Further down the rabbit hole

Back in the antediluvian days when I was an undergraduate, I took a course in Comparative Philology, nowadays called Comparative Linguistics. I was hooked. Our lecturer was a learned Welsh professor able to describe with a perfectly straight face but twinkling eyes such arcane ideas on the origins of language as the “ta-ta theory”, “pooh-pooh theory” or “bow-wow theory”. If you want to know about these, click here. He also introduced us to the Proto-Indo-European language. It’s a subject that has continued to enthral me, and offers not just one rabbit hole but an entire warren. Hence my interest in etymologies.

For some time I have been wondering about words like uncouth and unkempt that look like negatives but don’t seem to have a positive counterpart – at least, not in modern English, except where there are back-formations. Of course, at some point in the evolution of our vernacular people must have been described as couth and kempt, but when did the messies get the upper hand?

Back to my latest favourite site, Etymon.

Unkempt is straightforward enough. I know that kempt must have some relationship to the German kämmen / Kamm (comb) so this was no surprise:

1570s, from un- (1) “not” + kempt “well-combed, neat,” from variant past participle of Middle English kemben “to comb,” from Old English cemban “to comb,” from Proto-Germanic *kambijan, from *kamb- “comb” (from PIE root *gembh- “tooth, nail.” ). Form unkembed is recorded from late 14c. The verb kemb is rare after 1400s, but its negative past participle form endures.

I tried to resist the temptation to find out at what point in ancient history our unkempt ancestors decided to make teeth and nails into combs, and tidy themselves up a bit (5,000 years ago, it seems). But I have other parts of the warren to explore at the moment. So on to uncouth. There are some remarkable divagations connected with this, and I was surprised to find that it derives from the intransitive verb can (sorry about the repetition here, but I’m quoting verbatim):

Uncouth

Old English uncuð “unknown, strange, unusual; uncertain, unfamiliar; unfriendly, unkind, rough,” from un- (1) “not” + cuð “known, well-known,” past participle of cunnan “to know” (see can (v.1)), from PIE root *gno- “to know.” Meaning “strange, crude, clumsy” is first recorded 1510s. The compound (and the thing it describes) widespread in IE languages, such as Latin ignorantem, Old Norse ukuðr, Gothic unkunþs, Sanskrit ajnatah, Armenian ancanaut’, Greek agnotos, Old Irish ingnad “unknown.”

Can is the Old English 1st & 3rd person singular present indicative of cunnan “to know,” less commonly as an auxiliary, “to have power to, to be able,” (also “to have carnal knowledge”), from Proto-Germanic *kunnjanan “to be mentally able, to have learned” (source also of Old Norse kenna “to become acquainted, try,” Old Frisian kanna “to recognize, admit, know,” German kennen “to know,” Middle Dutch kennen “to know,” Gothic kannjan “to make known”), from PIE root *gno- “to know.”

It holds now only the third sense of “to know,” that of “to know how to do something” (as opposed to “to know as a fact” and “to be acquainted with” something or someone). Also used in the sense of may, denoting mere permission. An Old English preterite-present verb, its original past participle, couth, survived only in negation (see uncouth), but compare could. The present participle has spun off with a deflected sense as cunning.

Middle English couth “known, well-known; usual, customary,” from Old English cuðe “known,” past participle of cunnan “to know,” less commonly “to have power to, to be able” (see can (v.1)).

As a past participle it died out 16c. with the emergence of could, but the old word was reborn 1896, with a new sense of “cultured, refined,” as a back-formation from uncouth (q.v.). The Old English word forms the first element in the masc. proper name Cuthbert, which literally means “famous-bright.”

That’s maybe some consolation for the poor lads saddled with that particular saint’s name.

The link between can and know was new to me. I was aware that English used to differentiate between the different senses of to know, in ken and wit (cognate with modern German kennen and wissen), and we have remnants of these old verbs in “D’ye ken John Peel?” and “to wit” or “unwittingly”. And so I moved on to wit and wise, which brought me to wizard and witch (look these four up yourself – fascinating!), and so full circle back to PIE *weg– and the other related words listed in my previous post.

