Culture Humor

Hanging Out With Aristocratic Cats

A humorous collection of memorable meetings with cats of the noble class.


Photo: Boripat Lebel

While strolling meanderingly through the neighbourhood, this late afternoon being particularly pleasant and accommodating for such physical activity, I espied Cornelius from afar, his Garfield fur a beacon of attention. He was sitting on the pavement in the manner befitting a king of the savannah. Thus I walked over in his direction to pay my happy respects. As I neared his position, he glanced at me with his large and bulging golden eyes. It was a penetrating stare. However upon recognizing a smiling face, Cornelius descended onto the road, rolled over and slithered on his back as if unsure which side to sleep on, all the while yawning and looking up at me with expectation. His worshipfulness was requesting a belly rub.

Random Cat

Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

This fierce cat is giving those who dare approach its pedestal a Medusa glare. The kind of stare that launches a thousand ships away in retreat. Indeed, this little lion is a pet worthy of belonging to a Greek Imperator.


Photo: Boripat Lebel

It was a hot late afternoon, the kind of weather where the heated air just melts the sunscreen off your face. Because of this warm climate, Duchess, the most aristocratic cat in the neighbourhood, was not in the mood to receive visitants; instead she remained in her private boudoir, where air conditioning and other expensive creature comforts accommodated her languorous respite. Not being able to get an audience with Duchess, I thus walked a few blocks over to see if Cornelius was in a more reciprocal mood and willing to put up with guests. Sure enough, I found him in front of his abode, tanning on the road in a soporific fashion. As I approached, he rolled over onto his back and turned his head to look up at me with expecting eyes. This was his way of greeting people and invite them to give him a sedating belly rub.

Random Cat

Photo: Boripat Lebel

Unlike Duchess, the neighbourhood’s fabulous aristo-cat who has her own private balcony, this little lion under the car is down-to-earth, somewhat literally, and is as shy as a mouse.


Photo: Boripat Lebel

Cornelius lounges languidly atop the column of an entry gate that closes off a derelict abode, unlived-in for decades, as far as memory and observation can recall and be relied upon. His pose is that of a formidable and regal Lion, worthy of holding the following titles, admittedly inspired by (and a parody of) Daenerys Stormborn from the sanguinary TV series Game of Thrones. Thus, I have the honorary pleasure of introducing to you, “Cornelius Blizzardborn of the House Cervantes, First of His Name, Leo, the Unrivaled, King of the Mammals and the First Animals, Panthera of the Great Grass Land, Breaker of Necks, and Father of Cubs.” As intimidating as all that sounds, he is actually a very good-natured house cat, quick to slide himself up against a friendly leg, and flip over for an agreeable belly rub. That is, on most days to be sure. Today he just turned to look at me lazily and yawn with fangs, apparently as bored as the Lord of the Iron Islands.


Photo: Boripat Lebel

Cornelius was feeling rather grumpy today, an uncommon emotion for him who was usually unmoved by negative feelings. It was the weather that had put him in this frame of mind, that had put a frown on his face and annoyance in his eyes, which was the color of ominous gold. The climate of the past week had been a sequence of downpours, most depressingly wet, and when not pouring water, the sky was covered with clouds as grey as dark marble. All of this consequently obstructing his hours of sunbathing; an occupation he practiced daily to pass the time in luxurious languor. The other cats in the neighbourhood too were upset by the gloomy inclemency that had befallen upon the entire province. For instance Duchess, the most worthy cat in the district, simply refused to go out anywhere at all, remaining indoors instead, lest the humidity disturb her fur. Suffice it to say here, the forecasts did not please anybody; for it prevented many from making a number of public appearances.

However besides the elements, another factor conducing to Cornelius’s unhappiness was the reformulation of his favorite salmon-infused pellets; whereby the chefs at the company had assured its customers, by sticking labels all over the packaging and appearing in grandiose commercials, that it was an improvement of the original recipe, but which Cornelius of the House of Cervantes could not disagree more passionately. He was of the opinion that it was a most distasteful change. But alas, he did not know what to do about the matter, for his influence only went so far in the world, and thus he resulted to scowling the pain away instead.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

If I had to guess the name of this cat I would say Duchess. Because judging from her bearing, she is obviously an aristo-cat.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

It is a balmy afternoon. Duchess is perched languorously on her private balcony. She is wearing her favorite emerald pendant. Her lunch was satisfactory. She is presently in a mood the French call ennui. It is a state all aristo-cats succumb to after a luxurious meal.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

