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As Portia fades, so do I

Little by little, step by step as the French say, my life is being whittled away here in the countryside.

Whether what's being discarded will leave in its wake a honed, wiser woman or a diminished, slightly lost soul is a moot point.

Is it an inevitable progression of aging and lessening work, or is it the fact I have placed myself far, far from all that brought me comfort?

The other night, watching some glossy dross on television, I had a flashback to one of many holidays I've enjoyed in remote, semi-exclusive places.

I "remembered" the feel of Indian Ocean white sand under my feet after leaving a restaurant where gentle waiters anticipated my wants before I knew I had them.

I remembered walking with unthinking confidence through city hotel lobbies up to cocoons of fine linen, room service and marble bathrooms with baskets of body smoothing oils.

My life, for a price, was in the hands of others - those who would smooth my path and solve all problems encountered.

My earnings created a similar world allowing me to walk out of my door to wherever, knowing all would be taken care of until my return.

Bear with me here. It's been a while since I was so self-indulgent or shallow - take your pick. Perhaps both.

I'm well aware of how fortunate I've been and, in truth, continue to be. At least I've enjoyed such times when many if not most have not and never will.

Yet I find it extraordinary that now my life has been simplified by both my surroundings and circumstances, I am discounting so many aspects of "before".

Unless I'm reminded of how life was, as I was by that programme, I almost accept how life is now, while caviling against it daily. And then, as is the way, when bad times happen, oh how I wish I could return and give thanks for my previous bored discontent. Return to this, my present life.

My only focus these days in many ways is Portia. Once again I'm awaiting the vet on his almost daily visit, as she lies, troubled by sudden frailty, an inevitable result of old age and the fall-out from her accident.

Her inertia and too silent presence casts a pall over the house and leads me to all these dark, troubled thoughts even though it is still daylight and the sun hints at the spring to come.

I cross too many bridges while still, hopefully, far from them, and with too little to occupy me, they loom way in advance.

While Portia is still breathing, I see her gone. I see myself roaming through an empty house with my last companion missing from the story.

I berate myself for my anger at her wet paws all over my newly changed bedding only a mere 10 days ago; and now would happily see her rip the sheets to pieces should she want.

This is what happens when all is whittled away, pared down, and there is a lack of purpose in one's daily life.

So, to stave off the coming visit I shall think of the good of the paring; the perverse pleasure in no longer seeking the material excesses, the desire for the new.

In the past, on going into older people's houses I was always struck by their seeming attachment to ancient televisions, ugly toasters and kettles, battered sofas and never changing rooms. The "well, it works" always baffled me. It might but it had grown ugly and sleeker, more advanced models were available.

I knew many had the money to buy such, so it seemed both odd and miserly to forsake the joy of the new.

It rapidly became clear that in rural France such words and actions were not just the preserve of the old.

While jealousy may show its face at the purchase of land, it rarely stirs for the sake of new cars, flat-screens or glass-fronted extensions. Indeed there is the implied suggestion that showing one's wealth is not just vulgar or crass, it is stupid when the taxman is always looking to add value.

Such thoughts leached their way into me and now too I look at a too large microwave or a worn rug and ask myself just one question: "Does it work?" And think no more of it.

When paint flakes off the walls and bits of wood drop off the shutters, I merely shrug to myself, having no desire, no need to sort the problem out.

Of course, were there a pot of cash and a willing, reliable workforce then I might stir myself into action. I might, but then again none of it matters. None of it.

And that is what I am still learning here on my way to being both a wiser woman and a lost soul. I am learning to whittle away the unnecessary.

It's most unlikely I'll every fly to a remote island again and walk on hot white sand. But I don't need to. I accept it's been done. I just need this banality - and, above all, Portia - to continue a little longer, please.

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