I’ve spent a few hours down this particular hole, so time to crawl out and get on with something useful! Has this inspired anyone else to investigate any interesting etymologies?

Down the rabbit hole …

I’ve found another rabbit hole: I idly consulted the Online Etymological Dictionary   –  a sure sign that I have time on my hands again.

It started off, as these things usually do, innocently enough with the word feckless. I wondered just what we were accusing that person of, when we put this label on him. Should he be endeavouring to become feckfull? Well, actually, he probably should. Etymonline says:

Feckless

1590s, from feck, “effect, value, vigor” (late 15c.), Scottish shortened form of effect (n.), + -less. Popularized by Carlyle, who left its opposite, feckful, in dialectal obscurity. Related: Fecklessly; fecklessness.”

From feckless to reckless. I had an inkling that this was connected to “reckon” and Gerard Manley Hopkins lovely word “reck” (“Why do men then now not reck his rod?“ in God’s Grandeur ), and I was right. But there’s more to it:

Reckless

Old English receleas “careless, thoughtless, heedless,” earlier reccileas, from *rece, recce “care, heed,” from reccan “to care” (see reck (v.)) + -less. The same affixed form is in German ruchlos, Dutch roekeloos “wicked.” Root verb reck (Old English reccan) is passing into obscurity.

No back-formation to reckful, yet. Maybe our heedless world can’t grasp that concept? But the word wicked caught my eye here: It looks like a past participle, but is it? Is there an old verb to wick with evil connotations? No, but look where this got me:

Wicked
1200, extended form of earlier wick “bad, wicked, false” (12c.), which apparently is an adjectival use of Old English wicca“wizard” (see witch). Formed as if a past participle, but there is no corresponding verb. For evolution, compare wretched from wretch. Slang ironic sense of “wonderful” first attested 1920, in F. Scott Fitzgerald. As an adverb from early 15c. Related: Wickedly.

*weg-  Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to be strong, be lively.” It forms all or part of:
awakebewitchbivouacinvigilatereveillesurveillancevedettevegetablevelocity;
vigilvigilantvigilantevigorwaftwaitwake (v.) “emerge or arise from sleep;” waken;
watchWiccawickedwitch.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit vajah “force, strength,” vajayati “drives on;” Latin vigil “watchful, awake,” vigere “be lively, thrive,” velox “fast, lively,” vegere “to enliven,” vigor “liveliness, activity;” Old English wacan “to become awake,” German wachen “to be awake,” Gothic wakan “to watch.”

I’ll leave you to look those up yourselves (you should get there by clicking on them), but even if you aren’t a happy camper do check out bivouac:

1702, “encampment of soldiers that stays up on night watch in the open air, dressed and armed,” from French bivouac (17c.), said to be a word from the Thirty Years’ War, ultimately from Swiss/Alsatian biwacht “night guard,” from bei- (from Old High German bi- “by,” here perhaps as an intensive prefix; see by) + wacht “guard” (from Proto-Germanic *wahtwo, from PIE root *weg- “to be strong, be lively”). Sense of “outdoor camp” is from 1853. According to OED not a common word in English before the Napoleonic Wars. Italian bivacco is from French. As a verb, 1809, “to post troops in the night;” meaning “camp out-of-doors without tents” is from 1814.

From one apparent past participle to another: what about naked? Another trouvaille!