Today the weather was most disagreeable. Duchess thus decided to not venture out to lounge at her private balcony, for the inclemency would surely ruin her gorgeous fur, which was the color of a Himalayan crocodile Birkin bag by Hermès, and instead spent the afternoon on her private shelf in the library of the château. Feeling cultured, she wore a ruby red necklace for the occasion.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

This balmy afternoon Duchess received a visitation from her friend and confidante, Countess, the creamy fur aristo-cat on the left. The two great ladies engaged in a private tête-à-tête over a dish of milk, on a private windowsill overlooking a colorful garden carpeted with redolent flowers bought from a nursery specialized in culturing blooms of the exotic variety. Duchess wore her yellow sapphire necklace for the occasion.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

It was a rainy day, and the crying inclemency proved to be very disagreeable to Duchess, the most aristocratic feline in the neighbourhood. For this reason, she was not expecting any visitants from her friends, and so did not dress herself for such occasion. However, in the mood for a melancholic walk under an umbrella in the rain, thereby at one point I passed by the abode of Duchess, where it dawned on me to risk the impoliteness of dropping in without an agreed appointment. Unknowing of her mistress’s unsociable feelings, the maid let me into the salon, which commanded a view of the staircase to the apartments above. Hearing the commotion below, Duchess meandered down the steps and poked her head out between the balusters to see what the maid was up to now. When she saw yours truly, her curious frown turned into an expression one adopts when seeing a frightening apparition! She was most alarmed indeed. And I was most ashamed of being the cause of her distress. I apologized to her profusely and made many promises to never repeat impertinences of this nature again. We remain good friends, I think.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

Today my wish was granted. Well, my wish for the day, not life in general of course. You see, dear reader, yesterday afternoon I went to the abode whence resided the object of my infatuation, Duchess, the most beautiful cat in the neighborhood (and world!). Alas, she was not in the mood to humor my passions, so I had no choice but to return home in the manner of a dejected lover. Today I tried my luck again, and the Moirai sisters must have been in high spirits, for the Fates granted me the opportunity to pay my attentions. Though I was told by the maid at the door that Countess was also present. I was a little disappointed by this news, to be honest, for I desired a private audience with the queen of my heart. Speaking of the heart, it skipped a beat when I entered the salon; for there she lay, reclined on a Persian cushion, in the manner adopted by Madame de Pompadour for her portraits by François Boucher. I was spellbound by this exquisite sight. Words failed me. She on the other hand, looked at me with aristocratic indifference. But she was looking at me! and that was all my heart needed for the day.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

The temperature was rather cool this morning due to the consecutive days of inclement weather, whereby the opaque heavens above shielded most of the sun’s caring warmth from exciting the atoms in this part of our glorious province. Thus, Duchess, the most fabulous cat in the commune, which was becoming increasingly affluent, evident by the recent purchase of a Maserati a few abodes down the street, wore her electric blue cashmere sweater for the chilly occasion. The hue matched her wondrous, aquamarine eyes beautifully. However, still feeling the crisp air, yet not in the mood to be wrapped in heavy layers, for that would compromise her agility, but more importantly, hide her voluptuous figure, she therefore set forth in search for a place to snuggle in. Looking into every nook and cranny of her residence, a modern Petit Trianon, as large as it was elegant, and worthy of belonging to a Peeress of France, she found many spots where she could lay in aristocratic languor, but none however, felt perfectly right. Upon entering the kitchen, she spotted an empty box on the table. Not sure what overcame her senses, for she did not have a history of capriciousness, she was suddenly struck with the oddest of ideas, and, somewhat compulsively, against her better judgement to be sure, put the thought into action. A few huffs and puffs later she found herself centered squarely in the box, and felt, strange to say, very comfortable in it. In fact, the silliness of her situation instead of being a cause for blushful embarrassment, actually put her in a very good humor. “Every aristo-cat,” thought Duchess, smilingly, “should have fun once in a while.”


Photo: Boripat Lebel

While promenading the streets of my neighborhood, strolling idly by gardens of frangipanis and ylang-ylangs, their floral pheromones embalming the air with a heavy honeyed scent, I serendipitously came across Cornelius of the House of Cervantes. He was lounging on his usual platform, atop a column of an entry gate that closed the path leading to a two-story mansion unoccupied for some decades, and which at midnight, would have made for a realistic horror movie set, or a suitable lair for a Delphian disciple. Anyway, it was his habit to sit there (like a lion statue guarding the entrance to some important building of historical significance) during the late afternoon hours; basking his Garfield fur in the last rays of the day’s sun, his eyes half-closed, adopting the expression of regal indolence.

