A trip to France aged 8. On the ferry with my parents, I feel sick in my stomach and in my throat. I feel it rising like the waves tossing the ship around as we approach France. My father gives me red wine, he thinks it’s a good idea, he is laughing and seems happy, I take sips of the rough sharp juice to try to please him, but I don’t like it. I feel even sicker afterwards. My mother isn’t happy with my father but he doesn’t care, he thinks he knows best, laughs at my discomfort. Then in Rouen in the little hotel by the roundabout, the strange breakfast of milky brown coffee and almond croissants, just one each, I’m hungry and anxious.
We stand on the little balcony, high up; I look out over the roundabout, at the cars going around in circles. I feel as if my head is going around in circles too. We are called to the dining table. There is a large, starched white tablecloth over a beautiful shiny polished wood table. Marie-Helene, the lady who owns this flat, is very thin; her hair up in a tight pleat; she speaks a little English. Does she know my father has been sleeping with her daughter? I do not know this but I do know something is breaking.
We eat pale yellow tree hearts in oil with lemon juice. They are served in the middle, like islands, on large polished white plates with pink and gold edges. It is very strange food; I wonder how they could kill a tree just to get a little tiny heart out for a human to eat.
Then I remember Sologne, the big country house beside the forest, the big hunting lodge with animal heads and large wooden tables. Outside the ponds and the paths covered in millions of baby frogs all going in the same direction in the storm, when I emerge from the pond with my cut finger pouring with blood and my parents have gone away, I run crying into the lodge but my mother isn’t there…I find the old cook who is strict, stern, speaks no English, but she dresses my finger.
Then we go into the forest to look for the local delicacy, the yellow champignons. We have baskets, we walk amongst trees planted close, grey, brown, rustling with leaves and deer and goats with blue eyes. I find the mushrooms; we eat them for dinner, cooked slowly in butter. They smell of the forest floor. The next day I make friends with a baby goat. I love his smell. Part of me disappears.
Kate Walters 2020
Memories of Father or the Male in the White Dream by Kate Walters is currently on show at Tremenheere Gallery as part of Edge of Dark, and can be seen till November 1st, 2020.