Naked

Old English nacod “nude, bare; empty,” also “not fully clothed,” from Proto-Germanic *nakwadaz (source also of Old Frisian nakad, Middle Dutch naket, Dutch naakt, Old High German nackot, German nackt, Old Norse nökkviðr, Old Swedish nakuþer, Gothic naqaþs “naked”), from PIE root *nogw- “naked” (source also of Sanskrit nagna, Hittite nekumant-, Old Persian *nagna-, Greek gymnos, Latin nudus, Lithuanian nuogas, Old Church Slavonic nagu-, Russian nagoi, Old Irish nocht, Welsh noeth “bare, naked”). Related: Nakedlynakedness. Applied to qualities, actions, etc., from late 14c. (first in “The Cloud of Unknowing”); phrase naked truth is from 1585, in Alexander Montgomerie’s “The Cherry and the Slae”:

Which thou must (though it grieve thee) grant
I trumped never a man.
But truely told the naked trueth,
To men that meld with mee,
For neither rigour, nor for rueth,
But onely loath to lie.

[Montgomerie, 1585]

Phrase naked as a jaybird (1943) was earlier naked as a robin (1879, in a Shropshire context); the earliest known comparative based on it was naked as a needle (late 14c.). Naked eye is from 1660s, unnecessary in the world before telescopes and microscopes.

Now – read that little verse again. Especially the second and third lines:

“I trumped never a man
But truly told the naked truth”

I couldn’t resist looking up “trump”:

“”fabricate, devise,” 1690s, from trump “deceive, cheat” (1510s), from Middle English trumpen (late 14c.), from Old French tromper “to deceive,” of uncertain origin. Apparently from se tromper de “to mock,” from Old French tromper “to blow a trumpet.” Brachet explains this as “to play the horn, alluding to quacks and mountebanks, who attracted the public by blowing a horn, and then cheated them into buying ….” The Hindley Old French dictionary has baillier la trompe “blow the trumpet” as “act the fool,” and Donkin connects it rather to trombe “waterspout,” on the notion of turning (someone) around. Connection with triumph also has been proposed. Related: TrumpedtrumpingTrumped up “false, concocted” first recorded 1728.”

Need I say more?

(Don’t worry –  this rabbit hole is endless!)

 

 

 

Seven-Year Itch

Oh my goodness! Seven years a-blogging!

Baring my soul in a kind of fan-dance (or fandango?) to all kinds of strangers, skipping in and out of sanity with random thoughts, following twists and turns that lead me … to what?

Many of the blogs I began following seven years ago no longer exist, and I suspect that most of my 200 followers have also fallen by the wayside. Thank you to the faithful few who have become my unseen friends, and comment now and then just to reassure me that I’m not actually talking to myself.

There have been times when WordPress irritated and frustrated me so much I almost gave up, but then I returned to one of my original reasons for blogging, which was that it gave me a vent:  I was likely to bore the socks off my friends if I rabbited on like this in real life, whereas on my blog I can blah-blah-blah till the cows come home (which they are doing right now in this part of the world, and have been for the last few weeks, as there ain’t much nutrition left in the alpine pastures. A lovely sight, but sadly they don’t drive the cattle past my house as they used to when I lived up in them thar hills).

Anyway, here I am celebrating my seventh anniversary with WordPress: 570 posts and 3.4 k of comments! That’s a lot of words. And that is just for my Catterel site. My other site, with translations of Nelly Sachs’ poems, has only 104 posts, about as many comments and 16 followers (not much sense in following, actually, as I have more or less posted everything I’ve found) but it does get a lot of hits. So maybe I’m making a little impact, amusing or entertaining someone, or making someone think.

It was my daughter – you all know what a positive influence she has on me – who set me off blogging: she started her blog at The Little Washhouse, and I followed suit. Now she has set me another example by having some of her posts made into books, which is another service WordPress offers. Very nice they are, too, good quality paper and printing standard is high. Costly, though.

Anyway, I’m considering whether it’s worth doing the same. When I can rouse myself, when the weather turns nasty and I have to stop spending every second I can outside in the sunshine, when I am in the right mood … when I finally stop procrastinating. Or perhaps when I re-read my earlier burblings, I’ll decide to save my pennies to invest in true literature and finally buy a properly bound set of Proust.

