I had the notion that I would use my convalescence to finish the novel I’m writing (or was writing before I had my accident).
After all, I spend the best part of twenty-four hours either in bed (I go to bed at 8pm and get up at 9am or thereabouts) or in my wheelchair. My meals are provided; my laundry taken care of; my bed made up; my room cleaned. What better way to fill my time than by writing the last chapters of my book and then beginning another?
It hasn’t turned out quite like that.
I had a burst of creativity in the hospital and wrote furiously for about a week. But then I found myself slowing down, soothed into lassitude by the routine of first, the hospital and now, the Centre de Readaption. I’ve done little more than toy with the final chapters of my novel. Instead, I am absorbed in the minutiae of the clinic and the lives of my fellow patients – for example, Monsieur Lechasseur (knee replacement).
Not long after I arrived, he bowled towards me in his wheelchair. He’d heard I was Irish. He’d been in Ireland for “la chasse” (hunting and/or shooting). He’d had a wonderful time.
I asked what he’d been hunting/shooting.
“Palombes” (woodpigeons), he said.
I knew about the French addiction to shooting Palombes. On my first trip to the Bordeaux region, I was wakened one morning by what sounded like an artillery attack. The barrage continued all day. It was the first day of open season on Palombes.
M. Lechasseur showed me a photograph from his Irish shooting holiday. There he was, with three companions, on the top steps of a wide stone staircase leading to the terrace of an ivy-covered Georgian country house hotel. Ranged on the steps below them were rows and rows of dead pigeons, like a carpet of feathers.
I had never seen anything like it.
“650 altogether,” he said proudly. “I shot 158 of them.”
He took them back to France and ate them. You might wonder, as I did, how he managed to do that.
“It was easy,” he said. He and his companions put the 650 pigeons in cool boxes in the boots of their cars and covered them with ice. They drove to the ferry at Rosslare. The cars stayed in the hold of the ship for the overnight crossing to Cherbourg. The car deck of a ferry is cold. The ice melted slowly. There was even a little ice left by the time M. Lechasseur arrived home. He transferred the pigeons to a freezer.
I pictured a freezer stuffed with feathers.
When M. Lechasseur felt like eating pigeon, he took one out of the freezer, de-frosted it, plucked it, cleaned it and cooked it.
Mme Noname (hip replacement) and Mme Anonyme (new knee) with whom I had been chatting, studied the photograph. They smacked their lips. “Palombes. Delicieuses.”
But not as delicious as “grives,” said M. Lechasseur.
Mme Noname and Mme Anonyme nodded in agreement. Mme Noname seemed to salivate.
It was illegal to shoot “grives” in Ireland, said M. Lechasseur, with regret.
Mme Noname said she also liked “becassines,” but really “grives” were more “succulentes”.
During this lip-smacking exchange, I looked up “grive” in the dictionary.
“Grive – nom F – Thrush.”