Diary from Limousin Part 2

By Madeleine Dickson

Monday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June You may imagine yourself under attack from more than one quarter today. Try to remember that people have your best interests at heart.
Shave off forest of hair on legs after breakfast. Have appointment with knee surgeon, a young bully of about 18. Neither of us pleased with my progress after op in November. He thinks I’m slacking. I think he left pair of scissors in my knee, but do not say so as I am coward. “Does this hurt, Madame?” Tries to twist leg off at knee. “Must try harder, Madame.” Think he tried hard enough. Prescribes 20 sessions of torture with physio. After scraping me off ceiling. Prefer tree surgeons to knee surgeons.
Midday. Hobble round kitchen preparing lunch. Discuss prosecution for grievous bodily harm against knee surgeon with John. Decide on second opinion. Ring doctor daughter. Claims she knows nothing about legs, but to let her know if I have major kidney problem. Hang up. Mutter get even, die in debt while rewriting will.
Will call physio tomorrow. Or next month. Find arctic supplies in car. Chocolate, whiskey, candles and batteries have been freezing and thawing for more than a week. Chocolate grey and misshapen. Will give to knee surgeon as mark of esteem. John insists I forget knee and remember translations. More satisfying to sulk, but start dutifully on distribution agreement for ice-cream to Morocco.
7 p.m. Go to gym. Try to persuade my friend Jane to come. Says she is getting all the exercise her elbow needs, pretending gin and tonic is dumbbell. Greet fellow Gazelles and exercise jaws. Spoilsport teacher calls us to order. Is suspiciously-fit 60 year old bully, almost certainly grandmother of knee surgeon. Start warm-up. Others manage to continue conversations while running. French permanently infected with verbal diarrhoea. Gazelles transformed into panting rhinos after 5 minutes. Run, stop, stand on one leg with arms out. Supposed to improve balance or something. Position myself close to chair. Merde. Granny has spotted me. No cheating Madeleine! Feel persecuted, but struggle through hour of bending, stretching and farting very bravely. Resume vocation of couch potato chez moi. Have triple whiskey to recover.
Tuesday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June Things are never quite as bad as you imagine.  Get more sleep if possible. Try to forget the obstacles other people seem to put in your path.
Linger longer over breakfast than is decent. All muscles like planks thanks to infant prodigy surgeon and granny. Decide to be positive. Call physio in hope he can unbend me. He is badly infected with verbal diarrhoea, Limousin variance. Stutters, so takes ten minutes to arrange afternoon appointment.
9.30 Make fortnightly call to door company. Remind patron politely that doors and windows ordered 9 months ago. “In a week, for sure.” Put phone down. Wonder which week he means. Ring surfacing company in village. Remind patron politely that new drive ordered 8 months ago. “Don’t worry, we’ll be there soon.” Know soon is movable feast in Limousin. Perhaps I need therapist to treat unreasonable expectations. Return to desert ice-creams.
2.30  Physiotherapist is young man called Pascal. Blushes as I give him knee lowdown while undressing. Obviously has never been in ladies’ changing room at Queen’s Club. Remember reading somewhere that French do not understand jolly-hockey-sticks culture.  Pascal lights jolly joss-stick and attaches me to machine. Plugs me into wall. Wake up to Pascal asking me if I'm a-a-a-ll r-r-right. Feel wonderful. Except for knee. However, decide torture is quite pleasant, and make new appointment. Only 19 sessions left.
Wednesday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June  You will have some interesting contacts today, but don’t be tempted to spend too much as you may regret your purchases later.
8.30 Decide to put Whinge on low-intake diet. Currently looks like Weight Watchers Before photo.  Give him quarter of usual breakfast.
