Work progresses nicely here as the Old Lady of Petite Rue gets what is turning out to be not so much a makeover as a facelift, tummy tuck and saggy bottom correction. Lots of pins, nips and tucks to support the inevitable downward and southerly shift that affects most ladies of a certain age.
Yesterday in anticipation of major surgery in the room ultimately destined to be my boudoir I finally got around to clearing away what was once a modest library. Books of every genre graced the shelves; hard backs, paper backs; lurid 1950/60’s covers (oh those beehive hairdo’s…ah yes I remember zem well) and a few sober leather ones.
I could track the development of the collection from the inscriptions on the flyleaves:
“Bon Anniversaire 1954, maman.” “Meilleurs voeux 1961, Simon”
From Peter Benchley’s Jaws to Stendhal’s Red and Black … who had owned this eclectic lot and why was it left here to be chomped on by the silverfish and destroyed by damp? I rescued what I could but the rest will have to go to bookstore heaven.
My attention turned to two trunks full of dusty papers. Here again was part of the history of two children Jean-Paul and Justine from starting primary school to leaving at around sixteen, I guess. The wobbly, uncertain handwriting of “Mon premier cahier” (my first exercise book) smoothes out over the years into small neat letters, adorned with curlicues and flourishes. The drawings become more recognisable. Arithmetic was clearly a problem for Justine and I feel an instant rapport with her as I flick through her maths book crabby with corrections in fierce red ink. That was me at age eight too. Scrap books reflect a developing military taste for Jean-Paul and for Justine a pony-mad period followed by fashion and all neatly dated and annotated. But what to do with this collection, carefully stored, then forgotten and abandoned into the hands of a stranger and a foreigner to boot?
My third discovery really raises the ghosts of the past for me. In a small wooden box I found three items. The first a cheap coloured postcard dated 16 June 1940. On the back was written – “You are always in my thoughts, carry this with my tender love.” The second item was a tiny calendar and the third the remains of a gift tag on which was written (in the same writing): “11 November, meet me in cafe Bal in Ferriers.”
Who wrote this and to whom? Were they lovers? Mother and child? Paris was invaded in June 1940. Was one of them trapped there?
So much possible drama and romance in three scraps of the past. Did they get to meet at cafe Bal? I’ll probably never know but I’m a sucker for happy endings.