La Tendresse

(with thanks to André Bourvil)

I have no stomach this month for commentary on the digital world. Coded, pre-fabricated, self-serving and self-fulfilling.

Fortunately, there is much else in life. A gentle lilt d’autrefois caresses my ears. It is La Tendresse sung by André Bourvil. Take a moment if you will, to listen to its words, to which I humbly append some of my own below.

I am driving to work on a Tuesday having spent Monday at home with a stomach bug. I’m still a bit delicate, tender; normally mild odours remain pungent, gentle movements jolt, subdued light glares. And the disgruntled murmuring from my midriff continues.

I am at a pedestrian crossing near the station. On the kerb side a schoolboy draws up on his bicycle. There is a squeal of brakes and another bicycle judders to a halt behind him. The boy’s father, a man in his forties with less bike control than his son, topples over his handlebars onto the kerb, upending both himself and his mount. The boy emits a concerned cry, “Daddy!”. Shaken and red-faced, the father rights himself and remounts, smiling timidly in a general direction. As the lights change to green, the boy gently guides his father into a side street to regain composure.

Half a mile later, as I turn into St. Giles, I notice an elderly couple outside the Taylor Institution. They are motionless, wrapped in amorous embrace, lips touching. Enfolded in each other’s arms, they are oblivious to the world. My car tracing the broad arc of the turning gives me a sweeping, cinematic view of them, emphasising their stillness and calm.

I continue on my way. Traffic builds up and progress slows to a snail’s pace. My windows open, I am party to snippets of conversation, small gestures and interactions. Two ladies, I guess in their fifties, glance in my direction. One turns to look closer. Her face lights up in an impish gleam and she gives me a vigorous thumbs-up, apparently delighted by the vehicle I am driving. “Fascinating!” she declares.

As I approach the car park, the tenderness I still feel is now of a different nature, prompted by the expressions of human emotion and dignity that I have witnessed. The best antidote to daily digital drudgery.


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