I have started to read Le Ventre de Paris by Emile Zola. Anyone who loves food markets will love the detailed and colourful description with which this book opens. An escaped convict arrives in the Les Halles food market of Paris soon after its completion in the 1870s. Starving and almost dead from exhaustion, he is been given a lift by a market gardener, while it is still dark. Her horse-drawn cart is stacked with carrots, cabbages and turnips. Left to himself amid the mounting piles of every variety of foodstuff, in the flickering light of oil lamps and the din of vehicles and traders, he is befriended by an artist, who is captivated by the atmosphere of the market, and knows all its corners. I mark this passage because it sets the scene so well. "His stomach gripped by hunger, Florent, heard the enthusiastic words of the artist. It was clear that Claude, was not thinking at all of the beautiful things as nourishment. He loved them for their colour".
Memories stir as a result of an email from someone whom I haven't seen or heard of for, it must be 4o years. It takes me back to the time when I was working on an engineering magazine called Mechanical Handling. We occupied offices in a little road off Covent Garden in London called Bleeding Heart Lane, and we were looking for a temporary secretary. The agency sent Vivian, as I recall, a slight girl, with long, straight, black hair and a very white complexion. Because we were desperate from someone of her caliber, and because she came from so far away and looked so amazing, she seemed like something out of a fairy tale. She was Canadian, and it turned out that she had missed her plane home from Heathrow. Because her ticket was for a chartered flight, she had no means of getting home. For the next few months she earned the money for her fare, and we had the benefit of her hard work and friendship. She reminds me, in her email, that she, her brother and a friend of her brother spent Christmas day with me and my family.
In another tree in the Grove, another football hangs among the branches almost at the top.