Mme El is not one to stand on ceremony, neither does Léonine, it is this or that or yes or no, full stop. We were proceeding from her room to the salon, the daily exercise, and she told me to fetch her reading glasses for her. This made nearby Léonine tell her in a far-reaching voice and in no uncertain terms to be ‘polite’, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, use the appropriate tone! I protested that I hadn’t taken anything amiss.
It has to be ‘thank you’ for a detested glass of water which Mme El then downs with contempt – in order not to uphold the delivery of her dinner.
In the past I witnessed Mme El trying more than once to be polite by saying ‘thank you’ when the afternoon coffee was being served, but she gave up in the end for lack of any detectable reaction I don’t blame her.
Mme El doesn’t say ‘thank you’ nor ‘please’, never has done, she tells me, as little as she ‘pardons’.
If nowadays Léonine demands obedience, so did Mme El and this from everyone under her sway, I’m sure, in her time, issuing commands straight to the point, in clear language and no fussing around, dispensing with niceties, always and everywhere the young generation had to do as told by the old one. Where the commands unreasonable? They must have been related to the running of the house and the farm,
Mme El’s priority. She herself had never been allowed by her grandmother to go out, join the others when there was a dance or merry-making somewhere – she told me more than once that she didn’t have a ‘youth’ in the sense of enjoyment or gaiety – , but her own youngsters liked to go out to musical events and didn’t they come back late sometimes?! Yet the work in the morning couldn’t wait and she mercilessly stirred them out of bed, she explained how: with the broomstick against the ceiling knock, knock, knock!
There is a different regime, now, a different commander in charge and obviously grandchildren and animals must do as told.
Mme El was attached to their cows, she said, but the family didn’t eat them, they were sold and that was the last they saw of them. I ask, was she attached to their pigs. Yes, she was, is the answer, more so than her husband who, wary of mischief, never went near them without a stick, as opposed to her father who wasn’t afraid. But you were willing to eat those, I point out. She smiles, no doubt at the thought of delicious hams and pâtés, those were the times and a pig’s a pig. What about horse meat then? She says that’s a very nice meat, in fact preferable to beef. Her father loved it and regularly brought it home, but ‘Mémé’, her grandmother, wouldn’t have to be told, she would have refused to eat it, much as she loved meat and big portions of it, too, she liked her food, Mme El tells me raising her eye-brows.
I gave her the prepared lunch, Léonine being absent, and soon after she complained about being ‘hungry’. However, I was able to prove to her that this was impossible and that really she simply liked eating! She couldn’t counter that. Her next option is to be combed, she loves the massage, can’t get enough of it and says that it takes her mind off other things. 
Talking about life and its less pleasant aspects, she ended her observations with the Oc cal rigola!’- We must take it with humour ! I thought this was good enough to be written down in her diary which she did, asking me to spell cal for her.
I had joined my hands and she wondered was it to pray. I said it wasn’t and pointing to her joined hands returned the question. She answered ‘je ne sais pas prier’- I can’t pray. Eh ben, tant pis!