ChereJulie, dear Jules. (Part 13)
Jules Lablagues xx
Ma chere Julie,
I have just written in French without intending to. It came naturally to me to address you as such and makes me realise how close we have become over the past few months. I feel I know you well yet you are still a great mystery to me. In just a few months' time I will meet you in person and I am sure you will transcend the beauteous Image I have of you in my mind. I imagine your voice, soft and timorous, uttering streams of molten words while I try to contain the essence of your spirit. I am sure I will be deemed unworthy of a place in your presence.
I worry sometimes that you will meet and fall in love with someone at the house and you will no longer consider it fitting to correspond with me. There will be many eligible young men there and I am sure you will turn their heads. Promise me, whatever happens, you will continue to answer my letters. Life would be empty without your friendship.
I have been very busy and I am afraid my Shakespeare thesis has been very much ignored. I had hoped to have completed it by now but it is only five thousand words long and there are still ninety five thousand to go. The day is never long enough.
Jacqueline is looking forward to meeting you so you must not disappoint her. She will be staying the whole month as she always does but, as a rule, I see less of her there than I do here even though, in Buckinghamshire, we live under the same roof. She engages in many activities but mostly she rides with all the local hunts. There are several nearby but sometimes she will drive as far as the next county where there is particularly fine hunting land. You will enjoy being a hunt follower. They are splendid people and a lot of fun. I do not ride to the hunt myself, I prefer a more sedate pace when I am on horseback, but I do enjoy preparing the hampers, choosing a beautiful setting and laying out the food for the hunters. Their exhilaration is infectious and quickly spreads to the followers. We always take a string-trio with us and they play while we dine and provide music for dancing afterwards. At the end of the day we all go back to the house for a meal and the dancing continues throughout the night. There is a lot of laughter and I am sure you will have a wonderful time.
I proposed your father's suggestion to my father and he considered it for some time before offering a compromise. He would like to meet your father at a neutral venue where they could dine and talk without intrusion. Does your father speak much French as my father's English is atrocious and, on the few occasions I have heard him use his limited knowledge, it was hard to tell what language he was speaking. There is a fine restaurant just a few miles from my cousins' house and he suggests that, after your father drops you off at the house, they go there for a meal. It will be on my father's account, of course. Please remind your father that the dress code of this restaurant requires a black bow tie but the inconvenience of a stiff collar is worth it for the pleasure of the gastronomic excesses he will experience. The Steamed Mute Swan is particularly delicious and the cooking method is certainly original. After the meal your father, depending on how he feels, could either come back to the house and stay a while or drive home.
Jacques has been reborn. It was an extremely easy birth. I was present when he squirmed, ever so slowly, out of the tent-like structure we had placed over him and lay prone on the floor, naked. His mentor slapped him hard on the buttocks and he burst out crying. He is making rapid progress. Already now, just 24 hours later, he is crawling around on his hands and knees and playing with his toys.
Genevieve was not present at the re-birth but I spoke to her through the door of her room and told her of the new arrival. I think she heard me and understood but her only reply was a long, drawn-out moan. The food we place on the floor outside her room disappears so we assume she is well but I do worry sometimes.
Odile was transformed by Jacques' re-birth and has adopted a new religion which denies the importance of any religion including itself. The difficulty is in dissuading potential adherents from becoming followers. She goes door to door in the local village explaining why people should not believe in her religion. She warns them of the dangers and suggests other, more established, religions if they insist on having a belief. This seems to have the opposite effect and many wish to abandon everything and follow her. The more she criticises her own religion the more attractive it becomes to her, would-be, disciples. It is quite a problem for her because she no longer believes in it and yet the congregation is growing. Many agnostics have been converted and atheists have had their lack of faith shaken.
I wish I had known when your birthday was and I deride myself for not having enquired. You said very little about it in your letter and I hope you had a very good day with lots of presents. I hope you like the flowers I have sent. My own birthday is October 2nd which makes me a Libran. My sister, Odile, says that this makes us very compatible but I did not need her to tell me that. I feel completely at ease with you.
Jacqueline is very excited about meeting you and you need have no worries about being able to communicate. Jacqueline speaks four languages fluently and I am envious of her ability in English. She, of course, had an English nanny and an English tutor as a child and went to an English finishing school near London. We sometimes speak only English when we are together and I listen in vain for a trace of a French accent in her voice but I find none. I put this down to her musical talent and her ability to discern between various tones. Jacqueline has perfect pitch and, had she so wished, she could either have become a concert pianist or an opera singer, possibly a Diva. Both paths were open to her when she was younger but she preferred to retain her singing and playing only as hobbies. She performs for me sometimes and I feel sad that the whole world is not there to witness it. My entire body tingles, my mind expands and becomes one with the universe. At these moments there is nothing other than the music. It is a magical and mystical experience.
Just another fourteen weeks to wait and we will be together. I hope I will not be a disappointment to you. Whatever happens I will always be your friend.
13 Beach Street
My darling Jules or should I say ma chere Jules,
Your letters makes me tremble and I feels fifteen years old again when boys first showed an interest in me. You says such nice things but I really dont know how to take it sometimes. You seems to think I'm really beautiful but I'm not really. I'm just ordinary. You seen a photo of me and I sent the best one. You should see some of the others where I looks more like I really am. I'm going to go on a strict diet for the next three months and I've got an aerobics video. I'm going to lose 20 pounds before I meets you and then I'll look more like that photo you got. I wants you to be proud of me when you introduces me to your cousins and the others. I'm only going to eat fruits and salads and drink water but I'm going to have to start tomorrow because my mum already got a chicken and mushroom pie in the oven for me and I dont want to disappoint her but definitely tomorrow. I will tell my mum not to do anything for me and I'll go down the market this afternoon and buy all I needs.
