreme circumstances. It has been all so upsetting that I am only now able to even begin to talk about it.

It all happened just before dinner shortly after the departure of the Pompiers with the handcart. Madame Grognonne was busy in the kitchen preparing some grilled steaks and a light salad as best she could under the somewhat distressing circumstance. Loic’s body having been laid on the kitchen table by the Pompiers she was, as I am sure you will understand, operating in very restricted space and was having to improvise a little, using Loic’s chest as a makeshift work surface. She had just finished balancing the pan of hot potatoes between his knees whilst she prepared a dressing for the lettuce which she had propped in a bowl under his chin and was crushing the pepper corns for the seasoning when a sudden movement behind her startled her and she turning her back on the kitchen table for a second, the pepper grinder sliding from her hand showering everything with fine pepper grounds. Her nerves were a little on edge, what with overindulging in alcohol at the Bastille celebrations and having to work in a makeshift morgue so she was I imagine more than a trifle jumpy.

The movement she discovered was nothing more than an escaped piglet rooting about in the vegetable baskets and in an effort to banish her sense of unease, she yelled unnecessarily loudly to Jacques to come and remove it and to search out some food for the poor creature whose welfare had obviously been neglected due to the households understandable distress at Loic’s unfortunate accident.

Whether it was the liberal and unexpected application of freshly ground pepper or the sound of Madame Grognonne’s shouting at close quarters or a combination of the two we shall I suspect never be sure. Whatever the cause is immaterial, for what happened next was to change all our lives.

At the very second that Madame Grognonne returned her attention to her culinary task, there came an unearthly groan from the kitchen table and Loic’s inert body convulsed in a spasm catapulting the hot potatoes in their saucepan across the room, narrowly missing her left ear, and sending lettuce flying heaven wards. Madame Grognonne screamed and in her terror searched for something with which to hit out at the body of our much mourned and dearly departed gardener apparently rising from her kitchen table ashen faced and wide eyed. The first thing that came to hand, fortunately, as it turned out, was the large cast iron skillet in which she had been heating oil for the steaks. I can assure you it takes a great deal to shock Madame Grognonne after all she has seen in her eventful life but shocked and frightened she undoubtedly was! Her screaming brought the remainder of the household running from all directions in alarm.

I was the last to arrive, searching as I had been for a suitable bookmark for my reading matter, it is so infuriating when one loses one’s place in a novel don’t you agree? and when I entered the kitchen I found it full of screaming and hysterical servants and children and an escaped piglet in the middle of which, on the kitchen table dripping with hot olive oil and his head wreathed in a mixed salad sat a Loic the undead looking rather pallid and frail but most definitely alive.

At this point I did something that I have never done before. I fainted.

The doctor whom Chief Patissier sent for to attend to Loic, Madame Grognonne and myself, assured us that poor Loic had not been dead at all but merely stunned into a deep catatonic state by the events of the night before and that he was extremely lucky indeed not to have found himself coming too in his coffin with the lid nailed down. Also lucky I feel that Madame Grognonne had grabbed her skillet not her chopping knife otherwise he may well have had a rather terminal relapse I fear.

Of course the Pompiers being strangers to the village were not familiar with Loic’s habitual reaction to loud noises ,and the drunken vet who identified him was too inebriated to explain to them that he was, despite all appearances to the contrary, probably alive. We being told that he was dead and being shown his rigid body his mangled artificial leg sticking out from under the canvas cover they had pulled over him ,did not even stop to question their authority, for after all no one really expects ones gardener to be flattened by a fallen saint and survive.

The entire village is agog with the news and some have hailed it as a miracle and talk of setting up a shrine to St Fiacre on the very spot where Loic was found. Meanwhile Loic has taken to wearing,, on the Doctors advice, a large card around his neck stating he is alive and demanding in the event of his apparent death he should not be buried without his mortality first being confirmed as dead by at least 1 Doctor or at the very least a sober vet.
................................................................................

As you may imagine, it was a trifle hard to find a suitable illustration for my entry today, however I have chosen this painting done in 1867 by Manet which is an interpretation of the funeral of his friend, the writer Charles Baudelaire. In my present state of emotional distress I am sure you can hardly expect me to find anything more appropriate as I am certain you will understand images of the resurrection including lettuce draped gardeners are few and a far between even in modern art.

10 comments:

muddyboots said...

oh, thank the gods that he has survived & thank the gods also that there are no environmental health or health & safety officers around to ask questions & point the old finger!!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

My sentiments exactly. I conjure up some terrible images of poor Loic and your servants with carving utensils.

sally's chateau said...

Fabulous, another vivid and lively description of the unusual household of the Loufoque family !

Suffolkmum said...

This was fantastic, brilliant. Oh I am so glad Loic has been resurrected - he may be canonised himself one day.

Cait O'Connor said...

It must have been a miracle!
Brilliant.

Grouse said...

I do hope this will be a lesson to you, my dear.
Communicating with strangers and...exposing.....oneself is all very well but one must expect dire consequenses and yes! Rigidness!

In fact the violent reaction shown by dear Loic to your recent unconventional behaviour might suggest stronger sentiment than simply that of a loyal servant....

Fennie said...

Loic est mort. Vive Loic! Well, as they say, I never did. Would you believe the strangest things happen in fiction?

But here's a true story (or was at least, so I am told, reported as fact by no less an organ than the Daily Telegraph).

It concerns a Roumanian necrophiliac who worked in the local transylvanian morgue and was in the habit, once everyone had gone home, of assaulting the younger female inhabitants of the refrigerated cabinets.

He was attending to one of them one night when she woke up, in flagrante, as it were, having been in just such a Loicican state of catolepsy. While the poor girl's life was thus saved, the young man was given, as you might imagine, rather a shock. It was not reported whether he felt able to continue, but one suspects not, or indeed ever again felt able to indulge his bizarre predeliction.

When news leaked out no one knew whether to hail him as a worker of miracles or to imprison him for rape, which conundrum apparently was never adequately resolved.

At least poor Loic was assaulted with nothing more dangerous than mixed salad and hot oil. Moreover, the latter would no doubt have seeped deep into his metal leg, guarding against rust and with the added benefit of ensuring an absence of irritating squeaks when next he is deployed on cultivating operations.

jackofall said...

Only to be expected from Saint Fiacre; people concentrate too much on the haemmorrhoidic aspect of his saintly business, and in this particular case his care for gardeners came to the fore.

It may, of course, have been the bowl of salad dressing under his chin, containing, as it no doubt did, liberal splashings of vinegar, that penetrated his mists of unconsciousness and brought him back to life, as it were. And I'm sure the pigs and piglets were equally pleased.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Hurrah for Loic - moving on at a more stately pace now . . .

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