Follow me on twitter

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Saturday 29th November: Hilda's Escape‏

Early this morning I helped Karl pick up two writing desks from a Convent near Pontivy. The house is being sold and the nuns are moving to Rennes. We were given a guided tour of the lovely old building by the Mother Superior, a little old lady who talked incessantly and wouldn't let us leave without cake and coffee. It was almost lunchtime by the time we drove off.
Karl wanted to check on Jean-Luc. The last time he'd called round, he'd found him sleeping in the cowshed with Hilda whilst Marie fussed over her creepy twin brothers. I asked if Jean-Luc had remembered any more Hilda dreams, but Karl thought not. He said he'd been irrational and was impossible to reason with. Karl was annoyed with Marie because of her attitude towards her husband, saying she seemed to have no sense of loyalty towards him.
The rain was falling steadily when we arrived at the farm. Three battered old cars took up the space in front of the house. There was no sign of the twins but their van was parked directly in front of the grimy kitchen windows. I noticed a group of cows sheltering under the trees in the corner of the adjoining field and wondered where Jean-Luc was.
As we got out of the van the front door opened and Marie appeared in a brightly coloured apron over denim dungarees and black knee high boots, closely followed by the twins. With arms folded across identical blue overalls, they adopted a position at each side of her and glared at us. Marie was not pleased to see us. She shouted something and Karl asked where Jean-Luc was. With a wave in the direction of the cowshed she released a torrent of abuse. Karl sighed, shook his head telling me to ignore her, and turned toward the cowshed. 

As we entered I was instantly aware of a damp, musty smell. The place was freezing cold and in the gloom I could just make out a figure in the far corner slumped on a bale of hay. I was shocked by the sight of Jean-Luc; pale and drawn with at least a week's growth of beard. He was staring at us, but said nothing. As we got closer I could smell his body odour and could make out dark shadows under his eyes. The poor man looked as though he hadn't slept in days.
Karl called his name and shook his shoulder. Jean-Luc replied in a flat monotone, saying Marie's brothers were planning to sell Hilda and believed they would get a good price for her, due to her magical powers. He also believed they wanted to take the farm from him, and so he'd decided to go on hunger strike until they left.
We both did our best to change Jean-Luc's mind, telling him he would become ill. But he wouldn't have it. All he did was dismiss us with a wave of his hand and continue to stare into the gloom.
I was disgusted with Marie and Karl was fuming. I have never seen him so angry. He marched out of the cowshed, up to the front door of the house and banged his fist on the door until Marie appeared. He demanded to know if she was at all worried about her husband. She laughed, saying he was useless. She said her brothers were now helping with the farm and complained that Jean-Luc did nothing but sit in the cowshed day in day out. She laughed again, claiming that Jean Luc had more feelings for the cow than his own wife.
"What?" Karl shouted. "You're jealous of a cow?"
There was a moment's silence before Marie stepped out from the doorway, marched up to Karl and spat at him. Before he could respond, she shot back into the house, and slammed the door behind her.
I was speechless. We stood in the pouring rain for a few minutes waiting to see if the door would open. Then Karl turned to me and said he thought Jean-Luc should come back to his place. Although he does have a large house with three or four bedrooms I thought Karl was making a mistake. I was just about to tell him this when Karl added that he would also take Hilda, putting her in one of his sheds. I reminded him about hay and food, but he dismissed this, saying Jean Luc could bring enough to keep her going for a couple of days.
We found Jean-Luc in the same position in the cowshed. He listened whilst Karl told him his plan but shook his head. It was explained that Hilda could come too, but he would have to sleep in the house and not with Hilda. At last Jean-Luc nodded and stood up.
It took us about fifteen minutes to get the food supplies into Karl's van: sisal, a bag of protein supplement and enough hay for a couple of days all banked up against the two writing desks. But then it was time to get Hilda. With the other cows watching with interest, Jean-Luc led her out from the field. She seemed perfectly contented and we had no problems persuading her to climb into the back of the van. However, Jean-Luc insisted on sitting with her, convinced she would be scared.
We said nothing to Marie. As we drove off I caught sight of her brothers staring out of the kitchen window. With their expressionless faces, they could easily have been a couple of statues.
When we got to Karl's we settled Hilda in one of the sheds, arranged her hay and filled a old bath-tub with fresh water.
Jean Luc had a shower and then came down into the kitchen, wearing clean clothes Karl had lent him. While he looked better, the clothes were far too big, making him appear like a clown. We all had some of Karl's chicken soup with Jean-Luc having an extra helping. I asked him how long he had been without food, but he shrugged, saying he couldn't be sure.
When Karl dropped me off at my place I told him I thought he might be making a mistake by letting Jean-Luc stay. He said he was certain it wouldn't be long before Marie came to her senses and asked for her husband back. I hope he's right. I think Karl can be too generous sometimes.
I phoned Celine this evening to tell her what had happened. She agreed with me that Karl could be taking on more than he realises. She also mentioned she'd been getting silent phone calls and, although she's not too bothered about them, told me that she may not say anything when she picks up the phone until she knows who's calling her. It was only later that I wondered if it might be Adele making the calls. It would be typical of her, especially as she found my phone last week at the supermarket: she could have searched through my contacts and found Celine's number. I tried phoning Celine back to let her know, but her phone was switched off.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday 21st November: Chance Meeting‏

