Chere Julie, dear Jules. (Part 14)
Jules Lablagues xx
Ma chere Julie,
I have just received your letter and felt that I should write back immediately in order to still your fears about our forthcoming meeting. We will not be meeting for the first time, that happened the day you received my first letter. It might even be thought to be earlier, when I read your advertisement for a penpal in the Brineham Herald. I feel sure our meeting in person will only serve to strengthen the feelings I have for you and I may even underestimate the true depth of my affection.
Please do not deny yourself the pleasures of the table for my sake. While fruit and vegetables are very necessary, they cannot raise the spirit in the same way as a fine roast joint of meat served in its own juices or a game pie. When I see you for the first time I want you to be rosy-cheeked and merry, not wan and undernourished. Relax and surround yourself with friends, each day must be lived for itself.
I am sorry to hear you are having difficulties with the wedding dress. Do you know someone who could help you? Jacqueline says that she wishes she was there as she is an accomplished seamstress and has made many dresses, some of which have won prizes and awards. Her charity work and fund-raising activities have, of late, kept her too busy to sew but she says that she misses it and understands the pleasure you derive from it. From about the age of nine until fifteen or so she made all her own clothes. She always dreamed of having a boutique on the Champs Elysee in Paris where she could display and sell her creations but now her life is devoted to helping others and she has put aside personal ambition.
My father is looking very much forward to meeting your father and he is sure that the food at this particular restaurant will both astound and amaze him. They try to re-create the high table at an English Lord's castle about a thousand years ago and it is very effective. Smells of stale clothing and poor sanitation are generated and the only lighting is fire. A black bear dances in the middle of the room and if you throw it a piece of meat it comes and licks your face. It is a private restaurant but my father is a member and is allowed guests. If it was not a private restaurant it would not be allowed to serve Steamed Mute Swan.
It is such a shame that there will be no room in the car for your beloved mother. I would very much like to have met her as well. If you wish, I could send a car from my cousins' house to collect her. It would be no bother. Consult your parents and if they are agreeable I will dispatch a car on the 2nd. Buckinghamshire is so beautiful in August. Your mother will find the air very recuperative. If she wishes to stay for a few days I am sure it could be arranged. There are always a lot of empty rooms at the beginning of the month so accomodation would not be a problem. My I suggest you do your best to convince her that it is in her best interests to take a few days off and relax. At the house she will be treated as an esteemed visitor and everything possible will be done for her. She will benefit from sitting down to a meal that she has not, herself, prepared, for, as I understand it, she does all the cooking in your house. Maybe I am wrong and you and your sisters also prepare some of the meals but you never write about it. If you are able to cook, what things do you prefer preparing?
Jacques exhibits all the traits of a toddler and we have to keep and eye on him at all times. Most of the time he plays happily on the floor with his bricks and cars but he seems to have no sense of danger and, at times, we have to protect him from himself. We have hidden all the sharp knives and put a wire guard in front of the open fire. He occasionally throws a tantrum but this is to be expected. His hand-eye coordination is not yet very good and he finds it frustrating when his towers fall down when they are only four bricks high. He likes one of us to play with him as he gets very bored by himself and I often spend an hour or two helping him construct towers with his bricks. He likes nothing better than to wait until I have placed eight or nine on top of each other and then knock them down. He seems never to grow tired of this activity and laughs heartily every time. I grow tired of it much quicker than he does.
Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to be one of your neighbours and to see you on a daily basis in the street or at the social club. From what you say, I believe I would fit in very well into the neighbourhood. The people seem very friendly and I am sure I would get along very well with them. The people in the villages near us are not very friendly at all. I rarely need to go there but when I do I am subjected to insolence and outright rudeness. All of my family receive the same treatment. It has always been like this. Sometimes they throw rotten vegetables at us but are careful not to be seen doing it. We have no idea why they dislike us so much but we have learned to accept it.
It is wonderful to be able to write to you and when I remember my life before you came into it, it seems empty.
Please write back soon,
With great affection,
13 Beach Street
My very dearest Jules,
Thank you really much for your letter. It takes two or three days to get here and I have to remind myself that what your talking about happened two or three days ago otherwise I thinks its happening now if you knows what I mean. I got all your letters in a shoe box under my bed but its getting a bit full and I'm thinking of putting them in a ring binder where I can read them like they was a book. Some evenings I dont watch much telly and I reads all your letters from beginning to end.
Do your really mean it about sending a car to pick up my mum. She would be really chuffed and love it really but at first my dad was completely against it but when she said she was going anyway he said alright she can do what she wants. Then he said that if you was sending a big car then there'd be room for all of us and the dress and there'd be no point in taking his own car because it would be a waste of petrol. He wants to know if he can be driven back the following day because he's got things to do down her and cant stay away too long. If this is not possible he will drive his own car. He told me to tell you that.