8.31 Give Whinge other three-quarters to avoid neighbours complaining about cat screaming.
10.30 Am deep in Bedouin country with cornets when John insists I get rid of Ali the itinerant salesman. Tell cowardly husband to fight losing battle himself. Am forced to see Ali or he will take up permanent residence. Tell him have donated large quantities of drying-up cloths and napkins to half world, but still have enough to compete with Carrefour. Laughs. “Is good joke missus.” Makes baby rocking motions like footballers do. Has been doing this for 5 years. Is either sex maniac or baby slow to grow. In desperation buy (mustard) plastic tablecloth. Is foul, but change from drying-up cloths  Decorated with unidentifiable brown birds. Would hate to share meal with said birds.  Must be worth 5 cents. Pay 30 euros. Suppose can use as tarpaulin in garden.
12.00 Rush off to post office. Is only open in mornings. Last survey showed 99% of Limousin inhabitants are cows with limited need for postal services. Fellow Gazelle behind counter tells me it will close soon. Am outraged.
12.15 Storm off to Mairie to confront local politician. Is closed. Only open in mornings.
8 p.m. See on news Sheik and Sheikess El Chirac visiting their Limousin fiefdom.  Sexier regions keep their post offices and get huge grants. Limousin gets Sheiky waves and cow insemination centers. Maybe should start new political party. John horrified.
Thursday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June Look before you leap. Don't try to cut corners. You will waste more time than you save. Assert your authority if need be. Remember weakness is not a virtue.
Buy provisions at Carrefour for tomorrow’s dinner party. Last item on list 100B bra. Do not think John wrote that. Has little need for 100B bra. Am allergic to metal, so wired bras out. Spend ridiculous amount of time searching for non-armour-plated bra. Can only find strange harness costing 45 euros. Looks like the Hungry Caterpillar has snacked on it. Hurray! Find normal bras hidden in corner. Size 100B. No signs of chewing. Quarter price of other bras. Explains concealment. Am outraged. Will definitely start party. Ladies for Limousin. Or Union for Unwired Women.  
John and I finally start 150 page real-estate job. Have both spent 2 days hoping it will translate itself. Will now have to slave 30 hours daily for next four days. Zip along despite morale-sapping notarial terminology, tautology and other ologies. Retaliate by using lots of thereofs, hereins, whereofs etc, thereby reducing first fifteen pages to six. Am very clever. Now in beautifully incomprehensible American. Actually is quite easy to understand, once you get the hang of it. Reckon can reduce whole damned oeuvre to 49 pp. Only problem is remembering Americanisms like faucet, yard etc. Why can’t they just speak English?
Midday. Not broccoli again, John says. Is red rag to Limousin cow. Have slight screaming fit.  Tell him to Make Lunch Yourself. Hear pots and pans clattering. Music to ears. Could get used to having staff instead of being staff. Later hear merde refrain but decide not to investigate. Men need practice.
Lunch. Two kilos of spaghetti. Sauce from jar. Parts of spaghetti cooked. Slightly funny taste to pasta. Eat as if ravenous. When finished John confesses. Spaghetti fell into bowl of hot soapy water. Is clean wholesome food. Am not amused.
Have made enormous progress this afternoon. Feel could probably reduce essentials of each contract to two paragraphs. . “By the way,” John says a propos of nothing, “we’re being paid on the target word count.” Takes some time for significance to rear ugly head. Spend two hours replacing all definite articles and long phrases in place of thereof, herein, thereunder etc.
Friday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June Have a relaxing evening with friends or family. You deserve it. Do not be too adventurous with food, you may regret it later.
Hurray! POETS again! (Piss off early, tomorrow’s Saturday). Have four friends coming tonight, expecting dinner. Have limit of 30 minutes for meal preparation, but suppose will have to stretch it to 45. Cook same menu unless have invited guests with memories. Decide to ring changes. John worried. Man of little faith. Remind him we ate cucumber ring garni in swish resto some years ago. Soft, scrummy, light. He denies same. Is really getting senile. Very simple recipe. Open cookbook and refresh memory. Make day before. Leave in fridge overnight. Oh dear. Never mind. Have bags of time.
