In the Memorial Room by Frame Janet

In the Memorial Room by Frame Janet

Author:Frame, Janet
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction
ISBN: 9781922148223
Publisher: The Text Publishing Company
Published: 2013-04-23T16:00:00+00:00


11

The library performed a similar function to the English church – it gathered together the exiles who had left England partly because they did not wish to be gathered together but who had changed their mind once they had arrived on the Côte d’Azur, settled in their retirement homes or apartments, redecorated and furnished the interior, cleaned up and planted the garden, and then sitting back to enjoy the arrival of the long-anticipated time for living, found that it was late, or it had been and gone, or it was only a dream. Instead, they saw the empty white winter sky, the bare hostile mountains, Italian and French, and another country’s ocean, and olive trees, palm trees, orchards lit with oranges and lemons, all of which they had known as visitors before they chose their place of retirement, and which they’d looked forward to seeing daily and possessing. Gradually they became aware of the changed relationship, of the intrusions of intimacy which adoption, of a person or a place, forced upon the new parent, of responsibilities and shames such as members of a family feel, of frustrations and longings for release that are part of the feeling towards a native land. And this, with no rescue or assistance from the benevolent promised time.

It was at that stage the exiles began going to the church and the library and the British Association. They began ‘taking tea’ at four each day in one another’s homes. They drew apart from the French community and became a tolerated eccentric ‘little England’. No one should have been startled, on entering the English library between the hours of nine and eleven on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning, to find a collection of elderly men and women fumbling their way through book titles on dimly lit shelves (The Egyptian Campaign, Italian Journey, The Great Generals and so on), while talking to one another in Oxford accents, dropping names and sentences like, ‘When I was at Magdalen’, ‘I knew him at Cambridge’, ‘The Vicar says…’, nor alarmed to hear an elderly man or woman exclaim, ‘Give me something light, a detective novel’ (from the rows and rows of much-read paperback crime fiction), ‘anything to pass the time. I just don’t want to think.’

You’d have thought they would be thankful, as speaking of ‘passing the time’ showed that time was a reality, waiting for them; their problem, however, was to creep past in anonymity; they did not want, they could not bear to have the time for which they had made a contract with their leisure lives.

Among the small company you’d usually find George and Liz Lee, Liz energetically behind the desk, checking books in and out, George writing out receipts for subscriptions; Haniel and Louise Markham, though Haniel was seldom at home and spent much of his time in Paris; Dorset and Elizabeth Foster who, however, were not regarded as ‘true’ members of the English community who, when speaking of them, added in a superior tone, ‘They’re New Zealanders’, which translated meant, ‘They’re not one of us’.



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