Chere Julie, dear Jules. (Part 24)
13 Beach Street
I got the recipe and I dont know what to say. I was really shocked to think that you'd even think about cooking live swans and I dont know what to think. My dad wasnt even sure of how they does it proper because they had already started when he arrived. How anyone could say that it was a novel way to entertain and amuse your guests is completely beyond me. How would you feel if you was a swan and they binded your wings firmly to your body so that you couldnt flap them about and cause a commotion amongst the ladies and then have your feet fixed to a thick wooden board with broad-headed nails. Now I knows why you got to use a mute swan because I looked up mute and it means you cant say nothing. Please tell me that you wouldnt really do it because it is one of the cruellest things I ever heard of. I'm surprised they allows it in England even in a private club and I've a good mind to write to the newspapers about it and try to get it stopped.
There I've said it and I had to because I was really angry and like we agreed to I'm just saying what I feels and it dont change my love for you one bit. I've got all the photos I took of you and stuck them up on my wall and theres more than 200 and Kirsty says theyre like wallpaper and they are really because I got them printed big and they covers most of the room. I'm going to get doubles of some of the best ones and fill the empty space by the door as well. Kirsty says its alright as long as I dont put any on the ceiling because she dont want to go falling asleep at night looking up at pictures of you. I wouldnt mind that but I respects her wishes and understands a bit what she's feeling because her love lifes in a bit of a mess right now.
Dave Roberts hasnt been the same since he went to Buckinghamshire even though he was only there for a day. He's talking about selling his club and borrowing money from the bank and buying a big house in the country but not as big as your cousins place but big enough to have a club on the ground floor and some rooms he could rent out for private parties. When he talks about it he dont mention Kirsty at all and she's wondering if she's part of his plans. She says that if he's out in the country and she's here theyre never going to see each other and she's right. Dad would give her a lift out there and fetch her again sometimes but he's not going to want to do it too often. Another thing is that Dave Roberts has started talking different and its sort of posh and he dont swear as much as he used to and he's started to use a handkerchief when he blows his nose.
I've stopped telling Sharon how much I loves you because she says she dont want to know about it. She's going through a bit of a rough time right now with Keith and its partly my fault for falling in love with you. She says that now she's seen what true love is like she's beginning to wonder if she ever felt anything for Keith and she's almost positive that he never really loved her. She says that she's done a lot of thinking since we went to Buckinghamshire and when she thinks about the way the future would be with Keith she says she dont want it. She says she's going to start going to evening classes to better herself although she didnt say nothing about that until someone told her there was loads of men going there. She says she's just waiting for the right time to tell him that she's finishing with him but she's dropping hints all the time by pretending she's got a headache when he wants to see her or that its her time of the month and she feels terrible. You'd think that her time of the month lasted 2 or 3 weeks the amount of times she's used that excuse.
Keiths talking about specialising in window cleaning just for big houses like your cousins place and he reckons he could do 2 or 3 a week and could afford to run a car and he'd need one because all the big houses is way out in the country. I dont think it will come to nothing because he's always had those big ideas that never come to nothing. When we was at school he used to boast that he would be a millionaire by the time he was 21 but he's a long way past that and he's always borrowing money from someone or other.
I dont want to be a millionaire but when I thinks about how your cousins lives I thinks that I wouldnt mind living like that. I used to think that people like that just spent the day dressing up in fancy clothes and drinking tea from little cups but they does really lots and wears casual clothes most of the time. It must take ages to inspect all of their land including the villages so I'm not surprised thats what most of them does most of the time. I wouldnt want to just sit around drinking tea all day in a fancy dress because I likes to have something to do.
Theres no sign of me getting any alterations so I think I might try and get a job. Theyre looking for bar staff in a pub in town and they says theyll give you training and if I gets work there my mum says she'll video anything I wants on the telly or if she's in the social club working then one of the others will do it for me. Its funny though because I dont watch as much telly as I used to before I stayed at your cousins place and when I was there I only watched my really regular programmes like Coronation Street and I didnt always watch that. I never thought I'd ever hear myself say it but I'm a bit fed up with Coronation Street and some days I can take it or leave it.
You says about Jacqueline that she shared some confidences that you didnt want to hear about and of course you cant tell me what they was even though I'm really curious but I'd be really interested to know if they was anything like what I cant tell you about concerning me and my dad. I really tried to be friends with her but even though in the beginning we was hours together making the wedding dress we didnt say much and I got the feeling that she didnt really like me. She did a really good job on the dress and I'm really glad you gave it to me so I can show everyone what one of my designs is like when you makes it proper. The blood stains came out really easy like Jacqueline said they would but what I dont understand is how someone as good as her at making dresses managed to prick her fingers with the needle so much. There were spots of blood everywhere and I tried to get her to use a thimble but she didnt want to and it was like she wanted to prick herself on purpose. That was really strange and worried me a bit.
I told my mum what you said about staying in a hotel together and she looked at me a bit suspicious like and says she wasnt so sure it was a good thing and then my dad comes in and when he finds out what we was talking about he says he wouldnt hear about it and I can just forget it. I told them I been staying in a house sleeping in the next room to you for a month and they didnt say nothing about that and then my dad says that a hotel is different and he didnt want me to talk about it no more. I tries not to go against my mum and dads wishes but I really feels like putting my foot down and telling them that I'm going anyway. Sharon says that if I did that then when I got back from my dirty weekend as she calls it then I would find all my belongings in the street and I'd have nowhere to live. I dont think it would come to that but I really dont want to risk it.
