|Comrade Kotsky, the cat of our Russian friends|
Dinner guests are extraordinarily generous. Where nothing, beyond their excellent and entertaining company is required, they arrive at the hall door all too often bearing gifts of flowers in profusion, fine wines, wickedly luxurious chocolates and, on one occasion, much to our delight, a stuffed boar's head. Only last week Zoli and Viktor surprised us with a miniature herb garden, carefully and immaculately planted in a terracotta pan all ready to be placed on our outside walkway. Instant gardening, without work or worry!
|the herb garden as glimpsed through the window of the Back Hall|
In similar circumstances, no more than a week or so back, we became the happy recipients of Saul Frampton's latest book, 'When I am playing with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me?'. The title, as many of you will now have guessed, comes from the writings of that most splendid of Renaissance essayists, Michel de Montaigne, who, in 1570, gave up his work as a magistrate and retired in isolation to a tower of his chateau convinced that there was "no new pleasure to be gained by living longer".
|Saul Frampton's book joins others on a table in the Main Hall|
But, in this self-imposed solitariness, Montaigne comes to reject much of the thinking of the sixteenth century and embraces a philosophy where life is to be lived actively, rather than passively, and where, as he discovers, there is to be found a "power of the ordinary" and a "value of the here and now".
So, if we are to learn from Montaigne, as indeed we believe we must, then it is the everyday life which is what matters and which counts above all else. And this may be interpreted in all manner of ways: "the touch of a hand, the smell of a doublet, the flavour of wine, the playfulness of a cat", to draw on a few of Montaigne's own examples.
|'When I am playing with my cat.....'|
For each other, learning to live as we do with the uncertainty which leukaemia brings, the message of Montaigne, explored so delightfully by Saul Frampton, is one which we endorse wholeheartedly. And of everything, it is friends and friendship [with or without gifts] which we value most highly.