So happy was Cornelius to see my handsome face, that he subsequently rose and shook off the lazy languor that had set in a delightful while ago, descended from his pedestal perch, and jogged in my direction with good nature and an air of familiarity. After greeting him in fond tones (adopting that voice one does when speaking to cute pets or human babies), the worthy little leopard responded by climbing up onto my feet, and stood on it for several minutes, seemingly comfortable with his new place of rest. Suffice it to say here, I was most flattered and felt decidedly appreciated by his display of warm affection. If only Duchess, the aristo-cat of the neighbourhood, and a long-time muse of yours truly, displayed the same kind of acknowledgement; methinks I would be over the moon with joy.

Aside from standing on my feet, Cornelius also rubbed himself on my leg several times, walked around me, and rolled onto his back for a belly scratch. A quarter of an hour later, we went our separate ways; both parties feeling happier than before the meeting had taken place.


Photo: Phimphakan Lebel

Countess: “I think I have something stuck in my teeth.”
Duchess: “Let’s see.”
Countess: “Ahhh.”
Duchess: “Too much, sister. But I think I see something.”
Countess: “What is it?”
Duchess: “Hair.”

Culture Humor

A Peculiar Exchange in the Kitchen

The Big Bang Theory
Photo: CBS

I sit at a table; my stomach is ready to partake of a mouth-watering soup. But suddenly a figure looms over me. There’s an awkward pause: me, bowl in hand, tilted at a perfect forty-five degree angle; she, black bangs, brown skin, blue eyes, cake of makeup, salmon cardigan, short black skirt and pair of green Converses. To avert another second of uncomfortableness, I abort my immediate mission.

Once the bowl is set down, I become professional and initiate conversation with the obviously exchange student.

“Hello, please sit down and join me. I’m Olive,” I introduce myself good-naturedly, “and you are?”

“That’s a weird name,” retorts she, bluntly, with an accent; “I’m Miso.”

“Oh, like the soup? Ha ha,” and I point at my soup for effect.

She gives me an annoyed glance. I make a mental note not to repeat said joke ever again – in her presence.

“What do you think of Australia?” I ask, all interestedness.

After some serious pondering, she answers:

“I like it, but I don’t think Canberra represents the Australian characteristics well.”

“What do you mean?”

“Bitches, you know?”

I pause.

“Do you mean ‘beaches’ by any chance?”

She gives me a flat stare with her fake-blue-eyes, unblinking.

“That is what I said.”

Of course. Moving on.

“Have you visited any beaches since you’ve been here?” I ask; smooth move, I am thinking.

Her eyebrows knit into a concentrated frown.

“I went to Bondi bitch in Sydney; lots of crabs.”

“Oh? How were they? Fresh?”

She rolls her eyes in the manner of a bored and sarcastic teenager.

“I said, abs.”

Ah! A great improviser, I blunder on with the conversation.

“Hmm…yes, abs are yummy too.”

At this comment she bites her lower lip and gives me a suggestive wink.

I blink a few times.

“Do you find your friends here very different from back home?” I ask, innocently, steering the conversation towards more comfortable grounds.

The bait seems to be working, as her fake-blue-eyes take another stroll around the park.

“All my new friends are Asian.”

“That’s nice,” is all I know what to say.

She looks at me significantly. I press on with the tête-à-tête.

“Any cultural shocks since you’ve been here?” I pose, importantly.

“So many,” she sighs. “Sex.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“So much of it,” she states with conviction; “I hear it like, at least twice a night.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” is my stupid response.

“Do you think I’m fat?” and she looks at me accusingly.


“I’ve eaten so many Tim Tams since I’ve been here. I’m so fat. I wish I was as thin as Nicole Hitman.”


“Stop repeating what I say!” she retorts, becoming angry.

Unfortunately for me, we are carrying out this conversation in the student hall’s very large and currently packed communal kitchen. Many heads are turned in our direction; invited to do so by Miso’s sudden outburst.

A senior resident walks towards our table. He’s no crab, he’s walking abs! I feel small as he stands between the two of us, arms folded into a ‘I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if necessary’ stance.

“What’s going on here?” he asks in a voice as bulky as himself.

“Nothing!” I squeak.

He looks at me without interest and turns to speak to my new friend(?) Miso.

“Is he bothering you?”

Miso gives Abs an appraising look. Yes, just how she likes it – is what I sum up from the softening of her expression and the glitter in her blue eyes.

“He doesn’t understand what I say,” she explains to Abs.

“I understand you fine,” observes Abs, exuding confidence.

They both turn to give me an accusing stare.

“I think it’s the kitchen fans,” I improvise; “It’s so loud in here. I can’t even hear my own voice sometimes. Ha ha.”