I cooked the lunch on Sunday and it was a bit of a disaster. We was going to eat about one o clock but I didnt wake up until gone eleven and the leg of lamb was still frozen because I forgot to take it out of the deep freeze before I went to bed so I stuck it in the microwave on defrost but an hour later it was still frozen solid so I turned it up to full power and got on with the other stuff. They all went off to the pub and I changed my mind about the vine leaf dumplings because they didnt sell vine leafs anywhere in town so I bought some cabbage and was going to do it like they did at your cousins place with white wine and olives but I forgot to buy the olives. I forgot to buy the white wine as well. I was going to do the pommes madonna but I didnt realise truffles was so expensive. I went in what they calls the speciality continental shop and asked them for a pound of truffles because there was going to be about eight of us but they only had them in little tins and they was old and dusty like theyd had them for years. At that price I'm not surprised. I went to the off licence to get some white wine for the cabbage and I forgot about the leg of lamb in the microwave and when I got back there was smoke coming around the door. Its funny but parts of it was burned and other bits was still frozen and raw but I stuck it in the oven anyway and hoped for the best. I wished you were there because you'd have known what to do. To cut a long story short they all come back from the pub about two o clock and they thought the cabbage and boiled potatoes was really nice though there wasnt enough of them and thats because I'm not used to cooking for so many people and the leg of lamb was really crispy but would have been better if there had been some gravy to go with it but thats another of the things I forgot to buy. Afterwards Mum made some sandwiches and we sat around watching telly all afternoon.
Mum wants me to do some ironing so I'll post this first. Its lovely to have someone to tell all I'm thinking to and I hope you dont think I'm totally useless about making food. Please write back soon.
I love you very much,
Jules Lablagues xx
Julie, mon amour,
I was distraught when I read the first paragraph of your last letter and feared that you no longer loved me. The room became dark, the blood pounded in my temples and my eyes misted over. Aty that moment I would rather have been dead but then I read further and received assurances that your love for me, like mine for you, is undiminished. You are my raison d'etre and I am no longer alone. We have found each other at last.
Let me assure you, dear Julie, that, until you brought it to my attention, I had never questioned the morality of how an animal was killed. Lobsters were thrown into boiling water, fish were skinned alive, buttered, seasoned and placed under a hot grill while they were still flapping and this did not bother me as it was what was called for in the recipe. Until you opened my eyes to the cruelty and barbarity of the preparation of Steamed Mute Swan I had seen it as just another dish for the table. When I have witnessed the event the bird did not seem at all distressed and was provided with ample drinking water to counteract the dehydrating effect of the fires ranged all around it. When the feathers were plucked they came out easily and the swan hardly seemed to notice. It was comatose and felt nothing when the first slices were taken and no sign of discomfort was ever shown by the swan. Until you enlightened me I had never put myself in the swan's position or imagined its reality. I understand now why a mute swan was called for as, if it had been able to make a sound, it would have screamed a terrifying death agony. Maybe it is the same for a fish who is hooked by the mouth, ripped from the water and left to suffocate, excruciatingly, in the dry air and the burning sunshine. If fish could scream, or at least make a sound, who could be inhuman enough to inflict such pain?
I have, therefore, become a vegetarian. It is not easy as I still have to cook an array of meats two or three times a day for my family and the aromas make me salivate so much I need a handkerchief to stem the flow. Only my sister, Odile, has joined me in the relinquishment of the base habits of the carnivore but, as many of her religions require a vegetarian regime, it is no hardship for her. My father seems disappointed in me and a little angry that I have taken this stand. At the table he cuts succulent slices of the finest mustard and brown sugar glazed ham and offers them to me or, rather, he puts them on my plate and suggests that I should eat them. I gently put them back on the dish while acknowledging his concern. He then cuts a fresh slice and places it up my plate. Once again I return it to the salver. This can continue for a very long time and spoils the enjoyment of eating. Between meals he offers me cold partridge and venison pate and prefers to remain ignorant of my firm resolve to refrain from eating meat for ever.
Since meeting you in person your letters have gained new meaning. They were always exciting to receive and my heart beat faster at the sight of an English stamp on an envelope but now my heart pounds in my chest merely with the thought of a letter from you. I read each of them a hundred times or more and even that is not enough. I would read them a thousand times. I need constant reassurance of your love. I am so in love with you that I am truly afraid for the first time in my life. I have known fear but it was always a transient matter and was soon vanquished but the fear I now know is a constant companion and it dries my throat and immobilises me at times. I am much less afraid of losing my life than I am of losing your love.
As we have promised each other complete honesty I must confess that I was disturbed by your idea of becoming a barmaid in a common tavern where the talk is vulgar and over-loud. Do not get me wrong. To serve the public is not a demeaning task, and my dream is still of a thatched hostelry in Surrey, but I think you could do so much better. Would it not be preferable to work in an atmosphere of refined conversation and cultivated manners? Is there not a milliner or couturiere who would appreciate your knowledge of the shape and sweep and flow of a well-fitted evening gown? The thought of you dulling your intellect in the company of the low-born is abhorrent to me and I would rather give you the money you would have earned and encourage you to use the time on matters more uplifting to the spirit.
Genevieve is still on the sofa staring incessantly out of the window into the far distance. She could easily be mistaken for a statue and when she speaks her voice echoes quietly as though she were in a cave yet she has an enigmatic smile like the one on the Mona Lisa and she seems calm and composed. I wonder whether the burning of The Last Painting was not a good thing. A shock, maybe, but, at the same time, a visionary experience, a realisation, enlightenment.
I have written a further thousand words of my thesis and I am quite pleased with my progress. I realise now that Existentialism has existed through all time but has only recently been recognised as innate in the human condition.
Of course I respect your parents' view concerning my proposed journey to the coast but I can assure them of my honourable intentions and that my word is to be trusted. I would be willing for your mother to accompany us as chaperone and, of course, I would meet her expenses.
Please write back soon.
I love you very much,
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