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Kenavo, Breizh!

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It’s our last day here in Brittany. Tomorrow morning, we’ll close up the house, have a last look at the view, and wave goodbye till next time. Kenavo, Breizh! (which is Breton for au revoir, Bretagne!)

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The summer is officially over. The air was filled with shrill tweetings and twitterings as the swallows began assembling on the cables on Saturday, 1 September, having received the annual signal by whatever mysterious manner it’s conveyed to them, and are now clearly well on their way south.

Children, presumably also tweeting and twittering, returned to school this week, so the still sunny beaches are also now much quieter and calmer, as families are replaced by middle-aged ramblers, some of whom are following a section of St James’ Way to Santiago di Compostela which passes through here. IMG_2879.jpg

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The sky is still blue, the air mild, the sun bright. This is one region of Europe that has remained green during this year’s scorching summer, and although the hydrangea flowers are now fading and turning brown, they have been magnificent.

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Unable to resist the desire to record the ineffable beauty of the sun sinking into the sea, I have added many more photos to my already vast collection of marine sunsets (I bored you with some of these last October in my posts La Mer … Ar Mor and More of Ar Mor).

We’ve been busy, but have also had time to visit a very nice little Wool Fair in an inland village, that was worth the trip in itself,

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and my daughter has stripped the armchairs belonging to my father and mother down to their wooden skeletons, all ready to re-upholster sometime during her next visit,

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And I also managed to crochet a lap rug/shawl in soft blue wool that is perfect when the evenings grow chill. That is, of course, nothing in comparison with my daughter’s enormous pile of cardigans and sweaters that seems to increase overnight!

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IMG_2885Already subdued by the thought of departure, our mood is made more sombre by the sad news of the death of one of our neighbours, a kind and gentle lady who has struggled with ill health for a number of years, and recently seemed to be winning. Alas, she lost. And will be greatly missed. She and her husband have lived here for a very long time, and are very much a part of the fabric of the place. It’s a devastating blow for him; they have been a truly devoted couple.

Almost three decades ago, when we first came here, most of the houses in our little cul-de-sac were occupied by couples, some with children, others with grandchildren of much the same age, who banded together during the long French summer vacations for games on the beach or gatherings in each other’s houses. These children are now all adults, with their own families, and rarely meet up nowadays, taking their vacations elsewhere.

Those of us left, one by one, are all being defeated by advancing age. Widows and widowers where there were once happy marriages, their children or strangers taking over houses left empty. Our house, too, is following this trend, but in a cheerful, positive way: it now belongs to my daughter and continues to resound to the laughter and cries of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who are all equally attached to their Breton holiday home. Some of them will be here in the October half-tem break, as they were last year.

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But for my daughter and me, our summer holiday is over. The last load of washing is dry, rooms vacuumed, dusted and tidied, the outdoor furniture put away in the garage, and the car packed. Tomorrow, like the swallows, we will “fly” south. And hopefully return in the spring.

Time regained …

IMG_3243.jpgIt’s been a long time since my last post. I could offer excuses for my long silence, even valid reasons, but I doubt anyone is interested so I won’t. Among other things, I have been offline and searching for lost time.

I finished reading Proust’s masterpiece a couple of weeks ago, and although I skipped a few bits where his introspection got on my nerves (especially in the Albertine episodes), I have to say that on the whole I enjoyed it and I am very glad that I finally made the effort. I am feeling pleased and proud of myself for having persevered and achieved something worthwhile. It’s a good book!

Having reached the “Fin”, where the whole thing comes full circle and all the loose ends are tied up, I realized why I had so dismally failed with it first time around, and now I feel the need to go back to the beginning and read it all again. That’s one of the greatest compliments I can pay any author. I am also still looking for a complete set of the seven-tome novel at a reasonable price; some of the volumes were in a second-hand bookshop here, but at 12 € apiece, that is more than I am prepared to fork out for something that sits unread and dusty in so many French homes. I’m in France at present. I remain optimistic.

