Commonplace musings

93 Chemin du Levant, Lausanne

Anthea's new book

Chris came round yesterday with a gift for me ~ a copy of Anthea's latest book, "Touched by God" ~ a collection of musings and poems and snippets of memory ~ much like a blog, perhaps.  And absolutely heart warming !   I'm reading a rather gripping novel at the moment, another of Maggie O'Farrell's, but reluctantly put it away to dip into Anthea's book before bed ~ in fact I kept going and was still reading at 11.30 !  Unputdownable !   Now, unlike me, Chris and Anthea are committed Christians, but Anthea's books are more SPIRITUAL than RELIGIOUS ~ and her stories are mostly gentle parables, which leave the reader to find the message in them for herself.  I like that.   She is certainly not ramming her beliefs down anyone's throat.   But her writing makes you think.  Well, it certainly makes me think.  Thank you, my friend.  And thank you too for the loving inscriptionI found in it ~ I would be proud to be your kindred spirit.

Anthea's book reminds me of one of Deborah (Duchess of) Deonshire's ~ having enjoyed her autobiography, "Wait for Me", I then read "Al in one Basket" ~ a miscellany of her letters, articles, opinions and memories ~ indeed her commonplace book, and marvellous !

Daphne came in too yesterday, so more writing talk over coffee ~ we are of an age, though Daphne is already 80, and both having to go for regular eye injections for this macular degeneration.  I am trying to persuade her to start blogging ~ a sight better than endless rejections !

I am beginning to feel my age and nowadays hardly venture out of the yard, apart from going down to pick up The Guardian from Andersons first thing.   Once a month when  I go to Saul Black to get my toe nails cut, I have to get a taxi [I can no longer REACH my toes, and even if I could, I can no longer SEE to cut them].   And ditto for a visit to the dentist.   Once a week I  make it  to the Co-op for a delivery which normally keeps me going till the next Saturday.  This time I really didn't need much so decided to take my shopping trolley and pop across the bridge for bread, milk and greens.  This was a mistake.   Even with so few items, I could scacely drag myself and the shopping home.   Guess I must accept the limitations of old age.  Time's winged chariots and all that

The secret seems to be to measure my activities carefully ~ ten minutes in the garden, hoovering one room only, or one flight of stairs today, the other one tomorrow.   The only activity I do not stint on is washing !   Even now I am on my own, most days there is washing out on the line.  This may stem from my year 'au pair' in Lausanne where washing was only done once every six weeks when an old biddy came and spent the day in the basement working her way through piles of towels and bedding and stuff, all of which had been shut into one of the cellar store rooms since her last visit.  In a country renowned for its cleanliness, I found this astonishing.  

It may account for my obsession with baths too.  I think you'd call Mme Hamburger-Muller's house on the outskirts of Lausanne an attractive pre-war villa looking down to Lake Geneva and across to the French Alps to the south.   Splendid.   Madame, then in her eighties, was running it as a pension for students.  So together with the old lady herself, her daughter Erne (a professor of engineering at Berne University who only came home at weekends), and  her eight/nine year old granddaughter, during my time, there were four men students from Lausanne University.

Now  'au pairing' is supposed to mean living as family.  A couple of times during my year out there, a policeman came round to check that I was indeed an 'au pair girl' rather than an illegal immigrant.   Each time, I was not left alone with the inspector but Mme H-M sat with us to make sure I gave the right answers : "Oh, yes ~ I feel I am one of the family," and "No ~ I only help with chores the way I would at home."  I had been coached before hand !

This was all lies, of course.  Apart from the cooking which she did herself, all other aspects of housework were up to me.   I was in fact her servant.   And servants were only allowed baths every six weeks or so.   You can imagine how I was longing for a bath the morning I arrived, having left Bristol 24  hours earlier with Daddy who nobly came to see me safely on to the boat train from Victoria, and then travelled over night from Paris.  But NO !   It was to be over a month, and this in the heat of July, before I was allowed a bath.

There was a beautiful bathroom in the villa ~ all turquoise and glass ~ and it was kept locked.   I was allowed in to clean it  if one of the lads had used it, but that was all.   Finally the Great Day  arrived'~ 'Tonight', she told me, 'you can have a bath' !  Oh Praise the Lord !! First I was to change my sheets.   This involved going through the linen press with Madame and unfolding every sheet until we came across ones with rips or holes. 'You will mend these', she said, producing needles and thread, ' before you put them on your bed'.   My stars !   Unlike my clever sisters, Nancy, Mary and Helen, I'd never been much good at needlework ~ in fact I was hopeless (and still am).   That afternoon, instead of going to my French class at the University I had to sit on my bed doing my best to darn these threadbare linen sheets.   Which then of course had to be inspected by my employer.  "Huh !   What do you call this ?   Do they not teach you anything useful at your English schools !"  The H-M family were German Jews who had escaped from the Nazis just in time and lost most of their possessions on the way.  But it was me she was angry with, regularly punishing me with a slap or some particularly nasty chore such as scrubbing out the cellar, punishing me, an innocent seventeen year old for winning the war !

But to get back to bath night ~ to my dismay it turned out that Madame was stationing herself outside her precious bathroom, shouting furiously at me, "Unlock this door.  Unlock it at once. Why are you using so much water ?   Why are you taking so long in there ?   I hope you are not using bath salts ~ servants are not allowed bath salts . . . "  And when I eventually emerged, she was waiting to slap me round the face for presuming to enjoy my bath.

Nowadays, and most of my life since, I have been a bathing fanatic and even now that I need a stool to get myself into the bath and a handle to get myself out again, I bath every night, no matter what !!

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The cover of Anthea's most recent book

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elizabeth | Reply 22.04.2013 22.05

What a beautiful cover for Anthea's book!

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Latest comments

14.03 | 05:51

Hi Joy, came across your blog while researching the Sanders, thanks for the interesting read about them and your lovely house.

27.10 | 11:43

Michael ~ happily ~ and good luck ~ I'd like to know the outcome ~ joy peach

26.10 | 14:33

I am in the same position. Amazingly, your case R(IS)1/93 - CIS/270/1991 is being used against me. Clearly, it got more complicated. Can I quote your blog? Mike

28.05 | 15:41

Hello Joy. We have a new Merrywood Grammar group on Facebook if you would like to take a look -

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