Sharon and Keith had an argument about rich people and poor people and Keith said there wasnt much difference at all. He's been on benefits since he left school and only works when he feels like it and says thats the same as rich people although theyre not strictly on benefits but they got their money without working for it. Sharon said that rich people got their own money while them on benefits is getting other peoples money. Then my dad says that he's paid in all his life and he's entitled to all that he gets and more. Keith said that the rich people stole all their money and stuff from the poor people and Sharon said that the poor people didnt have nothing to steal because if they did they wouldnt be poor would they. The Keith says that the poor people didnt used to be poor until the rich people stole all that they had. My dad says that he talks like a communist. It went on for the longest time and everybody joined in. Its not the first time we talks about rich people and poor people. Keith usually starts it and its usually when the Job Centre calls him in for an interview about what he's doing about finding work. Theyre starting to threaten to stop his benefits.
Sometimes when I thinks about meeting you I feels all confident and just as good as anybody else and I am really but I dont always feel it. I know I got nothing to be ashamed of and I can hold my head high. My mum says I am a good person and good people should be welcome anywhere. I know this is true but a lot of the time I dont think I am good enough. I'm alright for around here where everyone knows me and I knows everyone else. Theres no use pretending your something your not around here because they soon puts you in your place. I could knock on any door in this street and borrow a cup of sugar or something and theyd all know me by name and a lot of them went to school with my parents. They seen me when I was running around in nappies and when I had my dress tucked into my knickers when I was skipping. I cant pretend to be other than who I am with them but its going to be different with your cousins. They dont know who I am the way people around here knows me. Thats good in a way because around here they never lets you forget anything and they still reminds me of that time I wet my pants when the dog chased me. Thats nice in a way but its a bit like they dont really let you grow up. They reminds you all the time of who you used to be and what you used to do. At your cousins place youll be the only one who knows a bit about me and theres lots you dont know. I hopes they likes me.
I wish you were one of my neighbours and that would be really nice and you could pop in whenever you wants to for a cup of tea and a chat. I could invite you around for a meal. Your right about my mum doing most of the cooking round here but it dont mean that us girls cant cook. Sometimes when mum is doing overtime down at the social club like serving behind the bar or helping out in the kitchen I cooks the meal and its ready for her when she comes home so she dont always eat her own food but mostly I suppose she does so I think it would be nice for her to have a proper chef cook for her. When I cooks I usually does things like sausages with mashed potatoes and cabbage and sometimes I makes gravy to go with it. I'm not what youd call a fancy cook but what I does always gets eaten. Sometimes I makes a cake but they dont always turn out right but we eats it anyway. Nothing gets wasted in this house and if we dont eat it Keith will. He eats anything.
The Comtesse Jacqueline de Montfort sounds really good at dressmaking and I wish I'd never said nothing about wanting to make dresses. I feels a bit stupid now after all I said about wanting to be a famous dress designer and I cant even make a proper pattern. Mrs Bowhay from number 39 used to make her childrens clothes when they was small and knows how to make patterns but when I showed her what I was thinking about she wanted to change it into something else and showed me a pattern she already had from a long time ago. It looked like a milkmaids dress out of a childrens picture book and nothing like what I wants. I sits and looks at my design for hours but I really dont know where to start. Then I feels so bad I eats loads of things I'm not supposed to like chips and fried bread. I know you said I shouldnt bother with a diet but I really wants to lose some weight. My mums really lucky because she can eat anything and she never puts on any weight. When she's down cleaning the social club shes allowed to eat anything she likes and she stuffs herself on sandwiches and crisps and she still stays really thin.
Its only weeks away now and I cant think of nothing else except meeting you. Your the first person I thinks about in the morning when I wakes up and I kisses your photo last thing at night. All day I goes around thinking about things I will tell you and making up questions to ask you. I really should have a note book and write it down when I thinks about it because I am sure theres lots of things I'll forget to say. I wish it was tomorrow that I sees you so that we can get it over and done with because I gets more and more nervous every day and by the time I gets to see you I'll be a nervous wreck. I've started biting my nails again and its years since I done that.
The problem is I dont know what to expect what with you being foreign and everything and I dont mean that in any bad sort of way. If I was going to meet Joe Bloggs from Bolton then it wouldnt bother me that much because I'd know what to expect. When I advertised for a penpal in the newspaper I didnt expect someone to write to me from another country so it came as a bit of a surprise that I wasnt expecting. It was only the local paper and you cant buy it more than about 30 or 40 miles away so I thought I would be writing to someone around here. Some days I gets so scared about meeting you that I thinks about dropping the whole thing. We could still carry on writing to each other and we wont spoil it by meeting each other. What do you think.
Please write and tell me all your thinking as soon as you can so I'll know where I stands.
Love from your little bit worried friend,
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