As I staggered down this morning to flick the switch on the kettle for the early brew of hot lemon, I caught ‘the look’ from Ruby, deep within her hiding place under the stairs as her gimlet eyes glinted up at me while winter’s dawn broke far across the distant hillside and the rising sun gave embodiment to her lurking shadow.
To be fair, it’s not that unusual for her to stare balefully at me at the first crack of sparrow’s hiccup. Her customary scowl is aided by her naturally hooded growth of eyebrows that sprout across her forehead like the Himalayas rising above India. We endeavour to control this issue by standing her on the wheelie bin once a month and, using the clippers, give her an all over number 3 grade. Apart from that one time when I gave her a grade 1 as the guard had come off, resulting in her being kept out of the sun for the next few weeks until sufficient regrowth had occurred. Poor Ruby. It’s a dog’s life for her for sure, but don’t feel too bad for her as she has the run of the estate here in French France as well as being taken out for walks morning and evening.
Why then was her figurative Eye of Sauron turned in my direction? Why was I being subjected to such wrathful malevolence? This was surely a mystery. Or was it?
Living here in the Loire Valley, in the middle of a field, accessed only by the farm track, you could be forgiven for thinking that many a visitor beats a path to our door in search of respite or refreshment. You’d be mistaken of course as even the UPS or Chronopost drivers tend to ring up and question the location of our humble abode. It’s as if the farm track is enough to put off even the most adventurous van driver unless they have spoken to us personally and gained validity that someone actually literally lives at the end of the drive that twists and turns, thereby successfully shielding the destination from the main road or from any prying paparazzi eyes.
With the inevitable hermitude that peace, tranquillity and the company of your own singular thoughts brought by this wonderful seclusion brings, becoming a recluse and withdrawing far from the madding crowd with the resulting lack of visitors or regular passing familial tribes, normal routines of personal cleanliness return to that of a more natural or basic level.
Put simply, a caveman state.
Grizzly Adams au naturel.
I’ve noted recently an increase in bodily fur from its usual summer downy sheen that feathers across the manly torso and has developed instead into a coat of many colours, proliferating to a plethoric depth reminiscent of auntie’s shag pile carpet. What once was sunkissed and hidden by the tanned physique behind it, now that the chill winter breezes have sent me rushing for thermal fleeces and quilted coats, the lack of sunlight upon my skin has removed all but the faintest traces of a dark brown glow and revealed a pasty version of former glories. I am exposed to the grim reality that along with the sun-bleached blond follicles there are now darker (and whiter) shades of pale. What is that all about? I can just about stomach white hair sprouting from the top of my head (where all hair should reside), but to not only suffer the loss of it from peak and crown, it is now instead appearing with gay abandon at unseemly lower levels! Chest laid bare (as to view further south would incur having to admit to wearing spectacles), growth that has lost all its melanin is now proudly announcing itself to all and sundry where before none would dare!
What is it with the advancement of years that brings with it an ignominy such as this? In my head I’m still only 26 years old even if my body is shouting (and sprouting) a different story. The seizing joints, the kidney stones, the rising blood pressure et al I can cope with as they tend to keep themselves under wraps (one doesn’t like to mention the odd war wound from a flailing chainsaw), but to make such a flagrant and visible display of ageing infirmity is beyond the Dulux equivalent of a whiter than white shade of whiteness.
Give me a break! The oil painting in the loft is overworked and underpaid for sure!
But no, I will not resort to the recolouring chemicals that turn the dignified and distinguished into a laughing stock, but instead I shall bare my breast to the storm and let nature claim what once was not, but now most definitely is with quiet resignation.
To not beat around the bush, or to delay the inevitable, I shall therefore confess the reason as to why Ruby gave me such a disdainful and reproachable look today.
Two years out here away from the Colonies (or Commonwealth as it is now called) in French France, the necessity for deodorants or shaving have been somewhat pushed to the rear of daily ablutionary devotions and as the annals of Life’s Rich Tapestry will inevitably show, time waits for no man and, left to one’s own devices, this particular man will happily revert to Neolithic tendances where the only important virtue to hold on to is the state of ‘hunter gatherer’ rather than whether or not my bodily fragrance is a shop acquired eau de cologne or one sweated out in the manly pursuits of renovation, restoration and recuperation.
I have finally gone native! I appreciate it may come as a shock, but there it is. The olfactory receptors in Ruby, being between 10,000 and 100,000 times better at sniffing out a nasty niff than mine, will not be denied. She can twitch her little wet black nose as much as she likes, but there can be no hiding from the truth. She knows it and, to be fair, even I know it!
Visitors will need to give good notice of imminent arrival lest the greeting at the gate is one of revolted recoiling at my odorous putrefactive aroma rather than one that is joyous and welcoming!
Carry On Regardless…
(The winter hair coat will have to be severely dealt with at a later date when the weather warms the fertile landscape once again).