Belaud was three months old when he entered my life, but he died in 2019. When I first saw him I thought there could not be a lovelier kitten.
However, for the first two weeks, Belaud was in mid-air. He was flying. I think he was nervous. He didn’t know me and he had just left his family. I could not go and meet Belaud, but the breeder sent me a picture of his father, Tennessee, and she told me Belaud would look like Tennessee. His mother was an aristocrat. She had a very long name.
Belaud was my second chartreux. There was a previous Belaud: Belaud I. Chartreux look almost the same, but my first Belaud was more dependent on me. Everytime I left the house, he looked worried. Fortunately, he was with Mouchette. They played together. They were lovely to watch. My house was not very large, but it had more space than we needed.
This is a strange time in history. There is not a single chartreux available in Quebec. I would have to fly to France to find Belaud III, but even French breeders have been affected by Covid and I could not afford to fly to France, not at this point. The markets are fluctuating.
The above photograph was taken in Magog. Magog is less than a half-hour drive from Sherbrooke. Chartreux enjoy cars. The law demands that cats be inside their carrier, but with chartreux, the carrier protects the chartreux, not the driver.
I did not live in this building when Belaud was adopted. I wanted to move, but decided not to do because I was not feeling well. I lost the former apartment to a dishonest realtor and an unconscionable lawyer. I asked the lawyer to phone the realtor and explain that I wasn’t feeling well. It ruled out moving to a new home. I didn’t pay his bill. It was the beginning of emphysema. It causes shortness of breath, but it is not a great obstacle.
This building I live in is perfect for an aging woman, but it is a smaller apartment and it needed and still needs renovations. Moreover, it could not accommodate hundreds of books. So, I have missed my former apartment. And now I miss Belaud.
I am looking for a third Belaud, but I may not find one.
The war in Ukraine has not ended, so I believe this will be a humble Christmas. The days are getting shorter and the light will return.
I have been unable to write for the last few days. Nothing could be done. I have long suffered from what is now called “long Covid.” It developed when I caught a virus that caused Chronic Fatigue Syndrome /Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, an illness I never recovered from. It could have been depression.
My siblings and I had a dog and several cats during our childhood. We learned to love animals. But as an adult, I kept a cat or two until Belaud’s death. I have been looking for another Chartreux, but there does not seem to be a breeder in Quebec. Chartreux are difficult to find. Belaud was Belaud II. He was my second Chartreux. Having a cat alleviates depression.
My most intelligent cat was not a Chartreux but a brown tabby who was an Einstein in the cat world. Mouchette was a small cat born in the dead of winter and had lost part of an ear and part of her tail to frost. She never grew into a full-size cat, but I could not see the slightest imperfection in her. I was amazed when she picked up a mushy ball and brought it to me so we could play ball. I have been thinking of her. Dear petite Mouchette.
My students knew I had a cat and were pleased to hear that I was not alone in the blue house. Teachers do not tell about their private life, but students like to hear that their teacher has a cat. They called her my sidekick.
L’École acadienne de Pomquet
I am still thinking about language laws. Outside Quebec, there are no language laws. Students living in large cities may enter a French immersion school. These schools are often described as “private schools within the public system.” They reflect the work and findings of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and the ensuing Official Languages Act of 1969. The Official Languages Act of 1969 was revised in the Official Languages Act of 1988. These acts do not address education, but the passage of the Official Languages Act of 1969 led to the development of publicly funded French immersion schools and summer immersion programmes. Canadian Parents for French is an association that has encouraged learning French from coast to coast.
I’m about to work again, but life changed drastically today (29 November). I took my cat Belaud to his vet. Cancer was diagnosed. Dr de Vette (that is his real name) thought the only humane thing to do was euthanasia. Belaud was the French chartreux who was my constant and beloved companion since 2008.
He had stopped eating several days ago, drank smaller and smaller amounts of fresh water, and he wouldn’t eat his treats. The last two nights, he didn’t sleep on the bed. This was unusual because he was always as close to me as possible.
I took him to the vet’s knowing what I would be told, yet hoping I was wrong.