Proust’s theme of memory – voluntary and involuntary – has recurred, aptly enough, in my own life during these last few weeks. I have been spending time with my daughter in our Brittany home, where the pace is slow and time is governed by the tides.

img_2756.jpgWe have had some very sad moments, owing to the need to have my daughter’s lovely and very lovable little dog put to sleep. That isn’t something you want to have to do during your holidays, and obviously it has cast a pall over the last weeks. It also led to a time of sharing doggy memories and stories, as she had been part of our lives for over fourteen years and had caused a great deal of merriment and amusement in that time. Other pets came back to life for us, too, re-surfacing in old photos that I have been sorting through.

And not only pets: people also.

After we cleared out my mother’s house last year, we decided to keep some of her furniture and had it shipped to this house in Brittany, where it fits in very well. Also in the consignment were several boxes, bags and suitcases containing photos, letters and other papers that my mother had carefully preserved, some of them now over a century old, and since we have had a few dull days recently I took the opportunity of starting to go through these. What a revelation! And what memories were evoked – including some events that I had entirely forgotten, and others that my daughter was unaware of. All fitting in with my Proustian mood, of course.

My mother never threw away letters or cards. We had to get rid of hundreds of Christmas and birthday cards last year, but had kept some that we decided had sentimental merit for us, for instance, correspondence from my grandparents, all my twenty-first birthday cards, and the cards my parents sent each other with tender and humorous little messages in them. There are also documents relating to happenings in my parents’ youth that are interesting for our family history.

But Mom had also kept all my letters home throughout my years away at university and from when I was a young bride and mother in Germany. Since I am in this respect a chip off the old block, I had kept the letters from my parents to me over this same period, and at some point must have given them back to my mother for safekeeping (my ex-husband was the opposite: he trashed everything that he didn’t see an immediate use for, so my mother’s later letters have vanished).

Thus we have a dialogue covering the entire decade of the 1960’s, plus incidental commentaries on events in the seventies, eighties and nineties, although these are sparser because I don’t have my mother’s replies, and anyway by that time we spent more time talking on the phone than writing to one another so the narrative is interrupted.

How strange to find myself suddenly back in the persona of the young woman I inhabited more than fifty years ago, reliving all the stress, drama and agony as well as all the fun and happiness of my late teens and twenties! The world turns, times change, and so do we. In some ways, although I recollect most of the events and my feelings then, I have difficulty in identifying with that “me”.

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I have little sympathy for that young woman who irritates and annoys me. I don’t really like her and feel ashamed that I was so stupid, crass and egoistic. There are photos to go with the letters, and although I know it’s me, I feel she’s almost a stranger. I judge her very harshly, especially as I re-read my mother’s kind, sensible words and reflect on how fortunate I was to have such a wise and loving adviser – whilst at the time, I stubbornly pursued my own wilful ways. We alter gradually and imperceptibly, like everything else in nature.

Would I have acted differently if I had known how things were going to turn out? I look at my daughter – kind, loving, sensible and wise – and realise what a silly question that is. Change one moment, and everything goes out of kilter. No Things have turned out exactly as they were supposed to. I need to forgive that silly, heedless, selfish girl I used to be. Whoever I am now, she is part of me and I have to accept her. What would she have made of me, I wonder?

(Oh dear, in my daughter’s opinion, I haven’t really changed as much as I thought!)

Flying Elephant …

There was an elephant in my room last night. A pink one.

It flew in through the open French window at dusk, clattered about a bit and then hid itself where I couldn’t chase it out again. Seeing that it had apparently settlde down for the night, I gave up the hunt and went to bed myself.

This morning it was clinging to the inside of the curtain; I opened the window and poked my visitor out. It sat trembling on the windowsill, evidently traumatised, so I did what I would have done for a bee and gave it a large blob of honey. Maybe I killed it with kindness? Eventually it stopped fluttering and lay perfectly still, its nose and feet in the honey. Dead.

