Awoke to pouring rain, again.
Spent the morning resting in bed but decided to try to get to my second French Tutorial, which was scheduled for this afternoon. I got up at lunchtime and was so weak and wobbly that I gave myself a good three-quarters of an hour to walk to Blanche’s appartement. Mentally I was too ‘out of it’ to look up and work out a bus route.
I did however find a shorter walking route than the one I used to get to the cafe in which we met last week: which, incidentally, is almost exactly opposite her flat!
In my calculations was the fact that she said she lived four floors up in a building with no lift: that would take me some time in this state.
Umbrella and I were blown and buffeted about but it was good to be outside and in the fresh air after several days in bed: I reached her building fifteen minutes early but at least it meant that I could take the stairs slowly.
I was walking up a circular staircase with smooth, white plaster walls, iron balustrades and wooden banister, and tiled steps with wooden edges. Just before each floor was a window with an embrasure and windowsill so I sat myself down on each to catch my breath. Each floor took two flights of stairs to reach. On the third floor the staircase finished, and a much narrower, sloping, set of wooden steps led up to the fourth floor and on up to the fifth. But this next staircase looked the kind I often have nightmares about, a kind of ‘flying’ staircase jutting out from the wall with no central fixture, nothing supporting it on the empty stairwell side where you could see down the whole four floors. I had to take a deep breath and, walking as close to the wall as possible, I climbed it, refusing to look down: half way up was a niche in the wall, no windows now or windowsills here because no hard landings, and in the niche was a tap for water.
I was truly in garret land: late C18/earlyC19 perhaps, when it would have been bitterly cold in winter, roasting hot in summer, and water was difficult to transport up so many flights of stairs. The thought of people living and going out to work from there with no modern conveniences reminded me of how soft most of us are today.
It was such a relief to quit those stairs and gain the solidarity of the landing outside Blanche’s flat. I was five minutes early so leant against a wall to wait. No way did I wish to announce my presence before she might be ready: I guess she is a busy young woman and needs her time in between appointments.
And just before four o’clock she comes lightly up the stairs, not the slightest bit out of breath of course, and commenting on the healthy exercise.
She had been teaching in school, and held up by the traffic and appalling weather on her scooter. We went into her flat.
Well, I call it a flat but I have to admit that once again I was reminded of a garret. I do not mean to be rude. It was one small room, with a window, a sofa (which I assume turns into her bed), a small wardrobe, a table and two wooden chairs. No carpet, just a plain, unpolished, wood floor. One poster on one wall. In a cupboard is a sink and taps, and there was another cupboard beside that. No bathroom, no other rooms. These old houses all have communal, squatting loos downstairs so I wondered if that was how she managed. I felt so bad, coming from my spacious and comfortable flat, to her plain, functional one. My only hope is that perhaps she spends a lot of time with a boyfriend in a more comfortable and cheerful place.
She offered me tea or coffee but I really only wanted water, and then she connected her laptop and we began our lesson. Explaining my recent health problems was very good for my vocabulary in that area although she did say a little defensively that she thought most French doctors would have understood my English! She gave me a few tests, helped me find some things that I was looking for on the web, explained my homework, suggested a French film she thought I might both understand and enjoy, and introduced me to an excellent interactive site on-line for practicing aural and comprehension.
We laughed a lot this time and she seemed much more friendly and at ease: I really enjoyed myself and the progress we made, and was mightily cheered when I left. I’ve been feeling unusually anxious and uncertain, for me, and am putting it down to the results of the infection, antibiotics and sudden turns and changes of plans on the part of several friends. Tunnel through, grit the teeth, just get past the bend in the road! Once alone in Paris at least I will be seeing her for a couple of hours a week, a friendly and now familiar face.
I then walked up to my friends’ flat to talk over arrangements for their last few days, what we could manage to do together, how they were getting on, etc. and they gave me what information and brochures they had amassed during the last two months that might be of help to me. It was so sad: the fun we had hoped to have together. But that’s life. As Chlost say, just a different kind of adventure now.
Tomorrow they are going to Chartres for the day, and we had all planned to go together, but although it is not too far and will only involve a train journey, I really do not feel up to it, so this time it is I who have had to cry off. We will spend Wednesday together, all being well on all fronts, and meet up for a meal on Thursday evening before they go to Amsterdam for the weekend to stay with family for a grandson’s tenth birthday. They return on Monday when we hope to meet again for a meal in the evening before they leave early on Tuesday for the US.
Then home once more for supper and bed. But I got lost. Those streets which I know like the back of my hand. I just have not been able to get my head together today – I’m still ‘out of it’ and light-headed with the after effects of my allergic reactions. Eventually I made my way home but it was a straightening experience, and for a brief second or two, reminded me to be more careful when I have fewer resources and no friends here.
To find a text saying that indeed my other friend cannot come to stay this week. No surprise. Is there something wrong with the Earth’s bio-rhythms at the moment?