Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Serious thoughts from the salle de bain

Having fully recovered from the ructions and ramifications of recent weeks I was lying in the bath the other evening, prior to dinner , and appreciating the milky beauty of my slender and elegant ankles when my thoughts drifted to the contemplation of the physical failings of others less fortunate and thus was, alas, sadly reminded of the rather unpleasantly disappointing thickness of Eldest ankles. A thought that naturally led me to a pondering upon her visage in general and in consequence what the future might hold for her. I ended my ablutions quite depressed as a result and quite unable to do justice to Madame Grognonne’s excellent Rognons de Veau flambés au Madère .

It is, to say the least; regrettable that a couple as handsome as Chief Patissier and myself should produce such a rather plain creature, especially when one considers the unsurpassable beauty of her brothers. Nature can at times be tiresomely unfeeling in the distribution of her bounty, bestowing on our boys the clear nursery complexions of the English upper classes, the large violet blue eyes of their father and the thick dark lashes of their mother whilst absentmindedly condemning our female offspring with straight short lashes, thick eyebrows and a figure that owes more to robust stolidity of the Breton horse than to my own fine elegance. One must blame of course the Loufoque genes of her Fathers Ancestry. I know little or nothing of mine own antecedents but one can clearly see that the boys obviously take after my side.

Children can be such a bitter disappointment. I imagine this is why Helen of Troy never embraced motherhood, what is the point ,after all, of being the face that launched a thousand ships if ones female progeny are naught but puddings?

With a face as lamentable as hers one must accept the fact that she is unlikely to win hearts. After her rather disastrous attempts at learning Russian I have somewhat shied away from interfering in her education however, as good a job as the nuns have done with her in attempting to impart the finer points of needlepoint, piano and watercolours their knowledge of the world is naturally rather limited. Loathed as I am to add yet another domestic appendage to our troubled household perhaps a tutor is called for.
I shall have to contemplate the matter closely meanwhile I have set my self to the task of preparing her for the wilder world and investigating the possibilities which a girl of her background might choose as a suitable career and to that end have managed to get a copy of Cassell’s Book of the household, which has a highly informative chapter on Careers for Girls, sandwiched between an article on the cultivation of Dahlias and a brief history to time. Admittedly it is English and is a little out of date but one must work with what one can.

If all else fails she could of course join the convent although since she has adopted a rather unbecoming habit of truculent door slamming and grunting as her chosen means of communication I think we might seriously rule out a silent order.

The painting above is one of several studies by Degas of a woman going about her private ablutions. He seems to have been quite obsessive in fact about this particular theme, a fact that perhaps should not undergo too much scrutiny. I am sure that in some artistic circles it is perfectly acceptable for a gentleman to spend his time hanging about the bathrooms of ladies and watching them undress, but no tin my bathroom I can assure you. Far be it for me to comment on his choice of model but I really feel if he was going to concentrate on this particular subject the might have chosen someone slightly more attractive to paint. To be fair her wrists are fairly elegant in a coarse sort of way, even if her hands are a trifle red, but she definitely leaves a lot to be desired in the foot department and as for the state of the water one can only wonder exactly she has been doing that has caused the water to be covered in green scum.

Friday, 2 November 2007

The story ends and all is explained..almost..

If you will recall back we left Madame Grognonne , Loic disguised as the widow, the widow dressed as a woman of ill repute, Jacques frail farmhand and Antoine attired as a sardine gutter, for no apparent reason, at the entrance to Chateau Loufoque. We thus continue to the story’s end, its culmination pieced together from the accounts of all involved.

Arriving then at dawn to be met by the over excited pigs ,no longer confined to the pantry and greedily devouring the hydrangeas, our hearty heroes knew, without doubt, that something was a miss Chez Loufoque. Leaving Jacques and the widow to unravel Loic’s artificial leg from the sacking, Antoine leapt from the cart to unravel the mystery. Sadly this was not all that he unravelled, catching, as he did his petticoats and slipping face first into the festering fish guts. With help from Madame Grognonne, and unperturbed by the awful offal, he drew his cloak around him and pulled up his hood the better to scrub off the sticky sardine scales adhering to his skin, and a good job too for otherwise he would have certainly have come off far worse when he slipped on the pig excrement, as he descended from the cart, their recent meal of hydrangeas obviously not agreeing with their digestion.

The crash of his clattering of his clogs alarming the pigs and no doubt alerting whoever was in the house to his arrival there was now little point in attempting to sneak up on them unawares. He marched onwards then boldly towards the kitchen.
Thrusting open the door, whilst at the same time being careful not to smear the brass handle only recently polished by Madame Grognonne, his eyes smarting from the reek of his fouled clothing, Antoine could see nothing in the darkness save a lone figure at the table. He moved forward to demand the interloper identity themselves only to find his voice hoarse and unfamiliar no doubt from his sleeping open mouthed on a cold night in an open cart. Spying chief Patissier’s decanter of best cognac on the table, he raised his arm to grasp it, intending to rescue it from the thieving hands of that unidentified figure at the table and hoping the restorative liquid might sooth his throat.

However he found, due to the rigidity of the whalebone corset he was wearing, he was unable to lower his arm again, his stays having been rather battered out of shape by his tumble from the tumbrel and he had the unpleasant sensation of something hard and sharp threatening to penetrate his person should he attempt to lower his limb. This was not a risk he was willing to take. In his discomfort he barely had time to give the figure at the table at the table a second thought for in the instant he realized he had been harpooned by his whalebone another figure entered the room, one whom he instantly recognized and at whom he rushed with relief, for if there is any man in the world skilled and experienced in the art of releasing Antoine from the confines of a woman’s corsets this is he! However before he can reach his saviour and seek succour the figure at the table shrieks and slumps in a most ladylike manner as only a person of her breeding and natural poise can do.

Here then is all made clear. The mysterious spectre at the kitchen door is none other than Antoine and here are Antoine’s filching thieves, none other than Chief Patissier and his dear and charming wife Un Peu Loufoque. A rush of relief is felt by all.

Madame Grognonne, stout in limb and heart , hoists her mistress from the floor and carries her off to her chamber to recover her composure and repose in peace. Chief Patissier releases Antoine from his confining corsets and washes away the smell of sardines outside in an as oil drum as off old , a fire is lit and a hearty breakfast is prepared by the widow. Stories are exchanged and tales of intrigue and woe. Chief Patissier tells Antoine briefly about his abortive friendship with Lawrence and Antoine recounts tales of his carousing with the local cleric. All is put right over a shared meal and a few restorative cognacs. Upstairs, sitting in the sunlight, Madame Grognonne silently watches over her mistress sleeping whilst she silently polished her gun and ponders upon life.

But what of the Gendarme? What fate has befallen him?

Only Time will tell, and time, as ever, is in no haste to do so.
The engraving above purports to depict the rather touching departure of the local cleric shortly after the the conclusion of the events described above. Some say he left to seek his fortune in Vannes where he worked as a missionary to sailors , others that he chose a life of penitence as a hermit on one of the small islands off the coast of Cape Breton. Some tell tales that he was called upon by a mysterious visitor, late one night ,accompanied by a person disguised as a sardine gutter, and that what happened at that meeting caused him to see the error of his ways. Truth is an elusive creature, but all that is certain is that he left the commune and was never seen again, and that the night of his departure the shrine to Loic and his miraculous limb was secretly dismantled and the money collected from it was found all neatly stored in a coffer in the clerics kitchen with a note donating it to the restoration of the church tower.