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Reading Aloud 2

Paul

I saw Paul for the fourth time within three weeks. We nearly had a few minutes together on our own, my family had gone out for half an hour to watch fireworks, I having promised to keep Paul happy in case he came before they had returned. However, he was late and we missed that chance and have to wait for another one.

I have to keep communicating with him by writing, I normally manage to slip a piece of paper into his pocket unseen. He calls it ‘notes’ and has paid me compliments on them. Since they are of an explosive nature, he has to take good care of them. I have to put them away, he said when my husband had disappeared for a few moments to fetch drinks, I can’t keep them in pockets, too exposed. But I read them several times over before putting them away. I was pleased to hear he did his homework properly and wondered what he meant by ‘putting away’. Something stopped me from asking him. There was no chance for further comment, anyway.

He had come in order to practise some music for a concert the following day. When my husband became tired, we left the piano and sat down for a chat. I read them a little poem composed by our youngest daughter during her history lessons which were dealing with the crusades just now. The children’s teacher, after having given them examples of crusading songs, had invited them to make one up themselves. All the necessary material had been provided during the lessons. Here is what she produced :

A Crusading Song

1° All you servants of Jesus,
Now awake and come away,
For God and Jesus in Heaven above,
You will win a place in Paradize,
If you go on a Crusade.

2° God will lead you all the way,
He will protect those who are brave,
If you don’t go on a Crusade,
You will not win a place in Paradize,
It is worth fighting for.

It was the funniest poem I had read for a long time and I was sorry to see that Paul and my husband didn’t laugh as much as I did. I said : this is what they learn at school ! The gentlemen pointed out there was nothing wrong with that, the pupils were learning what the crusaders believed. I asked, were the children told that this is a wrong belief ? They answered it is difficult to assess other people’s belief or even judge it. I said, it is not a matter of belief, but of facts. Power … I was getting into a grey area now, Paul warned me. I told him ‘belief’ takes us into a grey area, not facts. The fact was that power was at stake, no more and no less. And human beings were promised paradize for fighting for worldly power. The Muslims do the same, my husband assisted, no difference between them. And yet, this is what they learn, good Christians and wicked Muslims. Tendentious teaching. What is the object of teaching history ?
The conversation stagnated at this point and in fact the subject was dropped. My husband was visibly tired and I had to send Paul home much to my regret. However, we would meet next day at the concert.

It was a lovely concert in a small village hall whose walls were covered with wood, good for acoustics, I heard. The air was hot and dry with all the people present and the Choir nearly raised the roof. I thought I had grown out of male voice choirs, but obviously not yet. I liked the look of them and how they enjoyed themselves singing, singing with feeling, Paul told me later, ‘Les plaisirs sont doux’ among others. They sang it in French, with quite a good pronunciation.
Paul’s solos came over very well. Three songs sung in three different languages, united by the same theme, he explained to the audience, one about a secret love in German, one about unrequited love in English, and one about a lost love in Welsh, this one causing a certain amount of amusement, Paul read the words in English first, because of its quaint philosophy : Two lovers have a beautiful time in the summer and are heartbroken in the winter, having lost one another. The sagacious poet concludes with the words : had they been married in the summer, they wouldn’t have lost one another in the winter. Paul sang them all very well and received a lot of applause. After the concert we had a chat with him and one or two other members of the choir and came home later than expected. I asked Paul to get me two copies of the choir’s latest cassette recording. He said he would and also promised to be in touch about arranging a visit for us in their house.