What a privilege for me to have been honoured by its visit. I feel quite sad that I wasn’t able to save this very beautiful creature. RIP.

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My gorgeous elephant hawk moth

Another elephant-related incident – a tenuous link, only because elephants never forget – occurred a few days ago. An old school-friend contacted me to ask, given my elephantine memory, if I could recall a song we sang in primary school (that’s over 60 years ago!). All she could remember was that Miss Stevenson had taught it to us and it contained the word Innisfree. As far as I was aware, we never sang Yeats’s poem so I knew it wasn’t that, but from deep in the swirly mists of my childhood arose a faint melody, flitting in and out of my consciousness but – like my moth – never quite catchable.

However, the following day I suddenly knew the title: The Flight of the Earls. Instantly, the melody returned and most of the words. Not Innisfree but Innisfail, the old poetic name for Ireland. I googled it, and found that it was a poem by Alfred Perceval Graves, set to a haunting melody by Charles Villiers Stanford. Neither name meant anything to me, but I was glad to be able to free my friend from her torment of forgetfulness.

What bothered me in all this, though, was that the name Miss Stevenson also meant nothing to me, although I distinctly remembered singing the song at school. My friend sent me a succinct description: “Grey hair, straight style, usually in grey clothes. lived till she was 102.” Sounds like a typical schoolmarm, but despite racking my brain nowhere can I find either an image of her or an echo of her name. The melody, however, lingers on. And so do the lyrics. I’ve been singing this old song as I go about my chores. Poor neighbours!

The subject of memory has been quite topical for me lately. In Sanibel library, towards the start of my vacation, I found a thousand-page biography of Marcel Proust on sale for two dollars. The size of this is commensurate with its subject, of course: A la Recherche du Temps Perdu may not be quite the longest novel ever written but it certainly looks impressive on a bookshelf (over 3,000 pages).

Now when I was about 20, my BA (Hons) course included a couple of trimesters studying the French novel. My reading list included hefty tomes by Balzac, Hugo, Zola, Flaubert, Gide – and of course Monsieur Proust, whereby the book on which we were to be examined was the double volume of Le Temps Retrouvé, which is the final link in the chain bringing the story full circle. That of course obliged us to read the entire set of seven volumes – no easy task in the limited time available – and it was competing with such heavyweights as Les Misérables, L’Assommoir (which is also one of twenty books in the Rougon-Macquart series) and my candidate for the most boring book ever published, Bouvard et Pécuchet.

I was able to boast truthfully that I had read all of Proust in French but I didn’t admit I had retained nothing! There just wasn’t enough time to digest all the imperfect subjunctives and unfamiliar vocabulary, and I was lucky in the exam that I was able to choose other works to write about. During the intervening half century, I’ve played with the idea of re-reading this magnum opus but – until now – it’s remained a vague idea.

Although the Proust biography was a bit heavy going for beach reading, I did manage to finish it (and bring it home for future reference), as it piqued my interest in Proust once more. Then I discovered I could purchase the version intégrale of A la Recherche for Kindle for a mere 2 euros! This time, I have the leisure that was lacking in my youth, the patience to linger over the notoriously interminable, serpentine sentences and the maturity to discover the charm, humour, profundity of thought, intensity of analysis, richness of language, the vivid evocation of la belle époque, and the sheer poetry of Proust’s account of his search for lost time.

I’m normally a fast reader, but here I have met my match. In four weeks, I’m only two and a half books down, four and a half to go, halfway through Du Côté des Guermantes. I know already that when I finally reach the end, I’ll have to start re-reading from the beginning to refresh my memory: maybe this is a project for the rest of my life! I think I will have to buy the hardbacks. Surely I’ll find a set in the brocante.

They will look very impressive on my bookshelf.