Miso and Abs look at each other, and there passes a mutual understanding; a bond has been made, one based on the shared view that I am an idiot.

“Come sit with us,” he says to her, jerking his head towards the table whence he came from.

Miso gets up readily.

“Bye Miso,” I say with an apologetic smile, as she happily embarks towards third-base with Abs.

Surprisingly, she returns the smile and even gives me a wink.

“What a peculiar young lady,” I conclude; “She must be very happy to be on exchange.”

Culture Humor

From Jeanne to Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour
Photo: François Boucher

“Your daughter will one day win the heart of a king,” said fortune-teller Madame Lebon.

“My little Jeanne?” replied Madame Poisson in a whisper, her eyes wide with wonderment.

“There can be no doubt,” Madame Lebon replied significantly, glancing at her cards on the table; they never lied.

“My Jeanne is destined for greatness!” the proud mother exclaimed, rising to her full height and making a hasty retreat.

Upon returning to her house, Madame Poisson began to plan the education her daughter should receive in order to realize Madame Lebon’s prophecy. This would include lessons in dancing, singing, painting, engraving, reading, etc. In other words, all the arts men find attractive when performed by a woman would be inculcated in her little Jeanne.

“She may never be a queen of France,” Madame Poisson allowed, “But I can help her to become the queen of Versailles!”

Thenceforth, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson learnt how to dance with grace, sing in tune, play delicate instruments, recite poetry and drama from memory, and master several other artifices recommended in the book of feminal seduction. Curiously, her expensive education was not paid for by Monsieur Poisson, whom had fled the country after a scandal of debts, but by her legal guardian, chief tax collector Le Normant de Tournehem; whom was rumored to be Madame Poisson’s lover and perhaps little Jeanne’s biological father.

At the darling age of 19 winters, Monsieur de Tournehem suggested Jeanne Antoinette enter a marriage of convenience with his nephew, Charles Guillaume Le Normant d’Étiolles, whom he made sole heir to his estates. Thus becoming Madame d’Étiolles, possessing both wit and wealth, she was admitted into the most fashionable circles in Paris; whereupon she rose to prominence. Her significance was solidified when she arrived at the salon belonging to Madame Geoffrin of the rue Saint-Honoré, the grandest of grand salonnières, whose drawing rooms attracted the most singular individuals in Europe.

Following Madame Geoffrin’s example, the younger lady founded her own salon in Étiolles. And though her house was not addressed in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, whence all the principal families in Paris were established, the personages frequenting Madame d’Étiolles’ salon were of no less consequence; for, it should be noted, among the distinguished guests she entertained was the celebrated satirist, Voltaire; whose list of frequent correspondents included the King of Prussia and the Empress of Russia.

With the support of her friends, all of whom endorsed the idea she be presented to King Louis XV, Madame d’Étiolles received an invitation to attend a masked ball at the Palace of Versailles, February 1745.

“Have you a disguise ready, Jeanne?” Madame Poisson asked her beautiful daughter.

“I have made the necessary preparations, Mama,” replied Jeanne Antoinette, looking up from her work; “I shall go as Diana the Huntress.”

“Dianna?” Madame Poisson repeated with a questioning look.

“In reference to when he first saw me in the forest of Sénart, Mama,” Jeanne Antoinette explained; “wherein he complimented my riding skills, and afterwards sent venison to the estate.”

Madame Poisson smiled approvingly.

Meanwhile, Louis XV also looked forward to the ball; for the charms and beauty of Madame d’Étiolles was presently the talk of Versailles.

“She will be attending tomorrow night’s ball?” the King asked in a casual manner, so as not to seem too eager, since he was still mourning the death of his third royal mistress, Madame de Châteauroux.

“Certainly, your majesty,” replied Dominique Guillaume Lebel; the King’s valet de chambre and procurer of his mistresses.

“That is well,” the King returned, affecting nonchalance; though his eyes twinkled with carnal enthusiasm.

At the night of the ball, among the crested carriages entering the cour d’honneur and dropping its masked passengers at the palace doors, was the glazed carriage of Madame d’Étiolles. The lady within was all calm and prepared. She was told of the King’s disguise beforehand, and thus had planned how the evening would unfold. When it was her turn to descend from the carriage, she did so with the grace of a Russian ballerina, but with the confidence of Artemisia.

Meanwhile, inside, the celebration was afoot. The grand ballroom, Hall of Mirrors, was all resplendence; the ceiling dripped with crystals like stalactites hanging from the roof of a cave, and its candles interacted with the glass to cast the entire gallery a luxurious glow.

