Sunday, July 26, 2009

Proust, port and other pretty or peculiar things.

"Proust's in here, Mol," said Tom, indicating the bathroom of the blue-ceilinged room, which I am painting simply cream this time " I think Lucy's with him."

They'd just come back from a foray to Leroy-Merlin, seeking more materials (Did I really just supply a link to Leroy-Merlin's English language webpage? Expatriosis must be terminal...). We're trying to get this room done for when his daughter and her family come at the weekend. They're only staying for the weekend, so it's not really necessary to be busting a gut to this extent, as they could doubtless make shift perfectly happily with less finished accommodation, but we find deadlines can be useful and challenging, even when they are artificially imposed.

However, the pressure brings Tom's perfectionism to pathological levels, and it gets difficult to stop. I concluded the only way I was going to get time to do this blog was be reclaiming my 6 o'clock in the morning habit, but as I rolled groggily out of bed, I was only too aware my boon companion was extrememely alert already.

" I'm terribly worried about the varnish round the door" he told me.

"Shut up and go back to sleep for god's sake."

Molly is disgruntled at our attention being shifted away from the sofa, the kitchen and outside. She is at a time of her yearly cycle when nest-making becomes important, and insists on living dangerously among the dust sheets in the bathroom to make her point.

(She has had another abscess by her ear, which threw us into momentary misery, but it didn't seem so painful this time, and with all the regular vets being away on holiday, we saw a very kindly retired locum, who was inclined to be less needle and scalpel happy and more hands-off, and he prescribed oral antibiotics and a regime of cleaning, which seems to have worked fine, fingers crossed...)

" That Proust bloke always pisses off when I come into the room." says Tom, suspiciously.

"That's because he's a great big wuss," I reassure him, adding for good measure, "and a mummy's boy and a big girl's blouse" to allay the creeping jealousy he is evidently feeling about my current devotion to darling Marcel, who is, of course, all of those things, none of which prevents him from being sublime. In fact I turn the CD player off because I need to concentrate on listening and if we chat, or fret about varnish round doors, or whatever, I miss bits.

Which brings me on to Lovely Things Coming in the Post. This from Joe.

I had just been thinking that it would be really handy to have some kind of reference of who was who and where and how they fitted into the scheme of things, and was there a real place that Balbec was based on and wondering if I could afford more time on-line searching for such things, and little did I know that not only did such a book exist but a copy of it was already winging its way toward me! Now, without even possessing the full print text, but armed with a set of CDs, this book and Alain de Botton's 'How Proust Can Change Your Life' - another of the things that spurred me on to undertake this project, I am well on the way in my career as an apprentice Proustian.

And it really is a project. I do need the text, and preferably two translations at least, because the latest Penguin one is doubtless fine but really one needs Moncrieff as well, and I would really like it in French, not because I'm ready to embark on reading it in the original in its entirety but because sometimes something comes up where I really want to know how it was rendered. For example, when little Marcel reads in a grove of hornbeam and savours the other charms of the garden, is there a pun on the word 'charme'? Does Proust descend to puns, even such dainty ones? (Come on, all French people descend to puns, all the time...). And when he refers to Gilberte's 'wisdom', I'm thinking no, that's not right, Gilberte may be many things but wise isn't one of them, but perhaps it's 'sagesse', as in un enfant sage, that she is 'being good'. In other words, I want to be a smartarse to myself, perhaps to cover for the lack of profound and pithy things I really have to say. But I am just a beginner after all.

So, yes, with three sets of text, a set of CDs, sundry works of reference and comment, plus enough room to spread them all out, one could really set up a whole room of the house consecrated to total Proust immersion. Joe probably has.

At about the same time, Lovely Sister, (who is sometimes capitalised, sometimes not), sent me a parcel with this dear little pen in it,

along with a DVD of 'The Painted Veil', which I haven't watched yet. I'm slightly uncertain that the blurb describes it as 'a captivating love story', which from what I remember of the book, from about 30 years ago when I read it, it wasn't exactly, but perhaps I'm wrong, and the scenery certainly looks sumptuous.

The garden is sadly neglected in this blitz on interior work, but with all this, nature is never spent, there lives the dearest freshness deep down things... it carries on doing pretty things all on its own, like these snapdragons that had the nous to seed themselves right in front of the red grasses,

Japanese anemones, which are very easy-going,

and gladioli. These flowers are an area of some horticultural divergence of opinion, Tom wants to grow them, and I am not inclined. I am not, be assured, a garden snob, their vulgarity doesn't bother me; I like blousy rhododendrons, sky and cobalt blue hydrangeas, all sorts of loud dahlias, and many many plants and flowers that rate very poorly in terms of what is usually considered good taste. It's just that gladdies seem to be somehow on the wrong scale, and their colours and texture seem to me to be of some different material than that of other plants and flowers, and they have a lamentable tendency to keel over without much provocation.

However, I am prepared to make an exception of these lime green ones, which are smaller and finer than the others.