Done And Dusted

I didn’t become an alligator’s breakfast, and in spite of minor hiccups, got home safe and sound. I apologise for my long silence, but I have been quite busy and several posts are brewing in my head, which I hope will get written.

My main preoccupation throughout the months of April, May and June was the sale of my mother’s house. Aha, you thought that had gone through at Easter, didn’t you? My fault for misleading you, sorry. No, the poor house stood closed up, empty and steaming with damp while my buyer’s solicitor appeared to twiddle his thumbs. Not good for the woodwork.

The evident aim was to get the price down even lower than the amount my insurance claim covered, and in that the ploy was successful, but they shot themselves in the foot because it meant that mould and mildew set in. In the end, in spite of the haggling, the buyer will have had to spend just as much on repairs as if he had paid me the price originally agreed. But at least they didn’t back out, and the sale was finally closed, albeit very late.

It was a war of nerves, and being on the other side of the world dependent on e-mails for news of progress – or lack of progress and galloping deterioration – didn’t help. Thank goodness I had plenty to distract me there, including the alligators, and could count my blessings as well as my frustrations.

There were stupid mistakes made – for instance, the insurance company paid the compensation to my Swiss sterling bank account in euros instead of in British pounds, obviously unaware that in Switzerland we use Swiss francs. There was a shortfall of a few hundred pounds. Vigorous protestation on my part, defiance on theirs, threats from me, then eventually the final payment arrived on my birthday, 20 June, exactly 3 months after the deal was supposed to have been completed.

And there were minor issues such as the fact that my signature needed to be witnessed on the final contract. By this time, it was June and I was back in Switzerland, where the idea of witnessing a signature is totally alien. I wanted to get the documents posted back that same day, but who could I ask to witness my signature? My neighbours were all out, my friends in different towns.

I had the bright idea of going to the bank and asking the bank clerk to sign. Oh dear no, no, no – that’s a legal document as well as being FOREIGN, in English! Go to the Town Hall and get it done there. The Town Hall will notarise a signature and affix an official stamp, but that wasn’t what I needed and anyway they said I would need an appointment and it cost a small fee.

I was getting frustrated and irritated by this time, and in desperation went to the Post Office where I managed to persuade the young lady at the counter that she wouldn’t be compromising herself by watching me sign my name and then signing herself below my signature that she had seen me sign personally. Young and straightforward she was, and I blessed her for her good faith as she took the envelope with the precious document and added it to the pile of mail to be sent.

A week later came a request for the address of my witness. I didn’t even know her name, but in a flash of inspiration simply gave the post office address, which was accepted.

Completion date was set for 15 June, a Friday, and I spent most of the day trotting around in circles, checking my e-mails, eyeing the bottle of Prosecco promised for the celebration, reluctant to leave the house in case …. Until I got a message to say that the buyer’s solicitor hadn’t transferred the funds in time, and it was all postponed till Monday. If my hair hadn’t been grey to start with, it would have been by then! My reaction on THE DAY was a mixture of relief that it was finally all over, and grief. I felt a bit sick, a bit weepy, and was glad I was alone. Two days later, on my birthday, I was ready to celebrate. And did!

My former neighbour is a friendly chap and has clearly been showing an interest in the work in progress and chatting to the new owners, so this week I received a series of photos of the poor house gutted and stripped to its bare bones, minus plaster and all fixtures. Looks as if they are making a very thorough job of it, and it will be fine once they have finished, and it’s resurrected.  As England is having a heatwave, the house has probably also now dried out completely.  IMG_0957.jpg

The garden is a jungle, and I can imagine that, too, will be ruthlessly rotivated and all long established plants removed, including Mom’s beloved roses. That’s the only thing that is still giving me a pang of pain: as for the house, which has now lost all its character and quaint charm, my ties with it are now severed. I feel detached. I am glad to know it will be well restored. I really hope they do make a decent job of it and will be very happy in their new home. Maybe sometime next year I’ll be able to see what they have done.

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One of the little features that gave the house character and charm, now gone.