Personages of the greatest importance were in attendance; many congregated in the main hall to make conversation, competing for the position of cynosure by sounding more important than the other loud speaker; meanwhile there were those that remained still in the vestibule, not yet done with making their grand entry. All worthies were dressed in the finest disguises; Parisian couture at its most outré. Nevertheless, though the costumes concealed most of the persons’ profiles, their occupation and rank could be easily guessed; for the noblemen could not lessen his patronizing attitudes, nor the ladies humble her condescending glances.

As the celebratory noises grew increasingly festive, many a bottles of nebuchadnezzar were opened, and Madeira was drank like water. Dionysus himself could not have asked for more improvements.

Upon spotting the King among a crowd of attentive sycophants, Madame d’Étiolles, in her suggestive Diana the Huntress costume, glided across the dance floor in the direction of his majesty, who was dressed for the occasion as a yew tree. He did not fail to notice the approaching goddess.

“May I have the honor of this dance?” asked Louis XV, gallantly; trying to appear a simple noble man so as not to compromise his royal identity.

Her hazel eyes locked with his browns.

“If it pleases Monsieur,” replied Madame d’Étiolles, casting upon him a seductive glance that would weaken even the most tested of celibates.

And so they danced. Her with the sensual finesse of Salome performing the infamous “Dance of the Seven Veils,” and he, the sovereign of France, weak at the knees. Towards the middle of the night, the King was convinced that this lady was none other than the beautiful and charming Madame d’Étiolles.

“It must be her,” thought he, confidently; “She is disguised as Diana, goddess of the woods. We met in the forest. And I remember those eyes!”

So thinking, he could no longer restrain his passions, and thus unmasked himself before her and those around. There were some audible gasps and murmurs from the crowds. Madame d’Étiolles however, seemed every bit unperturbed.

“Will you consent to becoming my mistress?” Louis XV asked bluntly, staring at her with fiery desire.

Madame d’Étiolles affected hesitation.

“You decline?!” the King observed, crestfallen.

“No, your majesty,” the young lady replied calmly, “I am honored by the favor you bestow upon me. Only that,”

“What is it?” he interrupted, his hopes risen; “What would it take for you to accept my proposal?”

“A formal position,” replied Madame d’Étiolles, decidedly.

“What position?” the King returned, “You may have it!”


The King, smitten with her beauty and impressed by the audacity, agreed to her terms on the spot. A few weeks later, Madame d’Étiolles was installed in an opulent boudoir worthy of belonging to the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, located on the third floor of Versailles, above the King’s apartments, and which was connected to each other by a private staircase.

Though Madame d’Étiolles had conquered the King’s heart, the lack of a nobiliary particle in her name delayed her coronation as royal mistress; for it was customary for such a position to be held by a daughter from a great family. Thus, to remedy this inconvenience, Louis XV purchased the marquisate of Pompadour in her name, and thence Madame d’Étiolles became Madame de Pompadour.

In September of that same year, Madame la Marquise de Pompadour, escorted by the King’s cousin, Princess de Conti, was formally presented at court before a crowd of proud aristocrats, whom despised the fact that a person of common origin should be granted such intimate access to the King.

“I would wish you good luck,” the Princess whispered to her friend with a knowing smile; “But I think your enemies will need it more than you.”

Indeed, Madame de Pompadour quickly adapted to the ways of Versailles, and within a short time, formed a circle of powerful allies.

“I ask myself, what would a Montmorency do?” she wrote in a letter to her friend, Voltaire; sharing the secret to her fast success.

Another important action she took, this one very public, and soon after her introduction to court, was to request an audience with Marie Leszczyńska, the Queen of France.

“Your grace,” said Madame de Pompadour in a reverent tone, after the Queen asked for the purpose of this unexpected visit; “I am here to swear to you my loyalty and respect.”

“You what?” the Queen replied, nonplussed; for all her husband’s previous mistresses had treated her with the utmost disrespect.

“You really mean it?” Marie Leszczyńska asked, after a pause, though she was no less astonished than before.

“I do your grace,” said Madame de Pompadour, obediently.

This act of goodwill from the royal mistress moved the gentle and pious Queen considerably; and thus, to reward her new friend, she granted the Marquise the most prestigious title a woman could attain at court, that of lady-in-waiting to the queen. Therefore solidifying Madame de Pompadour’s importance at Versailles; as royal mistress to the King, and, confidante and favorite of the Queen.

Sadly, Madame Poisson passed away in late December of the same year, barely a few months after Jeanne was installed in Versailles; and hence was not able to witness her daughter’s later successes. However, Madame Poisson never doubted the told prophecy by Madame Lebon, and was immensely proud of how far her daughter had risen thus far. In other words, Madame Poisson died content.