I've been staying at home over the past few days, working on my writing. No food in my cupboards or fridge this morning! I don't particularly enjoy shopping, but it's either that or starvation, so I forced myself out into the morning mist and drizzle.
The supermarket car park outside Lorient was surprisingly empty. I found a space easily enough but spent ages searching for my keys, which I dropped out of my pocket as I got out of the car. I eventually found them hiding under the driver's seat.
The supermarket was warm and bright; mindless background music interrupted every so often by a flat voice announcing the next bargain offer. 

It was while studying a large gateau de chocolate in the patisserie section, and thinking about stopping off at the town cafe on the way back, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Adele; musk perfume and heavily made up face. She said what a coincidence it was to see me here, but then added that she remembered I always used to go shopping on a Friday. Although I didn't comment, I was certain I didn't have any regular routine. She held up a phone - my phone. I felt in my trouser pocket. She laughed, saying she found it next to my car. I reached for the phone but she pulled back, saying something about moving into a new apartment at Vannes. She then twirled round and patted her hair asking if I liked her new style. (It looked no different to me). She also mentioned she would love a coffee. I said nothing to this and we stood in silence with her making a pouting face. I noticed her skin had a strange orange tone and a smudge of lipstick at corner of her mouth, however, I thought it best not to mention this. She asked about Celeste, no doubt pretending to forget Celine's name. I didn't answer to this either, but held out my hand for the phone and told her I was in a rush. "Merde !" she exclaimed and hurled the phone at me before marched out of sight. The elderly man who had been studying the tartes aux pommes next to me, looked up and shook his head saying; "Ah, les femmes, les femmes!"
I was so irritated with myself for dropping my phone. I'm usually very careful. I tried to concentrate on shopping but each time I turned down an aisle, I expected to see Adele there with that stupid grin on her face.
Back home, I was unloading the bags when Karl tapped on the door. I was glad to see him. I told him about the 'chance meeting' with Adele. He thought maybe I should keep a close watch whenever I'm out and try to avoid her. We were having some of the chocolate gateau when Karl mentioned he was concerned about Jean-Luc. He said he'd called round to see him yesterday and Marie's twin brothers have moved in. He thought they were very odd. They didn't say anything and Marie did all the talking for them. He'd discovered Jean-Luc was sleeping in the same shed as Hilda the Cow and asked Marie whether Jean-Luc still believed Hilda possessed magical powers. She didn't seem that concerned but said he did, although she didn't think Hilda had appeared in any of his recent dreams. (It seemed Hilda's days of predicting the winning lottery numbers had come to an end). Karl thought that Marie was less bothered about Jean-Luc's welfare, especially now that her brothers had moved in. When Karl asked how long they were planning on staying there, she said she wasn't sure. I agreed with Karl: we should pay them another visit.
I've been thinking about what Karl had said about Adele. I agree, I just wish she'd stay away. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Friday 14th November: New Additions‏

Celine came over this afternoon. She had arranged with Solange to bring two of the baby rabbits over for Benjamin and Madeleine. The children didn't know; it was to be a surprise for them when they got back from school.
I've spent the last few days reading academic papers, researching for my historical novel. I needed a break and so decided to make Butternut Squash soup for when Celine arrived. I drove to the market in Carnac to get the vegetables. It was very busy, but well worth the journey. I arrived back just before eleven, I'd managed to find some good quality onions, celery, carrots and an assortment of herbs (thyme, rosemary and sage) and, of course, the squash, which I nearly forgot! I hoped the soup would warm us up, the temperature's dropped over the past few days and nothing but mist and rain.