Dom Garcie de Navarre and Les Fâcheux have both been considered Précieux plays and both are a discussion on jealousy. Is jealousy a sign of love or is it destructive? The question was discussed in Salons, one of France’s major cultural and social institutions. Salons have now closed. In French seventeenth-century salons, questions d’amour were dissected by men and women. Topics discussed in salons changed from century to century and, to some extent, from salon to salon. In earlier posts, we have seen la carte du Tendre, the map of love. It appeared in Clélie, Histoire romaine, a novel by Madeleine de Scudéry. The Map of Tendre was engraved by François Chauveau. In Dom Garcie de Navarre, jealousy is as we have seen it in Molière’s Amphitryon. The seventeenth-century masterpiece on the subject of jealousy is Madame de La Fayette‘sPrincesse de Clèves, published in 1678.
I’m so sorry my little Belaud has left us. He was affectionate, quiet, friendly, and always happy. He had been with me since he was old enough to be adopted and ran my life in a manner that suited us both. Belaud was named after Joachim du Bellay‘s Belaud, also a chartreux.
I have not been able to write due to various house chores. I haven’t quite finished settling down. In the past, I settled into a home in a matter of days. This time, I will have to hire professionals or spend years settling in. How humbling!
You may remember that I lost my voice on 11 December. It has now returned, but it is different. X-rays revealed emphysema. I could not believe my doctor. I have never smoked and I can breathe ‘normally,’ so no treatment is necessary.
I nearly lost my driver’s license, but for reasons other than emphysema.
However, given that my license could be taken away. I bought an apartment located close to a little market. Just in case… The little market has everything I need. I have been told I qualified for a service dog, but Belaud said no.
My cat Belaud was delighted when I discovered a painting featuring a chartreux sitting on a lady’s lap: artistic roots. French poet Joachim du Bellay had a chartreux named Belaud. When his Belaud died, he wrote an extroardinary epitaph entitled Sur la mort de Belaud. As you know, I share my home and life with a cat named Belaud. Belaud is a pure-bred French chartreux. I named my chartreux after Joachim du Bellay‘s Belaud. Du Bellay’s Sur la mort de Belaud is a long poem I would not attempt to translate.
Belaud Portrayed & Elevated
Belaud has literary roots, but the J. Paul Getty Museum has a painting featuring a dignified lady, nose up, holding her precious chartreux. Artist Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (French, 1715 – 1783) is not as prominent a figure as Joachim du Bellay, but we owe him the portrait of a chartreux, and images are immediate. Upon analysis, we may find that a picture is complex, but in the case of Perronneau’s portrait, we know we are seeing a lady, Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, holding her beloved cat, a chartreux.
Because of this portrait, chartreux have acquired greater stature. A cat protrayed is a thousand cats. Moreover, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau depicted a chartreux sitting in the lap of the distinguished madame Pinceloup de la Grange. I told Belaud that a portrait of a chartreux had surfaced. “Well, mother,” said Belaud, “I knew. We cats research our ancestry.” Mme Pinceloup de la Grange’s chartreux could indeed be Belaud’s ancestor. However, my Belaud does not wear a collar because he is not a threat to birds. He would love to be hired to chase away various rats, “gros rats.” In fact, one gentleman offered him a lucrative contract: “toxicity” said the gentleman, “toxicity! It will be the Black Death all over again.” The gentleman died a few weeks later.
Given their profession, chasing rats, chartreux are large and very robust cats. Fearing the cold, they wear two coats of fur. I should also mention that they enjoy sitting with their legs extended forward and that they sometimes cross their legs, as though they were dogs, or human beings. They may be referred to as blue cats, but they are grey cats. The light, however, may make their fur appear blue and even mauve.
The chartreux and their British Blue relatives have a round face, large cheeks, a permanent smile and yellow to copper eyes. I should also tell you that Chartreux are very quiet. Legend has it that their silent owners, Carthusian monks, taught them silence. Belaud purrs, but he is otherwise absolutely silent. A long time ago, I read they were brought to France by crusaders. Were Carthusians crusaders?
Du Bellay’s epitaph on Belaud is very long, but very rich. Besides, du Bellay is a better-known figure than monsieur Perronneau. He was a member of La Pléiade, a group of stellar poets who are the fountainhead of poetry in French. Poet Pierre de Ronsard (11 September 1524 – 27 December 1585) was a prince of poets, un prince des poètes, which is not insignificant, but he is famous for a carpe diem poem. In one of his Sonnets pour Hélène, he enjoins Hélène to love him dès aujourd’hui, as of today, life being so short. There was an Hélène whose gentleman friend had died in a war. She was not in the least interested in Ronsard, but Ronsard’s poem is unforgettable.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.