“Mama always believed in me,” Madame de Pompadour reflected, her eyes red from crying; “And she would want me to continue rising.”

As royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour saw to all the King’s amusements. She made it her business to provide the King with the necessary distractions and nightly entertainments that would lessen his cumulative stresses from ruling the country. All that could please his voracious appetites Madame de Pompadour provided, including: dinner parties, plays, music, and occasionally, other women.

Besides Madame de Pompadour, the King also had many other mistresses; but they were of lesser status and not formally presented at court. Given this arrangement, it is therefore not surprising that once in a while a particularly ambitious young mademoiselle would entertain (and act upon) the idea of usurping the first mistress. However, such schemes never played out successfully, for the allies of Madame de Pompadour were many and alert, and that unwitting girl would be speedily removed from Paris. As was the fate of Marie-Louise O’Murphy, who had been presented to the King by the trusted valet, Dominique Guillaume Lebel, and whose company the King enjoyed, but who fell victim to ambition; tried (and failed) to unseat the Marquise, and thus was married off to a provincial nobleman as a result.

“The marriage contract has been signed,” said Marquis de Lugeac with a confidential smile and a reassuring nod.

“The country air will be good for her health,” Madame de Pompadour replied simply; then turning to her lady’s maid, “Invite Monsieur Boucher to tea, I wish to see the progress of our latest collaboration.”

François Boucher was a master portraitist from Paris, whom Madame de Pompadour frequently commissioned to paint her likeness in both languorous and mythological poses; the portraits of which would be presented to the King, as a reminder to him of her unparalleled beauty.

Though still youthful and gorgeous at 29, her health was becoming increasingly fragile; she suffered miscarriages and was frequently indisposed. This reality put an end to her physical relationship with the King. But while Louis XV found new ladies to lay with him in bed, he pillow talked to none of them; instead, he would return to Madame de Pompadour and confide to her alone, for he trusted her more than anyone else, even more than his own royal advisers.

“She is more powerful now than when she warmed his bed,” a critic of the Marquise haughtily observed, to a fellow courtier who was of the same opinion.

“It is unprecedented!” the other exclaimed.

Indeed, the influence of Madame de Pompadour grew considerably greater as the King increasingly turned to her for advice on matters of domestic affairs and foreign policies; a fact which upset many bigwigs in the inner circle. As an informal but heard adviser, she was blamed when times got tough, and complimented during periods of prosperity.

Aside from taking part in political decision-making, Madame de Pompadour was also involved in the enlightenment movement. As patroness of the arts and sciences, she made important contributions with lasting impacts to French culture. Most noticeably, she played a principal role in the development, implementation, and popularization of the Rococo style; which was subsequently adopted by all of Europe, and in Russia particularly.

Moreover, she championed many men of letters, such as the aforementioned Voltaire; an essayist and advocate of Isaac Newton’s theories. In fact, Madame de Pompadour’s active support for the publication of the Encyclopédie by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, which at the time was strongly opposed by the powerful archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont, who demanded its contents be suppressed, was crucial to it getting printed and distributed to the general public.

“The brilliant theories and ideas of your late friend, Madame la Marquise du Châtelet, lives on in the Encyclopédie,” Madame de Pompadour wrote to Voltaire; “She is an example of female achievement, an inspiration to all us women in the developed world, who believe in challenging the low expectations men set for our sex.”

In the year 1764 Madame de Pompadour fell ill to tuberculosis. Unfortunately, due to her weak health, even the best physicians in Paris could do nothing for her. She suffered quietly; and eventually, one night, passed away.

“I will see Mama very soon,” was Madame de Pompadour’s last thought.

She was only 42 at the time.

Versailles was all silence. The King was greatly affected; remaining in his apartments for several weeks after her death. Voltaire expressed his grief in a letter, reflecting on the injustices of life and death; how an “ancient” man such as himself could still be living and writing when a beautiful woman in the prime of her career should die. Even her enemies, though not exactly upset by the news, felt the loss of a very worthy opponent.

“Our charming and singular friend,” Voltaire penned in a letter to a Dowager Duchess, “was a remarkable woman, belonging to a class of great women that includes Cleopatra, Catherine de Medici, and Elizabeth I… History will forever remember her in its books, and Paris in its styles… I am very sad at the death of my patroness and muse, Madame la Marquise de Pompadour. She will be dearly missed.”

