Sunday, 26 June 2011


I had planned to meet a friend for lunch at Geales, the fish place on Chelsea Green,but on my way to buy the Saturday papers, I passed the fishmonger so I rang and suggested we have something fishy at my place instead. I bought: scallops; a dressed crab; a jar of salmon roe, a salmon fillet and a lemon. We chatted in the kitchen while I cooked the salmon in a little water and olive oil, and the scallops with four slices of streaky bacon. We opened the jar of salmon eggs and scooped them out like a dip, onto salt and vinegar crisps while the fish was cooking. We have known each other for over 50 years, and learned 'Heureux qui, comme Ulysse', motif of my funerary pavement at Crookedstane Rig, together at school. She is celebrating the first anniversary of her new lease of life after a major heart operation last year, and now, with the operation safely behind her, is in the process of 'downsizing' from her family house as I did two years ago. She is looking for a flat in the same area of west London where she has lived for thirty years, disappointed to have been outbid a couple of weeks ago for a new build, evidence that the housing market in some areas is stronger than ever, some say at 2007 boom levels. Death, the journey of life, change and the passing of time are the themes of The Enigma of Arrival - both the book by V S Naipaul, a masterpiece which I finished reading and closed with regret just now, but will certainly re-read - and the appropriately mysterious painting that inspired it by Giorgio di Chirico. I have a bad habit of listening to BBCR4 as I read, and this morning heard a reference to Thoreau's On Walden Pond, extolling the virtues of simplicity and living close to nature. Nature and the passing seasons, the tending - or neglect - of gardens, the cultivation of fields and livestock are the backdrop to Naipaul's deceptively modest narrative, about a period of rural life and the people who drift in and out of the life of a small country estate in a Wiltshire valley which Naipaul nevertheless surreptitiously invests with profound philosophical significance, whereby the book becomes a meditation, not just on the writer's life, but on life itself. After lunch I went to see Potiche starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu - a brilliantly executed and witty comedy of family life and social history set in 1977 France. The only elephant in the room, in this case almost literally, is Depardieu who is now so colossally fat that hints in the plot at the fanning of an old flame between him and Deneuve strain credulity (like Depardieu's seams) to breaking point. There is a family business at the heart of the story, an umbrella factory started by Deneuve's father and at the start of the film, being run so badly by Deneuve's small town tyrant and bully of a husband that the workforce is on strike, her children refuse to have anything to do with the business and needless to say she is firmly sidelined to the role of 'trophy wife'(the translation of an untranslatable French word 'potiche'. Being myself a member of such a family, there was plenty to enjoy in her husband's come-uppance .

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