A week in Poitiers

Work in progress

I’m far from being bored. I read an interesting piece about Spanish flu on the internet last week. Staggering statistics. Over 500 million cases. Between 50 and 100 million fatalities worldwide. It gave me an idea for a little project – a detailed comparison of the effects of Spanish flu and coronavirus here in Poitiers. Spent an hour or two on it on Monday. Absolutely fascinating. Will come back to it when the lockdown is over and I can visit the library.

You can’t be bored if you have something to read. I’ve been dipping into Kenneth Williams’ Diaries. Very entertaining. His first breakthrough as an actor was appearing as the Dauphin in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan in 1954. Of course, Joan of Arc was put on trial right here in Poitiers, and this started me thinking about another interesting project – representations of Joan of Arc in twentieth-century literature. Spent Tuesday evening on this. A very promising start. Will come back to it when the lockdown is over and I can visit the library.

Joan of Arc, Poitiers

There are plenty of things to watch to pass the time, and we’ve been catching up on French films. On Wednesday, we watched A Man Escaped, Robert Bresson’s gripping story about a captured French Resistance fighter held in a Nazi prison in France. It suddenly struck me that there’s a really intriguing project here. How is the Second World War represented differently in British and French films? Loads of scope. By way of research I spent Thursday watching The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Battle of the River Plate, Ice Cold in Alex and Whisky Galore! Continued on Friday with The Dam Busters, Reach for the Sky, The Cockleshell Heroes and I Was Monty’s Double. I feel I’ve probably got as far as I can for now. Will come back to it when the lockdown is over and I can visit the library.

Bored? I’ve no time to be bored.

In total we’ve got  231 DVDs (including a set of twenty-four Classic British War Movies given away free with copies of the Daily Mail that I used to get one of my daughters to buy for me.) We still haven’t watched The Shawshank Redemption, and I suspect we never will. We have a box set of Series 1–6 of Howards’ Way, bought at the Friends of Ely Museum summer fête in 2011. I may watch this next week with a view to a possible project on French and British soap operas.

Not bored in the slightest.

I’ve started cataloguing our books. This will take some time. We have over thirty dictionaries, including six English, three French, two German, one Spanish, two Latin, one Greek, one Homeric, one Anglo-Indian, four crossword dictionaries and two dictionaries of slang, as well as dictionaries of classical history, British history, phrase and fable, business English, linguistics, euphemisms, idioms, pronunciation and spelling. The spelling dictionary contains no definitions; it’s just a list of words. If there is a typo in this and a word is misspelt, how would you know?

I can honestly say I’m not in the least bit bored.

I have twenty-seven pairs of socks: nine are thermal and five are sports socks, including two pairs of those silly little ones that you wear with trainers so that you can pretend you’re not actually wearing socks. I also have kept three odd socks which may eventually find partners. This is the same sort of logic that stops me throwing away my old tweed jacket because I can use it for gardening, even though we don’t have a garden.

Bored? Don’t know the meaning of the word.

Our spice rack (actually a plastic container on top of the bread bin) contains eighteen jars: thirteen have orange lids, five have green. Only two jars have exceeded their use-by date by more than six months. We have two jars of oregano and two of cumin. The French for cinnamon is cannelle, turmeric is curcuma and fennel seeds are graines de fenouil. They use the same name as the English for herbes de Provence.

Boredom is a sign of mental laziness.

There are forty-two steps in our house, eleven down to the cave, sixteen up to the first floor (eleven to the bend outside the bathroom and then five) and then another fifteen to the second floor. I think the third from the top between the first and second floors is the squeakiest but I need to check this again.

I admit I can get a little listless from time to time.

The earliest time the postman has delivered so far this month was Thursday 2nd at 11.50. The latest was yesterday at 12.43. Interestingly, he has delivered at exactly 12.10 on three separate occasions: Friday 3rd, Tuesday 7th and Thursday 9th. Unfortunately, I forgot to check his time on Monday. I’ve thought about asking him if he can remember, but Madame S says I must be off my ******* rocker.

I think the lockdown may be getting to her.

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