Monsieur Père anecdotes
I have already mentioned a few anecdotes concerning Grandma; here are additional ones with Grandpa whom we used to call Monsieur Père, you probably know why: it’s young Tini’s transformation of the French: “ce monsieur c’est mon père”. The first one that came to mind, I’m afraid, is a rather distressing one: he used to scold us for leaving pee drops on the toilet seat, and so each time I went into the toilet at 9 Derwent (especially upstairs, with the wooden seat), I looked at the toilet before entering and before leaving, because I was so scared of what would happen if I forgot, and he would notice. Somehow I was afraid he would know I was guilty… Another guilt-ridden episode must have taken place when I was the silly age of eleven, and in Auntie Olive’s garden. Probably inspired by a flower-picking desire to offer some daffodils to a member of the household, I was consciously and pleasantly cutting the yellow flowers and stems… But I didn’t know this action was streng verboten, and, what was much much worse, that the Obersturmführer was in fact looking at me from Grandma’s room on the first floor… I heard a shout, and a very angry face, that quickly disappeared, before it reappeared through the kitchen door, and was carried on a very determined pair of legs that were marching towards my quaking self… I’ll spare you the rest, but I wasn’t granted a lawyer.
Fortunately, these are the only two bad memories I have of Grandpa: there are many great ones. One has certainly been shared by many other readers of this blog: the privilege to sit next to him at Saint Monica’s church and watch him play the organ for mass. I remember his energy and concentration, the way he would close his eyes and play without looking, most extraordinary! I could see that what he did had an impact on the whole congregation: they would only start singing if and when he played, he was the one who seemingly decided what everybody would sing: it was very impressive! I was also higher than everyone else, allowed to climb the staircase to the church’s heavens, and given a seat next to God almost!
Another memory is when he would take me downstairs in the cellar and show me his tools and boxes, then explain what each was for, squeeze open some of his little yellow boxes and meticulously describe the contents. The cellar had a strange smell, some dark recesses, where I would wander. Monsieur Père showed me the faintly lit opening where the coal was poured in from the streets, and I took in this strange and half dangerous fact, hoping perhaps I wouldn’t find myself under the hole when the coal-bearers emptied their sacks. The tools were old, it seemed to me, compared to my dad’s, which sported couloured handles and lots of plastic, as opposed to the shiny wood of Monsieur Père’s own.
I recall a visit with him past his old school, Minchenden school if I'm right, where to my surprise, he had entered without being asked, and shown me his name on a plaque. I remember feeling a whiff of long time ago, when this old man had been a boy, just like me. Of course there were events connected to his illness, moments when his head bent forward, in moments of weakness that I didn’t understand, hypoglycemia being to me unknown. Once he was climbing the second flight of stairs in our house at Bonnebosq, and he called me, from one of the steps where he seemed to be stuck: “Vivi, call your mother, quick” said a tired voice. I didn’t know what the matter was, no one had explained before. But luckily, I did what I was told, and I suppose he was taken care of fast enough. It was fun observing him weigh his potatoes on that small scales he kept on the dresser at 9DR: I used to wonder how on Earth he could know that what he needed was 2,5 potatoes and not more! And also when he was carefully spooning the sides of his hot porridge at breakfast: what strange food, I remember thinking. But perhaps it wasn’t that bad, judging by the ring of brown sugar spread all around, and the jelly-like appearance of the whitish oats.
A lot of the communications, letters and otherwise, I had with Monsieur Père are filled with the very boring references to tea-cards: it’s true that I didn’t have time, contrary to what happened with my other grandfather, to enjoy with him a more mature relationship (he died when I was 13), but really, when he wrote to me, it was to say only one thing: he had Brooke Bond tea-cards to give me for my ongoing collection! (see below, I tried to choose some of the more interesting letters).
Fun to see he seemed quite interested in hot-air balloons!
One last anecdote: once he had shown me how his “motorcar” was hooded outside, how you had to lift the hood to reveal the car underneath, and the interest of the special tarpaulin meant to protect the car from the elements. I have this rather funny picture of that pedagogical moment:
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