Culture Humor

Catherine Visits Madame Kim’s Fitting Salon

Photo: CIM Productions

Her blissful ignorance on full display, Catherine purposely promenaded the shopping arcade in a stately manner. In her mind, the cocooned avenue was populated by a gamut of variegated boutiques (Dior, Louis Vuitton, and the likes) on either side of the bustling lane wherein other boulevardiers also habitually made public constitutionals. In reality, the shops were the usual common labels, and the meandering people quite average.

Despite a few interruptions to critically examine and syllogistically deduce the latest fashions in vogue from the mod accouterments worn by the porcelain mannequins stationed at the façades of the clothiers, Catherine’s final destination was inevitably “Madame Kim’s Fitting Salon” – her own appellation, for no one else called it so.

Said shop was of Lilliputian proportions; a large cupboard would have sufficed for an excuse. It was compactly wedged betwixt a 1$ retailer and a heretical, uncertified apothecary. Although Kim’s was housed in an uncouth division of this common galleria, Catherine had the innate propensity to imagine things to be upmarket. By the same token, the ‘Fix & Mend’ shop was a walk-in type of place. However, this did little to deter Catherine from phoning in ahead of time to arrange a suitable appointment.

A petite elderly lady with Oriental features, Mrs. Kim was a microcosm of that friendly grandmother which every Chinese child wants around the household for manipulation purposes. She was a patient woman, spoke little herself and preferred to listen to her interlocutor’s speeches and lamentations. By manipulating her physiognomy and offering up her million-dollar smile, she was forever able to discern her customer’s desires, calm their nugatory immateriality, and solve the submitted dilemmas by dint of supreme dexterity. All her bourgeois customers thought highly of her personality, but more importantly, they respected her sewing techniques and finesse for detail.

When finally arrived at the front counter next to the door that led into the cramped interior, Catherine without more ado, pressed the tarnished desk bell in order to distract Mrs. Kim’s attention from a pair of besmirched pants, likely belonging to some rogue or wayfarer; there is no doubt about this actuality, yet Catherine believed they were princely trousers made from the silks of Siam.

Easily excited at the prospect of any customer, Mrs. Kim promptly arose from the meditative state she was absorbed in while working on the pair of pauperized breeches, and shuffled over to greet the newcomer with her grandmotherly hospitality. At the sight of a loyal and repeat customer, the exorbitantly gladden Mrs. Kim
offered Catherine her killer, most penetrating smile as of date.

“Madame Kim, I am so pleased to see you,” said Catherine significantly.

“Hello” Mrs. Kim returned gently without withdrawing her majestic simper.

“I bought this new dress,” Catherine announced as she took out a diaphanous pale peach chiffon gown from a Chanel shopping bag that did not belong to her; “You wouldn’t believe how much it’s worth!”

Mrs. Kim nodded knowingly.

Catherine carefully laid out the dress on the reception desk.

“And I bought it at 70% off!” she quipped with a satisfied smirk.

“It’s very beautiful, Miss Catherine,” observed Mrs. Kim, approving the fabric before her.

“Isn’t it?” Catherine replied, accepting the compliment with practiced grace; “But it doesn’t fit perfectly,” she remarked, a hint of aristocratic hauteur in her voice.

Despite Catherine’s tone of displeasure, however, it was obvious to Mrs. Kim that Catherine was extremely pleased for being too slender for the dress.

“No worries, Miss Catherine,” came the grandmotherly assurance; “Mrs. Kim will fix it for you.”

So saying, she invited Catherine to take her dress into the corner of the workroom where curtains could be drawn to enclose a square space for disrobing and appareling; “the bijou abode” was the name Catherine ascribed to that small nook.

Once clothed in the toted raiment, Catherine sashayed a few steps into the middle of the unofficial catwalk, giving a full twirl at the end for the wispy textile to dance in the air, and then she turned to face Mrs. Kim, signaling that the fitting session was to commence.

On cue, Mrs. Kim grabbed the needle pillow on her cluttered workbench and shuffled towards the hubristic subject that was her assignment. After giving quick glances at the important areas and corners, she began the chore of pulling, tucking, and pinning the points that demanded her sartorial, critical expertise.

The job went on in a swift manner due to Mrs. Kim’s familiarity with her client’s bodily configurations and accentuating preferences; Catherine had been here with similar styled apparels on many occasions. The imperative and de rigueur markings taken into account, Mrs. Kim stood back respectfully so that Catherine could imagine from the reflection, how the finished product might look on her.

After taking a few minutes to contemplate the future of her vestment, Catherine thought it decidedly becoming, and offered no resistance to the suggestions pinned. Furthermore, additional proposals were futile and difficult, as all that was required had been done to perfection.

“It fits like a glove, Madame Kim,” observed Catherine, as pleased as a queen; “I can’t wait to wear the final version.”

