Timothy Tim has ten pink toes …

I was bewildered by all the blueness shining out of people’s faces – dark blue, pale blue, medium blue,grey blue, mild, gentle, fiery, blazing, cold, piercing, heartwarming and very blue indeed some of them when their owners are feeling well and the sun is shining . Eyes ! I had never seen so many blue eyes before, combined with dark hair as well, which is rare in my country and considered particularly attractive. My own children are blue-eyed, of course, their father is English … In fact, none of them resembles me much …

The Wigmaker under Louis XV - Drawing by Dargent  The Picturesque Shop (1862) -  Private Collection

Some people have red hair. I am fascinated by the different shades that exist, from a voluptuous copper to an unbelievably bright fire, adorned with green ribbon ! One of my daughter’s friends gave a speech about the “disadvantages of having red hair”. I rather like this girl’s hair colour.

Apart from eyes and hair – I must not forget those charming old ladies with silver, blue and pink hair; the same colours you find in cakes – I can see checked shirts, with checks of all sizes, woollen ties, bright red ties, Aran coats, which I duly imitated, knitting some for my family, trousers sometimes torn and stained, shoes sometimes unpolished, raincoats sometimes with a button or two missing and marks of uncertain origin; clothes with rather worn knees and elbows, split seams; a rubbed-through bottom I once saw on a professor; laddered stockings, rags for handkerchieves; wellingtons, wellingtons for adults – the first present I received in England from a caring lady was a pair of them too big for her – welly boots for children. Oh how much I appreciate all this ! It enables me to follow my own inclinations unnoticed, which is more than I could have done in my own country ! I do believe in getting maximum wear out of my clothes, wear them year after year, wear them out in fact, certainly the ones for rough wear. I like the expression “there is a bit, some, quite a lot, a certain amount, not an unreasonable amount, etc. etc. of wear left” in a piece of clothing, and when that is gone, it might still do for a jumble sale … What is the point of laddering new stockings in the wood, having the dog’s marks on lovely coats – the children want the dog when I meet them at school ! – , spoiling delicate, if fashionable shoes in country lanes ? I believe that most English people will be sympathetic. After all, what really matters is inside the clothes ! One will, however, find that people on the continent do not quite take this view. I remember being shocked by an Englishman many years ago on a camping site in Italy. He drove up in a flashy car  and got out, only to expose a large tear in the vest he was wearing. Of course, some creatures are always immaculately dressed, like our cat in his shining ginger suit, or our dog in his long jet-black coat, showing a bit of very clean pink belly.

What is there inside the clothes then ?

Nowhere have I been kissed on my cheeks, hands and lips as much as in this country. They are a very kind and loving people, and they frequently put this into words. In fact, one of the most common words in my experience is “love”. The butcher, who still does not know my name, greets me with “love”, so do the greengrocer and his wife as well as the coal merchant, fishmonger and most uncomplicated and straightforward people whom I meet for the first time. Some people show a little more distance by using the word “dear”, like the postman to whom I said that I was dismayed at our dog having bared his teeth to him; “so was I, dear”, he replied..

Here is a little list of names I have been called since arriving in England : Duck, Honey, Darling, Lovely, Sweetheart, Star. I particularly like the last one. What can one do in the face of this but smile and buy anything these charming people suggest to one ?