Saki. My enduringly favourite writer, maybe because there’s so much truth, life and wit in the stories, however fantastical. Take this evening, for instance.
We had decided to have our evening meal in the garden and Zerlina had asked for cheese soufflé. I prepared some raw vegetables and cheese for them to eat while it was cooking, as they were very hungry, and told them that, as soon as the soufflé was cooked, we had to rush it outside as it would collapse within minutes. And so we sat and ate it in due course, and then I fetched ice cream and the cakes we’d made earlier in the afternoon and we chatted and enjoyed the evening sunshine.
And then the bullock arrived. A young male calf, quite small, rather anxious. When he saw us, he turned to go back down the drive. So I told the chidren to stay put, grabbed a walking stick – I must tell you about that walking stick one day – and legged it down the other side of the drive, to cut him off before he could go back to the road. I also took the precaution of shutting the house door and not asking for help, which were the mistakes Adela made in The Stalled Ox. He turned, I opened the gate, followed him – it didn’t take long to stop him, turn him again and he was glad to go into the safety of the meadow.
He’s not Johnny’s calf, he belongs to the farmer who owns the field across the river. The cattle drink from the river and, when the water is low, it isn’t unknown for a few to get lost and come up the other side of the bank. He must have walked about 500 yards along the lane and the road, it was so lucky he’d come down my drive.
I couldn’t find the farmer’s number, so phoned ‘my’ farmer and let them know, then rang another friend who, I know, is a good pal of the owner of the calf, and he promised to get in touch. And then it was time to take the children in for a bath and put them to bed.
I don’t know, it’s hard to be sure what I want from life. I mean, I just dealt with it and it was quite fun, not alarming – though it would have been worrying if the little guy had gone on the road – Roses is away for the weekend and my grandchildren are too small to be expected to be of practical help … but still, I didn’t need help. I coped and actually I took it in my stride. And do I actually want routine? The Mappined Life, you might say?
A woman I knew once told me complacently that she had an idyllic life, but it sounded pretty dull to me. No obligations or responsibilities, ample money, no work and few interests, lots of acquaintances but social friends rather than real ones, it all sounded rather bleak – but I recognise that my life is odd and wouldn’t suit many people.