So saying, Catherine sighed meaningfully; relieved that this dilemma would cease to overwork her worry gland as it had effectively done for the past few days prior to the
arranged appointment, during which time the anxiety had gratuitously disrupted
her productive fantasies of vainglory in other areas.

Returning into the curtained corner, Catherine changed into her original clothes with rapid movements, as she didn’t want to miss the half-hourly limousine that would whiz her from this garish plaza, back to her tinselly decorated dwelling.

Upon coming out, Mrs. Kim handed Catherine a collection ticket; which the latter accepted as if it were an invitation letter to the MET Gala, hosted by Anna Wintour.

“Thank you Madame Kim for your assistance today,” said Catherine, adopting the cheerful air of a young countess; “I know I can count on you to make the required adjustments.”

With that, Catherine left the tiny studio with her now empty Chanel shopping bag.

Mrs. Kim returned to her post in order to continue her favorite activity of cutting and sewing pieces of material together. Repairs to the vandalized, time-tested trousers were nearing completion.

Culture Humor

Your Friends Are Like Grocery Stores

Grocery shopping
Photo: Getty Images

As a self-diagnosed loner (people who hate other people), one contact friend in pristine condition is the preferred. Alas, the present arrangement is not the ideal fruit basket that yours truly would have bought into. Living conditions in a student hall and a general university attitude of let’s get together have exposed moi to a pyramid of acquaintances. Indeed, much like the standard nutrition model, my fondness for them is distributed unequally: the wide base is dedicated to best friends as they receive the bulk of my affection, less warmth is given to the middle section made up of common friends, and acquaintances get the least amount of love; they might as well be strangers to me.

During the two years I spent trying out friendships, I returned some when faulty, discarded many when spoilt, and sifted through the myriad of persuasive offers in stock. Thus, I have now objectively reached a notable summation, deduced with my Sheldon-like logic (which is to say, brilliant) that four chains of social contacts are available to social-customers.

The Vending Machine Friends

The Vending Machine Friends are the familiar faces you see here and there. You may have conversed with them once or twice, but the coins never jingled, so they eventually become the friends to whom you mechanically say “hello” and only hello. Going up to these people is a rarity. But when you chance to be in a dispensing mood, you insert yourself into an exchange, only to find that the topics of discussion are as artificial as a conversation in a reality TV series. I’m not a fan of hello friends.

The Seven-Eleven Friends

Seven-Eleven Friends are acquaintances that you see more often than hello friends. Usually you meet them in lectures or tutorials; they may be slurping loudly next to you in the dining hall, etc. The conveniences which these people offer range from bite-size helpings with assignment problems, to endorsements of weather assessments, but that’s as far as it gets. So they are only slightly better value than Vending Machine Friends; that is to say a waste of your time but convenient to have. I actively avoid this group of people.

The Supermarket Friends

The Supermarket Friends are the kind you can rely on for fresh gossip. They are the ones who happen to be baking cookies when the Cookie Monster in you feels like Godzilla; or they are the persons you can count on for your non-essentials (e.g. blu-tack to seal the edges of your curtains from the peaking rays of the morning Sun); find such friends and stick with them. Everyday rewards summarizes the benefits of these loyalties. Be that as it may, some maintenance effort is required from your side; i.e. it’s not always on special.

The Costco Friends

Customarily, two or three Costco Friends rise up (like the cream on milk) from your list of Supermarket Friends. Though in these cases, an initial investment is required before returns seem profitable; i.e. you may have to sit through a few personal conversations and be very bored. But judging by the rosy commendations made by other organics, the perks (to give a relatable size to an abstract concept) would fill the floor-to-ceiling shelves of a warehouse. For example, you can search for them in times of crisis and know that you will be sympathised. Indeed, a Costco Friend comes with the best values attached.

The Special Friend

After years of cannily shopping about for the best buys in town (good deals are hard to come by in this economy, one must allow), I personally have found a topshelf person who perfectly fits my bill. To list this person’s ingredients in full would make for a long and dull label, so to add some pizzazz here is a sample of the product instead. Imagine this. Special and I walk into the computer lab; the time has come to write our Astronomy essays. I head straight for my usual desk, Special heads toward the desk on my right-hand side, as is our customary arrangement. But suddenly, either Opposite Day became official without my knowledge or Special converted to a radical overnight, today, Special decides to sit on my left instead. This change makes me feel imbalanced; I can sense “a disturbance in the Force.”

Dizzy from my mental collapse, I confess this to Special; considerate as always, Special returns the situation to its usual status by changing desks. Now that’s what I call special. You just can’t beat that value.