Celine came at about three, carrying the baby rabbits in Napoleon's cat basket. The journey was obviously a bit traumatic for them: they were huddled together under the newspaper lining.
We had the soup as soon as Celine came in. She had brought two baguettes and watched, horrified, as I brought out the butter saying I would ruin the taste of the bread. I distracted her with the soup which she had to admit tasted very good. We were just finishing when Solange brought the children over. They were so excited when we showed them the rabbits, Celine let Benjamin hold one of them, telling him to be very gentle, while his sister watched on in awe. We then went with them to see the rabbit's new home; a hutch in the old stone barn next to their house. Of course Benjamin splashed in every muddy puddle on the way and Madeleine followed suit.
Solange placed the rabbits in the hutch and they huddled together into the corner. Solange explained to the children that they were very tired and needed a good sleep after their exciting day. Celine asked what they were going to call them, adding that she believed they were both boys. Benjamin was delighted with this news, saying he would throw them into the dustbin if they were girls. Thankfully, Madeleine was out of earshot as she was on the search for fresh puddles to attack. Benjamin thought about the names for a few minutes (his face screwed up in total concentration). He then took a deep breath and announced "Leopold et Lancelot." Solange laughed and explained that these were heroes from his favourite cartoon.
When we got back to the cottage we noticed the door was slightly open. In the living room Pepin was standing on one of the dining chairs with his nose hovering over the casserole dish. and when I laughed, he turned and looked at us with such a guilty expression. Celine said he's obviously very intelligent and knew he'd done something wrong. We could hear Solange calling for him and, with an excuse to escape, he leapt off the chair and bounded back to his house.
While I made coffee Celine told me she hadn't been able to find out anything about the haunted house but she would carry on trying. She said she might go to St.Malo for a couple of days to research for her book and asked if I wanted to go along with her. I said it sounded like fun and asked her when. She said she wasn't sure as she needed to arrange some interviews before we go. I told her about Ines and Gavin, she says Gavin sounds like a self-centred idiot.
Before she left we took another look at the rabbits. They were all curled up together sleeping.

Celine said she's sure they'll be happy in their new home. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Friday 7th November: Clandestine Encounter.

Alexander phoned yesterday to say he'd found a new drummer a couple of days ago working in a music shop in Vannes. He said he would be playing with us at the gig we're doing tonight. I said he could have asked me and Ines before going ahead and taking him on. He said Michel was an excellent drummer and assured me there wouldn't be any problems. This is typical of Alexander. He's appointed himself as leader of our group, complains about having too much responsibility, then goes ahead and does this sort of thing without consulting us.
Our gig was at a hotel near Dinan; a lovely old granite house. It was the hotel's fiftieth anniversary and the large conference room had been prepared with tables for dinner. When I arrived, Alexander and Michel were already there and were setting up on the stage. Michel is about thirty and comes from Montreal. He told me his wife is from Brittany and, as they have a six month old baby, wanted to come back to be near her family. They're living with her parents for the time being which he admitted is not ideal. I asked if he'd had a chance to look at the music, he said he'd ran through the pieces at Alexander's and had played most of them before with a similar band in Montreal.
Ines turned up five minutes before we were due to start. She seemed distracted. Gavin was following a couple of paces behind, beaming at the other guests as he passed. I was surprised he'd come, but I guess the ticket price is nothing to him. Ines introduced him to Michael giving her usual speech which included a list of Gavin's operatic accomplishments. (I really think she has gone out of her mind!) Michel looked a bit taken aback when Gavin shook his hand in his usual theatrical way, but he smiled politely.
The room was filling up with guests and once everyone was seated we began to play. I started to relax as it became clear that Michel was fully capable of accompanying the pieces. When it got to our new version of Summertime I had a simple part to play while Ines was singing and scanned the room. I soon caught sight of Gavin. He was seated at one of the tables at the back with two women who had appeared not long after he and Ines had arrived. They were listening to him attentively; laughing at each pause. (What is it that makes the guy so attractive to women? I just don't get it.) He didn't seem to paying any attention to Ines' singing and I wondered whether she noticed.
I wasn't needed for the last piece before our break so I decided to go out and get some fresh air. The rain had stopped and the full moon lit up the patio. It was a cold clear night and as I wandered out into the gardens, I noticed a small wooden summerhouse, no bigger than a garden shed. 

I walked over to take a closer look and became aware of whispered voices and giggles. I froze. I recognized one of the voices. Ines was still singing on stage, so what was Gavin doing out here? I could hear the summerhouse door creak open and darted behind a bush. Gavin appeared, his arm around one of the women he'd been sitting with earlier. They were kissing and giggling as they ambled back to the hall. As they got close to the patio they parted and the woman went ahead into the dining room while Gavin held back. He followed a couple of minutes later.
I could have confronted him outside, but wasn't sure what to do. It was really none of my business. However, judging from their behaviour, it seem obvious Ines knows nothing about this. I moved back to the patio.
As I stood watching the guests through the windows Michel came out, lighting up a cigarette. I spent the rest of the break chatting to him about Canada; a country I've never visited. He said he misses it and finds France very different to how he imagined it would be. He said he hopes to persuade his wife to return to Canada some day soon. I got the impression she might have given him a few romantic ideas about France which haven't lived up to expectation.
Back inside I noticed Ines sitting with Gavin at a table near the front. The woman he had been with in the summerhouse was now back at the other table with her friend. Michel got the impression I didn't like Gavin much. I just nodded. I didn't want to say too much.
Our second half went well and after the gig several people came over to say they'd enjoyed our playing. As we packed up Ines said goodbye and I watched her hanging on to Gavin's arm as they left.
hen I got home the full moon lit up the night and, although it was cold, I sat outside for a while with a glass of wine, thinking back over the night's events. My worst fears about Gavin were realised. Poor Ines! She's the type who's always going to get hurt.