Napoleon On St. HelenaWednesday, April 25, 2012
For many years while Celia Duthie sat on her book empire I obtained all kinds of little jobs that paid well and I also had the opportunity of writing book reviews for her stellar and lovely Duthie’s The Reader. The empire collapsed and Duthie moved to Elba (Galiano Island) where she clashed with the “Green Talibans”.
I had predicted that our female Napoleon would triumphantly return to Vancouver from exile. But I was proven wrong. Duthie and Nick Hunt the multi-talented 19th century amateur-of-everything, live (with three black cats) comfortably on their St. Helena (Salt Spring Island) in a sprawling property that includes an avant-garde gallery, a B&B and French dinner wear glasses with Napoleon’s bee symbol on them.
Duthie says that, “Napoleon is staying in St. Helena.” She is still in the thick of things and holds court to artists, CBC producers, animal handlers, politicians, architects and bush pilots that all come for advice or reassurance.
Both Duthie and Hunt laughed when I suggested that I take a picture in which I would put Hunt as a priest in a confessional (he is most priest-like) and Duthie on the side would be confessing, “Bless me father for I have sinned. I have just purchased two books from Amazon.ca.”
Duthie is one true intellectual snob (I heartily approve) who has read her New Yorker since she can remember. And yet Duthie is a thoroughly modern woman who told me, “By the time my The New Yorker arrives I have read it all on my iPad app. In fact you cannot beat the extra photographs and the sounds and hyperlinks. I am going to let go of the hard copy subscription and keep the on-line version.”
Duthie would not understand how at Christmas time I was itching to purchase Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery but I resisted all temptation and only yesterday did I finally pick up my library copy which I ordered four months ago.
I am a bit older than Duthie and Hunt and perhaps they will soon lose their sense of wanting to do things now and eschew it all for the pleasure of stress-free patience.
But I can report that our Napoleon is safely ensconced in her St. Helena, she has no green wallpaper and her wine, as far as I could tell, was free of any additives. Long live the emperor!