October 10, 2009
Kate told me about Corrine’s cupboard on one of our walks, or rather mentioned it in passing. The pebble plunked and the ripples continue.
I don’t know Corrine, have only met her twice and both times she made a good impression. Corrine is the only French woman I know over forty who doesn’t dye her hair. And she has a magnificent cupboard. And a ready smile.
Kate told me that Corrine has a treasure trove of things she has made herself in that cupboard. It is her lavender scented haven of hand-stitched, hand-sculpted and home cooked.
I met Corrine at the Fete de la Literature or some such thing. I was as heavily pregnant as the menacing clouds that threatened to ambush the event. She was surrounded by flags of phrases, a jolly bunting of other peoples inspiration and she asked me to write something.
I looked blankly at the page with its clothes peg next to it just waiting to flap around with the others. Nothing came. I reached into the mush that my brain had become, up to my elbows, and came away with nothing. I decided that this was the defining moment when, with one pregnancy too many, my body had dried up the words to use the energy for a more mundane task. Peeling potatoes perhaps. I paused for a moment longer, perversely fascinated by how vacuous that space had become and was saved by a flat plop of rain. I told her I would try to put some words on paper for her sometime and then tried to remember what I had come to the village to do in the first place.
Months later Kate told me about the cupboard and I was filled with admiration. I started to make a mental list of all the things I would put in such a wondrous place. Obviously old bleached linen would have to figure, as would hand made candles with an extravagantly high percentage of bees wax and secret essential oils.
I had a stab at making soap recently and would like to have my stockpile in my cupboard. I will have to have a section for baby soap and one for soap with coffee grounds and honey, witch hazel and rosemary and other soap-specific enclaves for spontaneous presents. Of course, once I have the cupboard I will be fiercely organised about birthdays with my stack of hand made cards from the recycled paper I regularly dry in frames in the garden.
As we currently live in a house without a garden we will need to move to accommodate the cupboard.
I am grateful to have kept the card from the goat-woman who sells mohair once a year in Cotignac. She has all the allure of one of her protégée but her hand spun wool is ethereal in its lightness and fabled for its jewel colours. Obviously the cupboard has an ample supply of her mohair and my knitting needles will stand to attention on the inside of the door in obedient size order.
I am not much of a bottler and pickler but think that some vin des noix would be mandatory. A neat row of bottles nestled in the bottom shelf gloom. Madame Poitevin has been telling me she will teach me how to make it for ages. She also wants to show me how to kill a defenceless rabbit with one graceful chop to the neck but I will pass up on that.
Each of my children will have their quilt made from treasured clothes they have not wanted to part with.
All the wool my mother asked me to bring back from Zimbabwe, the bottle green from my school jersey, the blues and pinks from successive grandchildren, will be magically transformed into a crocheted blanket of intricate balance and elegance.
My portfolio of photos will have to be on the top-shelf .
Family albums of course will all be kept in there. All 15 of them. I know there are 15 because they will be labelled and stacked chronologically.
I have a huge lock on this cupboard. In fact this is not a cupboard, it is just a faux-antique which is actually a safe. This is because it will contain pens, sellotape and a pair of scissors. These are all of the utmost value in our house.
I met Corrine for a second time just last week. I told her that I was going to write a story about her cupboard, the promised words. I will put the story in her letterbox. She was highly amused by this and invited me to see her cupboard.
I thanked her but said “No thanks”.