Friday, 15 June 2007
The Elderly Retainer
Out walking Mollie yesterday, we tried a new path outside Porth Navas, a small creek along the Helford river. Walking up a long, muddy bridlepath surrounded by acres of ploughed fields, we looked through a gap in the hedge and there was this elegant granite farmhouse. Was it the inspiration for Navron, the house in Frenchman's Creek? It was the right part of Cornwall, after all. I gasped, could see the Frenchman striding across the graceful lawns at ten at night to meet Donna for a secret dinner. I could see the candlelight flickering, see the trusty William smiling in the shadowy hall.
We walked round the corner, and I crept up to the garden, beautifully manicured lawns, flowerbeds carefully maintained, but no one in sight. No sign of Donna, or her noisy children, or the sulky nurse. I couldn't hear the Frenchman in the distance, working on La Mouette in the sleepy creek.
No cars, no four wheel drives, no one. The empty silence of a June afternoon. Heat steaming from the hot earth.
I looked round, edging forward, and came face to face with a large, elderly fox who shrugged.
'Pah,' he said, 'this is my house. What are you doing here?' and continued his leisurely stroll towards the hedge.
This wasn't in the Du Maurier script and I looked round, bemused, wishing I had the camera. Having emerged into reality, (always a mistake) with a jolt I was worried about what would happen when Foxy met Mollie.
'Tea!' I could hear him cry, baring his mangy teeth and licking his lips.
Foxy met me the other side of the hedge and watched me disdainfully as I scurried round the corner to waylay Mollie, running towards me. While she's a good Irish farm dog, bred for ratting, she's never actually met a fox before. Foxy versus Moll - who would win? I wasn't going to find out. We scooted back to the safety of the lane and I stopped, looked back. There was Foxy, the Elderly Retainer, and I could have sworn he smiled at me.