Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Yesterday there was a table of books outside

the newsagent's temporary Christmas "shop" in our shopping centre. I suspect most of them are "reps" copies. There was only one copy of each book and they were all marked down in price. There was even a copy of Bring Up The Bodies at about half the price I would pay in the bookshop at the other end of the pedestrian walkway. I did not buy it.
Next to it though was a small, slim volume with a French title. Anything in a foreign language will catch my eye. It is unusual to see anything like that here. We once had a foreign language bookshop but it closed. I used to buy bilingual picture books for my nephews and my godchildren in it.
My paw went out and I picked up "Les tres riches heures de Mrs Mole" by Ronald Searle. It is a gem. Oh yes, I bought it. I did not hesitate. I may need to eat table scraps for the rest of the week but it will be worth it. It was one of those rare finds. The sub-title to the book reads, "Forty-seven drawings made for his wife, Monica, each time she underwent chemotherapy."
Searle's wife had been diagnosed with a rare and virulent form of breast cancer. She was not expected to live, indeed the advice was to put here somewhere and let her die comfortably. But that did not suit the Searles. They had just bought a cottage in France. It needed to be renovated. That was Monica's job. She went for chemotherapy. Each time she had it Searle would give her another "Mrs Mole" picture. He knew of no other way to so well express his love for his wife - and that love shines through. "Mrs Mole" lived another forty years.
I have in my possession a letter my father wrote to my mother when she was dying. The hospital staff gave it to me along with a few other possessions. I have not told my father or any other member of the family that I have it. I have not read it. It is not mine to read but it seems wrong to simply destroy it while my father is still alive. My mother was not an easy person in many ways but my father loved her, still loves her and still misses her twelve years later.
I gave my father the book. He looked slowly through it as he drank his morning tea. There was a small smile on his face. I have no doubt he was remembering his Mrs Mole.

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