Evening primrose happily plant themselves all over the place, and are much more subtle in their demeanor,

and, its dismally jolly and unimaginative name notwithstanding, the Golden Celebration rose is a delight every year. It also smells gorgeous.

If I were a cricket, I'd probably want to live inside one too.

Going short of exercise and having to take pills smeared with butter, on account of her being poorly and our being busy, Molly has put on weight. Once she was better, and I had literally painted myself into a corner and could do no more until it was properly dry, a longer walk down the la Tantouille road and a visit to the mirabelle hedge was in order. The late, fine spring at the time when the trees were in blossom, and some sunshine in the intervening months, have, as I hoped, produced a good crop. So it'll be tarte aux mirabelles for Dick's visit, and perhaps some more foraging by way of entertainment for next weekend's visitors.

"Let's have a glass of white port to celebrate." I proposed.
"Celebrate what?"
"Getting a new bottle of white port?"

I'll end this tour of what I've found on my camera and other matters of little import with a whimsical interior shot of the sunlight filtering throught the not very effective fly curtains and falling on the telelvision table and stand. This was rather inspired by some of the photos on Jean's blog 'à la recherche de l'Absolu'. I've seen this one on other people's blogrolls for ages, so I'm probably very slow coming to it, but I find it a most compelling photo blog, especially the ones of quite ordinary aspects of life - often interiors, a plainly tiled corridor, a stainless steel tea pot and some glasses, the sun on rush-seated chairs, or the green tops of some leeks - but with the light catching and penetrating them in such a way that they sometimes become quite transcendent. I hate to say it, but what with the title and all, it's just a little bit Proustian...


Rouchswalwe said...

Ah, a perfectly pleasurable post! And I agree with your reason for opening up that bottle of port! A special pat for Molly!

julie said...

Poor Mol - I'm glad it's not too bad this time, though. And what a delightful assortment of images to find in ones camera. Even more reason for the white port!

marja-leena said...

Pleasurable indeed! The top photo struck me at first as an art installation, with all those wonderful folds in the fabric, and the contrast of a dark dark Molly. With all this talk of Proust by you and Joe, I think I must succumb to checking him out but fear a taste will not suffice by what you say.

Hope Molly will be fine, and your latest home project turns out beautiful and you have a wonderful visit with Tom's family!

Barrett Bonden said...

It's happening, we're losing you, you're entering that Bourne from which there is no Hollingsworth. Except you'll emerge a Proustian superior to all other Proustians - ultra sensitive, a key quote for every moment, the ability to pick out the jeux de mot etc, etc. And as far as I can guess you haven't yet met the Baron de Charlus.

Should I send you Painter's biography or would that be piling Pelion on Ossa (whatever that is)? Not that you need any further advice but I have only one line of encouragement for P-converts (my brother among them): keep on reminding yourself it is a wonderful comedy. Sorry about Tom. You could tell him that Marcel is very strong on cars; there are several quotes on this topic in Works Well posted long before you took your holy orders.

Crafty Green Poet said...

your photos are stunning, especially the evening primroses and the cricket!!! Give Mol a hug from me!

HLiza said...

I love all the flowers..never seen them here..they are not for our weather it seems. Hopefully Mol is getting better.

Bee said...

Out of all of this, the first thing I think of to say is that we have a rather hideous orange gladioli in the front border. I have no idea where it came from, but it is getting pulled out sharpish.

The film of The Painted Veil is very good -- and only slightly more romantic than the novel. I often wonder if the people who write blurbs actually read/view what they are writing about.

How wonderful that you are diving (wading?) into Proust! I am saving him . . . I think that I will know when his time comes.

herhimnbryn said...

Oh, a post full of 'juice' and 'joy'.

Your conversations with T sound eerily familiar and now you are inspiring me to find Proust and persevere.

I find artificial deadlines useful too, hence red walls in the sitting room and soon to be green walls in the lav.

Dear Moll, hope the ear heals quickly.

Plutarch said...

Interesting isn't it how plants, with a little help, take on a pattern suggesting dance within the framework of a picture?

I recently came across a book on Proust by Malcolm Bowie, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at Oxford University. It is called Proust Among the Stars. The chapter headings, round which his critique gathers, are Self, Time, Art, Politics, Morality, Sex and Death. The Times Literary Supplement calls it "The best general study of Proust's 3,000 page work". Quotations which are plentiful are given in French followed by the Scott Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation.How better to get a flavour of key passages in French. And to get added insight into the work.

As for motor cars, see the passage where Marcel is asked to check on the welfare of Aunt Leonie and finding her asleep, notes that her breathing changes tempo, like the sound of a car when the gear is changed.

The Crow said...

Poor little Molly. Hope she heals quickly.

I've never seen a green cricket before. Mine are the brown filed variety.

Such a delight to visit you here, Lucy. The photos are wonderful, as ever.


Meggie said...

What a lovely meander through this delightful post.
Pats for Molly. Glad she is better.

einbildungskraft said...

stupedous photography
eye candy

JamaGenie said...

What an enchanting blog you have here! A feast for the eyes as well as the mind!