You will all know by now that I hate being called “Madame” – my name in French is Elise – it’s a Quaker habit I picked up from my beloved Auntie Mu. If I don’t know you at all I’ll call you “Friend” but all this Monsieur and Madame stuff leaves me cold. So I get to know everyone by their first names fairly quickly. I’m OK with the vous and tu stuff – but my name is Elise – use it.
No surprise then that the bloke who saw most of me was called Gilles. He was my memory man. His job was to play games with me and discover if I was losing my marbles. Oh dear – poor fellow, for that he had to know how many marbles I had in the first place – precious few, old love.
We had a ball! He showed me pictures and then we had long discussions on what they could be. Apparently there was one right answer but he was fascinated by what I thought they were so we nattered on. I shifted the pictures and explained some cultural differences and got him to see that it really was a Bolivian woman with a very heavy pack on her back and that could be a very significant symbol if one had any sympathy with third world poverty.
He is a lovely guy but you know me, Nanny Ab is a healer and I wanted to reach out and touch him. He had a patch of psoriasis just by his left ear and I knew it was stress-induced. So I got the conversation around to stress and said – “Gilles, if you don’t mind me saying, you are pushing yourself too hard. What is it that is driving you?”
He’d already told me about his wife and his little boy so I felt OK to push in a bit and he let go and chatted; I didn’t feel confident enough to touch his scabby path which would have healed it but I gave him some good advice – and he relaxed.
We got through the games very quickly and discussed why I might see some things a bit weirdly. He got it. Then he started shuffling his papers and I knew he had run out of work so I said
“Gilles – are you bored?”
“Yer, a bt”
“Me too -want an English lesson?”
So we spent the next hour that he had me pencilled in on his timetable learning “proper” English – not the sort that is taught in French schools. No full sentences. One word answers are OK, slang is fine, swearing is good .. by the end of an hour he was ebullient.
Gilles accompanied me down to the café, bought me a coffee and came outside to say “How many cigarettes do you smoke per day?”
I tutted and said “You smoke? How many?”
He beamed at me. “Is possible?”
“Yer – is right”
“You smoke – how many?”
Too fucking many sweetie!”
I gave him the two kisses – he knows I ain’t mad or brain damaged. But I wish I could have done something for his psoriasis