Italy was the first refuge of Greek scholars. As for painters, Christians, they fled to Russia, carrying icons. Constantinople had been a Holy See for Eastern Christianity. We know about the Great East/West Schism, 1054. The Vatican is Western Christianity’s Holy See. The Eastern Church would have several Holy Sees, called Synods.
The arrival in Italy of Greek scholars may have led scholars to look to Antiquity and learn Greek. The Renaissance, however, saw the emergence of the vernacular, the mother tongue.
Yvonne de Gaulle in a London kitchen (Getty Images)
Chartreux are often compared to British blue cats. There is a resemblance, but the two breeds differ. The snout of British Blues does not point forward as much as the snout of chartreux. Consequently, British Blues have rounder faces and larger jowls. Belaud’s face is round, but his jowls are not as prominent as the jowls of his British cousins.
I was able to gather precious information about Chartreux and British Blues. My very bilingual Scottish friend, Francis, was hired to go between English-speaking Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle, who spoke French, as D-Day was planned. How did Francis survive being a go-between to such men? De Gaulle would not always agree with Churchill and he communicated with the Free French Forces, Forces françaises libres which he led beginning on 28 June 1940. L’appel du 18 juin (1940), a radio broadcast, the BBC, gave hope to the French. France had defenders: the United States and the British Empire. Churchill was at times livid, said Francis, discreetly. We have learned since that De Gaulle told the Forces françaises libres that Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne would be used in the planning of D-Day. Verlaine is un prince des poètes, but Chanson d’automne was a code.
Obviously, sharing the code was dangerous, but I wonder whether Francis had a role to play in the Querelle des Chartreux et des Bleus britanniques. He would not have told me. But truth me told, a querelle des chats took place in the thick of a devastating war. The British wanted to mix the Chartreux with the British Blue and De Gaulle would not allow the national cat of France simply to vanish. Later, Yvonne, De Gaulle’s wife, gave her husband a chartreux which le général called Gris [grey]-Gris. Gris-Gris probably had an aristocratic name, but le général called him Gris-Gris. Gris-Gris followed De Gaulle from room to room.
Charles Baudelaire by Étienne Carjat
Writers Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, and Charles Baudelaire also adopted a chartreux. Belaud’s mother was a Sidonie de… I cannot remember the rest of her name, but his father was Tennessee. The cat she called la dernière chatte (the last cat), was no doubt a chartreux.
This post is a shameful coq-à-l’âne (jumping from one subject to another). The coq-à-l’âne had a terrible reputation, but now that marginalia is all the rage, I’m saved. However, I will close proudly as Belaud is all over this post, un fil conducteur, a link, carrying weight.
Alllow me to introduce Belaud (as in “down below”). He is a chartreux, France’s blue cats. Poet Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560), a member of La Pléiade wrote an exquisite poem on the death of his cat Belaud: Sur la mort de Belaud (on the internet).
I have been Belaud’s happy hostage for three years.
Belaud is a rather large cat, a big potato on four toothpicks. This is a borrowed description now firmly entrenched in both oral and learned (i.e. written) tradition.
Tis Summertime (my thanks to Gershwin) so, on sunny but somewhat breezy days, Belaud spends time sitting or lying on the balcony, surrounded by large pots of flowers. I keep the door ajar so he may run back to the safety of the indoors when he senses danger.
Can he run! If I have been absent for several hours or a night, no sooner do I enter the apartment that he turns into an arrow, run towards me, and starts climbing. I quickly pick up this furry person and sit him on my left shoulder. I tell him that he is a beau Belaud , the prince of éviers (kichen sinks) and lavabos (bathroom sinks).
Belaud enjoys curling up inside various sinks and, at night, he plays hockey in one of the bathtubs, using Gertrude, a rubber ducky, as hockey puck.
Belaud also loves the sight and sound of gently dripping water. The best we can hope for, says he, are small pleasures. As you can see, that Belaud is quite the philosopher and a nosy one.
His hero is Agatha Christy’s Hercule Poirot. The two have a lot in common, including accent and boastfulness.
By the way, Belaud is a musician whose favourite work is Rhapsody in Blue. As a blue cat, he relates to anything blue. Once again, I we have Gerschwin to thank.
You may have guessed that Belaud is also a writer. You are absolutely right. He even has an email address given to him by John. He can be reached at email@example.com. “Snoro” is North-American French, perhaps Ameridian, for beloved “rascal.”
Write to him, but please do not mention the current debt-ceiling crisis. Belaud is forbidden exposure to any and all x-rated material. He is a child.