A Bay Leaf from Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace

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Tom, the bay leaf I’m putting in this boeuf a la mode was plucked from a tree growing in the garden of Tomas Hardy’s birthplace,’ Catherine called from the kitchen. She did not really expect an answer and indeed none came from Tom sitting hunched over his typewriter, so she went on, almost to herself, ‘I wonder if it’s wrong of me to use it for cooking? Perhaps I ought to have pressed it in Jude the Obscure, or the Poems, that would have been more suitable… Those sad couples he writes about seem to me a bit like us, sometimes…’

‘I don’t know what you are talking about, sweetie,’ said Tom in an abstracted tone.

Catherine turned back silently to her beef. Oh what a joy to get a real calf’s foot from the butcher, she thought, and not to have to cheat by putting in gelatine. The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things


From Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym,  1955