Follow instructions carefully. Melt gelatine. Pour into mould. Put in fridge. Starter already made. Nothing else to prepare, as have bought scampi-stuffed salmon (180°, 20 mins). Cheese and Carrefour raspberry tart (0°, 0 mins). At least do not have to cook lunch today. Remove Gizmo from bread basket and shake. Basket, not cat. Clean house quickly. Visible parts anyway.
Midday. John asks where lunch is. Remind senile husband about dinner. Offer him sandwich. Banana or sardine dear. He complains. Make him banana and sardine sandwich. Check elegant cucumber ring not yet garni. Still liquid, but am not panicking. Bags of time. Client calls. Do not think French realise English eat meals occasionally. Marriage contract. Très urgent. Obviously is shotgun contract. Weakly agree, regretting lack of backbone. Read contract. Written by husband or best man. Refuse to help John translate out of solidarity for women and other minority groups.
5 p.m. Check cucumber ring. Still liquid. Hmm. Gizmo asleep on only clean tablecloth. Shake out. Cat, not tablecloth. Feed Gizmo and eject. Feed Whinge half normal rations. Looks accusing.
6 p.m. Check cucumber ring. Still liquid. Guests here in 2 hours. Cannot really offer cucumber ring as aperitif. Pour into bowl. Melt more gelatine. Will surely set now.
8.30 Amazed how much noise five alcoholic grown-ups adults can make. Escape to kitchen to arrange cucumber starter. Falls on to plate with satisfying plop. Cucumber ring, not me. Whinge singing for supper outside. Has clearly forgotten earlier repas. Garnish cucumber ring with mache and thin slices of lemon; Looks stunning. Praise all round. Even John impressed. Spoon bends on ring. Oh dear. But have kitchen full of saws. Carve generous chunks. Hmm. Perhaps a trifle too much gelatine. Is more chewy than I remember. John's chunk falls to floor, and bounces back to plate. Other courses fine, except for slight problem with rice. Rude friend asks for two lumps. Will not invite him again.
Saturday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June If you have to work today, try to take some time off. Go to the cinema, watch sport, or just put your feet up.
Son Patric arrives for weekend on pretext he hasn’t seen us for weeks. Later notice sides of washing-machine bulging. Aikido gear visible in window. Last washed in summer, I recall. Must be popular at aikido club. Fortunately cupboards full of potatoes and ketchup, staple diet of said strange son.
Thank God international rugby season back. France v. Scotland today. Resume couch potato life. John drops off. Spend 90 mins shouting at TV. Referee blind as usual. John wakes. Says, facetiously that ref cannot hear me. Scotland loses at last minute. Still, Ireland will pulverise Italy tomorrow, so all not lost. Return to real-estate faucets, yards etc. Dream of weekend off.
Sunday
Gemini. 21 May-21 June Geminis are notoriously difficult to live with, but make an effort to be conciliatory. People or things will upset you today. Let it all wash over you.
Hear scratching noise again, this time in salon. Last heard in summer, one floor up, two rooms back. Is therefore munching all house insulation.  Can mouse live by polystyrene alone? Must be as big as kangaroo by now. Fetch Gizmo. Give her description. Long pointy nose, unshaven. Prominent teeth. Last seen wearing grey overcoat. Gizmo asleep. Shout at her.  Gizmo purrs. Will smile on other side of face when kangaroo falls through ceiling. Give up. Return to faucets etc. Cannot understand why US citizens want to buy houses infested with kangaroos and stupid cats.
Must translate three million words by 3 p.m., otherwise will miss Ireland match. Cannot concentrate. Am deafened by Eric Clapton wailing nearby. Follow source of din to Patric’s room. Threaten him with disinheritance, extinction etc. He smiles. Cannot hear because of said claptrap. Give up. Is bad hair day. Ireland must win. Or will have to fall on sword.
6 p.m. Happily, no bloody carpet. Not quite the desired massacre but Ireland won. Will now go on to pulverise Scotland, France, Wales, England.
Bonne semaine
© Madeleine Dickson 2005

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