20 July 2020

I, moi, et Michel de Montaigne

A friend came over for a small dinner last week, someone whom I don't know well but I already consider that this someone 'might be a friend' perhaps one day (I am giving her the benefit of the doubt so far). But there is always this netherworld of space around people before and after friendships begin and end. 

Before a person is considered a friend they are but an acquaintance, certainly not yet a friend, and just as certainly after a friendship has ended, for whatever the unpleasant reason, they are also certainly never a friend (though that can always change). But they are never again, an acquaintance.

But in this netherworld, in this space between a friend, or not, it can be confusing, and I am not someone who lets just any idiot into my life.

So, I had bought a Japanese toilet two years ago and it is always a big hit when people come over and use it. It is a civilised way of 'doing business'.

Doing 'business' in France was almost always an unpleasant affair if away from home. We had gotten too used to smooth paper (to wrap freshly baked bread) and newsprint, both poorly trimmed and always hung to the side of a mangy wall from an old nail, sometime with a string. But this was a long time ago, and I doubt the young well-dressed generation of today would put up with this! And then, many, many years later, I went to Japan to discover the meaning of civilisation.

And I won't linger to speak of where "Ça va?" comes from, other than to say that it was an intimate dialogue between the king of France and his personal physician several times a day. This business, as it were, gave rise to that expression 'Sitting on the Throne'. 

So now I often read on my own personal 'Throne', usually the more erudite books in my library, better to contemplate life on earth in the most humble but somewhat comprising of positions (though my brother strongly advises me against too much time there).

I had started the lengthy In Search of Lost Time (en Anglais, hélas) on my comfortable  sofa, but then we went to bed together, and then, months later, poor Swann ended up next to the throne where I could linger like a hesitant fawn in the woods. At present, I am reading Montaigne (en Français) whom I have revered for decades. A page or two a day keeps the doctor at bay, I try to think.

So, "revenons aux moutons", as they in the French countryside. This women at the dinner party went to use the loo (as the Brits call it, and maybe Wikipedia can explain) and, having seen Montaigne placed upon a small chair in front, asked me, when she returned to the living room if it was 'for show', as she put. As if to say: "Who would really read Montaigne on the "John" in Australia?... and isn't this just to show off?"

I laughed, and I said something on the order of "when you know me, you will know" sounding cryptically like a wise man from the East. Then I served dessert.

Post script: She became a friend and lover but then became an ex-lover and most unfriendly.

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