18th April 2013 — Tales from the Clinic

Tales from the Clinic — 7

Monsieur Morose doesn’t smile often.

“He’s always complaining,” says one of his table companions.

“He won’t play cards with us because he says I always win,” says Monsieur Lechasseur.

“He lives with his mother,” says Madame Coquette. “When she comes to see him, he sits and holds her hand.”

I pass Monsieur Morose who is sitting on a chair in the foyer.

“Bonjour!” I say.

He grunts.

“Not a good day for you?”

He shakes his head.

I ask him why it isn’t a good day.

He tells me his mother has been on her own for eighty days. All the time he’s been in hospital and in the clinic. He’s worried about her. She telephones all the time. She didn’t see a single person the previous day.

He has a sister who lives not far away, but who doesn’t visit their mother. He is her sole carer.

He is divorced. He has no children. When his mother was in hospital he was backwards and forwards every day. Which didn’t help his damaged knee. As a result, all attempts to replace the cartilage have failed.

He’ll be walking with a crutch for the rest of his life.

“But I manage very well.” He genuflects. “Look, I have very good flexion.” He smiles.

He has a nice smile.

He tells me that he had two Irish girlfriends when he was younger, that he was married for 15 years but is divorced.

He starts to sing in a tuneful baritone.

“Un oranger sur le sol irlandais,
On ne le verra jamais.
Un jour de neige embaumé de lilas,
Jamais on ne le verra.”

It’s a waltz time melody.

“Ballade Irlandaise,” says Bernard. “Bourvil sang it. Bourvil, the actor.”.

I find La Ballade Irlandaise sung by BourvilBourvil on Youtube.

Madame Petite, always cheerful, stops to talk to me when I’m sitting at my laptop in the salon. I find it hard to believe that she’s not just a granny but a great-granny.

“You must have married when you were very young,” I say.

“Yes, I was young,” she says. “I’m 73 now.” She talks at great speed. I just about manage to keep up.

She lives alone. She’s divorced. Her husband drank too much. Her children urged her to leave him.

I often see her sitting with Monsieur Morose in the television room, or in the garden when it’s fine.

“He’s 70,” she says. “Un vieux garçon.”

I know the French expression “vieux garçon” (lit. old boy) means an old bachelor who lives with his mother.

“He’s not a “vieux garçon,” I say. “He was married for 15 years. He’s divorced. No children.”

“Oh,” she says, surprised.

“He knows some English,” I say. “He speaks German.”

“I enjoy talking to him,” says Madame Petite. “He’s intelligent. He’s interested in lots of things.”

As I am wheeling myself down to lunch, I pass the television room and notice Madame Petite chatting with Monsieur Morose.

After lunch, Monsieur Morose greets me in the foyer. He seems in very good form. “I know a song in English,” he says.

He sings, “My Bonny lies over the ocean, my bonny lies over the sea.” 

“Bravo,” I say.

If this were a novel, I’d write a happy ending.