Are you chilled to the bone down there? It’s snowing gently all around the Hall and the heating creaks day and night. A fire roars in the old kitchen. Today the room is used as a lounge with meat hook ceiling details. In fact, William’s father would hang joints of meat from those old metal talons. The wind whistles through the tiny cracks in the old windows and the black ravens rule the garden.
They had a visitor today who snuck in while Emily and I were upstairs, lying on the floor, playing knucklebones. He entered the room with Charles who looked a little pained. I didn’t catch the sharp suits’ name but I didn’t like the cut of his jib. His shoes were too shiny, his jaw too square and his watch extremely pompous. The Captain appeared next to us, cussing under his breath…
“That knifes got blood on it lad, watch him,” and he disappeared off again.
Managing to make sense of his archaic language(Watch that one, he’s not to be trusted!),I tried to hear what was being discussed and caught words like; antiquated, damaged, sell and you’d be better off that way. It didn’t make sense to me but the Captain is a good judge of character after all these years (except when he is swamped by bad memories. His judgement then, takes a definite swerve downwards and he is best ignored) and I will keep my eye on this earth walker. After this dubious citizen had left, I tried to sit in on the Father/Son conversation that followed, in the Hall kitchen. They both seemed very upset and old William kept banging his hands on the table and saying;
“It’s my home”.
The Captain himself took Emily and I on a visit once. I know I told you I just hang here but I forgot this particular event. Ok? I’m not fibbing again, I just didn’t remember until now. It was a while ago…1888 to be exact, just before Christmas. He had found a relative (an extremely distant relative) who he claimed to be one of the best artists he had ever seen and a true rebel to boot. Emily and I begged to go with him, to look at the man’s pictures. The artists name was Vincent blah, blah( I will have to check with the Captain about his surname). Again, in my defence it was a while back now and you can only remember a certain amount of memories over hundreds of years. In your own downstairs life it’s often difficult to recall names, places and where you put the cheese sandwich you were eating a moment ago. Empathy, please, people…
Back to Arles, France in 1888 and our visit to Vincent Blah Blah. Travel upstairs is fast and scary, only for the brave. It’s similar to what it may feel like, for a fly that is sucked up a vacuum tube. We blended with the Captain, a veteran traveller who swiftly brought us to a small simple house nestled into the French countryside. Outside, with a mop of fiery red hair sat Vincent at his easel; squeezing tubes of thick glossy paint onto a palette. I could almost smell the linseed oil he was using. Beside him crouched a figure that appeared to be whispering into his ear. The Captain explained that the figure used to be a Dutch painter called Anton Mauve, recently deceased. In life he had been one of Vincent’s hero’s but in death he had come to drive the painter to his grave, carrying a paint brush in his hand.
The Captain explained the pair had argued over Vincent’s colourful (a polite word for increasingly dodgy) love life and had never spoken again, despite being close friends for many years before. And now he was back to take Vincent with him to the grave and drive him mad in the process. He had, so the Captain reported, been whispering in his ear for at least 9 months. Enough to drive anyone insane! Vincent’s paintings were beautiful though, we had never seen pictures like them; so alive with colours and shapes, with paint so thick it could ice a Christmas cake. I hope the red headed genius did well in life and managed to shake of that devil Mauve.
I was put off long distance travel when on the way home, Emily’s and my form mixed in the rush of air and it took two weeks for us to settle back into our old shapes. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling when you are mixed up with someone else. I really found it difficult when I looked at the Captain and suddenly thought how very handsome he seemed. Not something I had experienced before.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever know what happened to Vincent, as the Captain scooted off almost immediately, on an around the world trip. When he paid his next visit to Arles, many moons later, the artist and his work were gone.
So that was my visit to France.
Maria, Charles’ mother, paid us a visit last night accompanied as usual by her tangle of small yappy dogs. Oh yes, animals end up here too for a while and usually move on with their owners. Before Maria joined us, she had owned a succession of Pomeranian pooches (eight in total) and the cacophony of barks that could start up upstairs (as they were all waiting for her) was deafening. Anyway, she has informed me that the fast dark shape that plays with the cub Baby, is in fact a dog; a Canarian hunting hound from thousands of miles away. Quite what it is doing here she doesn’t know, as its owner doesn’t live here and we cannot think of any explanation for its presence. A true mystery…how interesting.
I’m off to watch Dean attempt to clear out the gutters which are frozen solid with dead leaves and pigeons. I will try very hard not to knock his ladder. Maybe, I‘ll just will whisper in his ear…
Stay warm, until we meet again.