Thank you thank you thank you for the flowers. They came yesterday and it took two people to carry them in. At first I thought it was a mistake and they should be going to someones wedding but then they says my name and tells me that theyre from someone in France and they was all paid for and everything so I knew they was from you. I've never seen so many flowers in our house and the neighbours came round thinking someone was dead but it was good they came round because we needed to borrow vases and things to put them all in. We got bunches of flowers in all the rooms but I got most in mine. I got to choose which ones I wanted and then we shared the rest out around the house and I took a bunch into Gran.
At first my dad said there was no way he was going to a poxy high class restaurant with your dad but after thinking it over for a while he said that he would anyway. He's got a bow tie from when he used to be in the British Legion and a suit. He says that he knows how to eat with the best of them and that he'll eat as much as your dad and more. He learned how to eat proper when he was a steward in the merchant navy and watched other people eating. He used to serve the captain and officers so he knows how your supposed to eat even if when he's at home he sits in front of the telly with a plate on his lap and eats with a spoon. He dont speak no French but he says he'll talk really slow and use his hands a lot like he's seen Frenchies do it in films. He says that he can pay his own way thank you very much and he wants your dads meal to be on him and your dad can eat anything he likes. Thats what he told me to tell you.
Now my mums saying that she wants to go to Buckinghamshire just for the drive. She says that she never goes nowhere and she can easily get a couple days off from cleaning the social club. My dad dont want her to go and says theres only room in the car for two people so my mum starts sulking and says that he never takes her anywhere. This is true as well because its years since we went on holiday last and he hasnt taken here nowhere since. They never goes out together and he's down the pub most evenings anyway. Every evening in fact and most of the day. He practically lives down there. He's got three mates and they all does the same. I dont know what they finds to talk about all the time because all they does is sleep eat and drink. Maybe they talks about their dreams.
Sharon and Kirsty are really jealous of me because I'm going to stay in a big house. They says it sounds like a castle. Is it a castle. I knows you says its a house but it sounds too big to be a house. I cant wait to see it. Sharon says its probably got towers and a moat and a flag pole and Kirsty thinks theres loads of servants. My dad thinks its one of them places where they hangs the carpets on the walls so they dont get dirty and theres great big dogs laying down in front of a log fire where they roasts oxes. I dont know what to expect. I'm used to living in a small house and I dont really mind it except not having my own room but I gets on alright with Kirsty so thats fine but we're not the worst off by a long chalk. The Robinsons got eleven living in their house and theres two families living in number 32 and they still takes in lodgers. We're well off compared to most people around here so I'm not compaining but I'm really excited about living in a big house. Keith says he'll give me a camera and says I should take photos of the rooms but then Sharon said he wanted them for a mate of his whose done time for burglary so I told Keith that he can do his own dirty work.
I'm not sure I agrees with hunting. I seen a programme about it and it seems really cruel. They showed pictures of the hunters all laughing and cracking their whips and stuff and there was this poor little fox who didnt know where to turn running all over the place looking for somewhere to hide but they caught him and cut off his tail and smeared blood over the faces of some of them even little children. They were really loud like they was drunk or something and they all kept looking at the dead fox and all the dogs had their tongues hanging out. I wont mind going to the picnic but I dont want nothing to do with chasing a poor defenceless creature across the fields. I dont want to be part of it and I'm glad you only goes for the picnic part of it.
I feels better about meeting the Comtesse Jacqueline de Montfort now you told me that she's gone most of the time. I was afraid she was always going to be around and you'd rather talk to her than to me. I'm sure she's very nice and everything but I dont think we'll have much to say to each other. I dont know much about nothing except doing alterations and whats on telly and you dont get English telly in France so thats out. She's probably never took up a pair of trousers in her life. It looks really easy but I really messed up the first ones I done for Mrs Sleeps husband. The left leg ended up longer than the right one quite a bit and I didnt have time to change them because he needed them for going out to a meeting. He spent the whole evening leaning on his right leg so you couldnt see the difference very much. That gave him a bad back and he had to spend a week in bed and he didnt get paid and they got into debt. I feels really bad about it but I didnt charge for the alterations. I could do them with my eyes closed now but it took a while to learn how to do them proper.
The wedding dress is proving to be a bit of a problem. I never made any dresses before only aprons and things in school so I really dont know how you goes about it. I knows you got to have a pattern but its really difficult to make one with all the right measurements. It would be easier if I could lay down on a big piece of paper and someone could draw around me. I've used up lots of paper already trying to get it right but I dont have much to show for it. Its because I'm use to doing alterations. If I had a ready made wedding dress I could probably alter it to make it look like one of my designs because thats the way I'm used to working. I starts with the finished article and then changes them to suit myself. Sharon says I should get a book from the library telling me how to do it but I'm not very good at following instructions out of books but Sharon says theres a lot of pictures. I wonders if they got a dressmaking for children book and that would suit me to start with. I could go on to adult books when I got the hang of it.
My dad just looked over my shoulder and asked me if I was writing a book or something because I done so many pages. Its really easy to write to you and I hopes that when we meets your just as easy to talk to and I thinks you probably are. I dont know what we'll talk about but I'm sure we'll find lots to say. But I'm still scared. Its only about three months now and times going really quick. Write back and tell me not to worry and that everythings going to be alright.
All my love,
P.S. The Comtesse Jacqueline de Montfort sounds like she's really good at music. I used to play the recorder a lot when I was in school and I got really good at it and at speech days and things like that I used to get up in front of the whole school and play tunes together with some others. I really fancied learning to play the clarinet once when I was about twelve but they was too expensive. I havent played for years but I still got the recorder under the bed. I'll see if I can remember any of the tunes I used to know.
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