Today I've got so much work to do. What with the interview to sort out and my Twitter account to build up, I don't have a minute to spare: and then Paul turned up! He asked if he could play the piano
and I felt I couldn't turn him down. During his practice Paul kept hesitating and seemed to be distracted. This is out of character for him, so I suggested we go for a drink in town.
We drove to town in his car; a new Renault Megane. (They must pay professors well in Paris).
It was when I asked if Isabelle and Mathilde were okay, he told me that Isabelle is pregnant. However, they're both feeling stressed as she has had three miscarriages since Mathilde. They decided to spend the holidays at the gite, thinking it would be a peaceful break, but neither of them can relax. To make matters worse, Mathilde has been playing up; complaining she's bored. I felt sorry for him. I tried to take his mind off his problems and told him about Coco missing for the last few days. I think she's sulking because of Pepin.
When we arrived at the café-bar Jean Luc was on his way out. He seemed distracted; racing past us and running up the road in the general direction of his home. Although he doesn't usually say much, it's not like him to ignore me. Pascal was chatting to a group of men at the bar and they were laughing. I was sure they were discussing Jean-Luc so I asked if he was all right. To which Pascal shrugged and turned to the others making a mooing sound. This produced a round of hysterical laughter. I couldn't follow all that Pascal said but when we were on the way back home, Paul filled me in.
He explained that Jean-Luc had dreamt one of his cows had spoken to him, reciting a list of numbers which he wrote down. By using these same numbers, Jean-Luc apparently won 500 euros on the Francaise des Jeux: the lottery. This was over a week ago and since then Hilda the Cow spends most of her time in Jean-Luc's kitchen, even sleeping there, with the result that Marie has walked out and gone to stay with her mother in Nantes. Paul told me that it was a choice between Marie or Hilda. At least he seemed to have cheered up a bit.
On the way back we decided to call into Jean-Luc's place. I tapped on the door and after receiving no answer, pushed it open. We found him sitting at the big oak table with his head in his hands. The place was a mess; unwashed dishes piled up in an old stone sink, an ancient stove encrusted with remnants of burnt food, stale baguettes piled up on the table, abandoned coffee cups filled to the brim, and chipped stone flagstones littered with crumbs. The threadbare curtains were pulled shut and a sense of gloom pervaded the place. There was a peculiar musty smell.
But the most surprising sight was Hilda the cow. She was standing next to the table chewing from a heap of grass which was piled up on the floor beneath her. Bruno was slumped at the other side of his master's feet, glaring up at the cow.
Jean-Luc seemed pleased to see us. He became quite animated as he explained how Hilda had won him 500 euros: at last he would be able to carry out the repairs which needed doing to the farm.
However, at the mention of Marie, he came close to tears as he told us how she had packed her suitcase and was gone. Until Hilda was returned to her rightful place in the shed she refused to talk to him. Paul suggested this might be a good idea, but Jean-Luc would not listen. He is convinced that Hilda will bring more luck.
I thought about him this evening and hope he comes to his senses. I have also been thinking about Paul and Isabelle and hope everything works out for them.