Old lady Cautions and Inspires
Old lady, Sophie snorted to herself reflecting on the previous evening’s comments made by Bea who was perplexed at why her workers loved to visit her.
A little while later, Bea joined Sophie in the kitchen. ‘Today the gardener comes. I wonder what mischief he will cause today?’
‘Oh, was that the guy who chopped down all the trees? Sophie frowned. ‘You better tell him to be careful around the few new shoots with the only fruit he’s left us.’
‘They don’t take notice of an old lady.’ Bea’s tone was sardonic and for a fleeting moment, her dancing blue eyes looked tired.
‘They do when you have to teach them because they’ve never been in a garden. My Brazilian students just want work and want to learn so that they can take on more gardening jobs.’ Bea’s fifty-four-year-old Australian niece was keen to encourage her ninety-three-year-old aunt to assert her authority.
‘But I don’t want the stress of supervising. I just let him do what he wants, though I did chastise him after he cut off all the branches. He said that it was all dead wood and wouldn’t listen when I told him how much fruit we’ve had every year all summer.’ Bea pointed at her leg. ‘But with four months resting my leg after surgery, I’ve not been able to climb down the steep steps to the little meadow to point out what to do.’
‘Yes, supervising is tiresome, I agree. Plus, you end up doing way too much work yourself.’
The doorbell interrupted their conversation. ‘Here is Giovanni. Coming.’ Bea sang as she skipped to open the garage door.
Sophie smiled when she heard Bea speaking in the melodic tones of French. On seeing her niece, Bea instantly switched to English. ‘No Giovanni yet, but this is my cleaner, Marie.’
‘Hello, how are you?’
Marie gave Sophie three kisses on her cheeks. ‘Nice to see you again,’ said Marie, confirming Sophie’s belief that they had met the previous summer.
‘Yes, and I remember you speaking English with me last year. Good to see you.’
‘This heat!’ Marie fanned herself.
‘Yes, just these past few days it has been so sudden, but I love summer.’ Bea chimed in. ‘However, mid-30s after the previous week only reaching 15 degrees is hard to take.’ Bea ushered Marie toward the door to the small hallway and the lounge room. ‘Well, we’d better get started before the gardener arrives.’ Bea then switched to French.
A few minutes later, Sophie’s aunt returned to the kitchen, and this time misfired on the language channel change. ‘Ja, ze zal de hele dag praten, maar ze is een heel aardige mevrouw.’
‘Yes, she is a lovely lady. I remember her from last year; she is very friendly and keen to practise her English.’
‘Oh sorry, I should be speaking English to you.
‘Dutch is fine, Tante Bea. Just don’t speak French to me, please. Would you like me to buy you some more champignons at the market today?’
‘Yes, just a small box, please.’
‘OK, I’d better get a move on before the markets close.’ Sophie took her jar of chopped vegetables upstairs marvelling at Bea’s dexterity with three languages. Poor Alida; language was her nightmare and seemingly her downfall in Canada. At least she didn’t have to negotiate with workers when she was an old lady.
Three-quarters of an hour later Sophie rushed into the kitchen. ‘Oh gosh; I forgot the bus goes only once an hour, and I want to walk to the border stop because the fare is cheaper there.’
‘Would you like Marie to take you there?’ Bea offered. Sophie smiled in relief, anticipating the hard walk back uphill having to push the trolley bag and carry her backpack heavily laden with vegetables. ‘Oh! Music to my ears Tante Bea. This Fibromyalgia chronic pain punishes me if I run too much.’
‘How soon do you want to go?’ Bea asked.
‘Any time after the next five minutes, thank you so much.’
Bea went to Marie in the lounge, then re-entered the kitchen, ‘Marie is happy to take you. Here she is. OK, have a lovely time and much success.’ The switching between melodic French and flat English depending on whom Bea spoke to was seamless. Bea was born in Holland but had moved south of the border forty years previously. One neighbour was French-speaking, the other Dutch.
On arrival in the village, Marie hopped out of the driver seat to open the boot and said goodbye to Sophie with three kisses on alternate cheeks.
Later in the afternoon, Sophie saw Bea hoeing out weeds in her vegetable garden in the hot sunshine. She raked the weeds together, then bent down to pick up and put the weeds into a bucket. Sophie longed to offer to do it for her, but Bea wouldn’t hear of it, always protesting that she would have nothing to do, and would get fat and lazy.
The doorbell whirred long and hard. Clearly Bea couldn’t hear it, so after the third long ring, Sophie opened the door to a man of similar age to herself who couldn’t speak a word of English or Dutch, just French. However, she managed to establish that he had the right house by pointing to the surname on the doorbell and went to get Bea.
‘I think it’s the gardener.’
Bea muttered as she trotted to the door. ‘Oh hello. You are so late.’
‘Parlez Francais, s’il vous plait…’ the gardener pleaded.
‘Zeg, je bent zo laat, jongen,’Bea sang in her native Dutch.
He shook his head, ‘Pourriez-vous parler Francaise?’
‘Oh, sorry…’ Bea then jousted in what sounded like fluent French with the gardener, who leaned against the wall spinning some yarn with a cheeky grin on his face.
Bea re-entered the kitchen after directing the gardener.
‘Tante Bea, it’s no wonder all your workers love to come to you. It’s obvious as I watch you laugh and play with such witty humour in whatever language the person you are speaking to prefers.’
‘Oh, I don’t know about that. Perhaps they just want to take advantage of an old lady.’
Sophie laughed. ’There is no way anybody would pull the wool over your eyes. Just being so aware of this risk ensures that.’