An Interview with Alexandre de la Main Gauche

Another interview with one of the Poulet Gauche family follows. These interviews initially served as a way for us to check for holes in our knowledge of the period, as well as a way to explore the personalities of our persona. There are also two interviews with with Jehan du Lac available. Use them to inspire you to think about what your own persona thinks and feels. Both the interview with Jehan and Alexandre are based on the questions posed by His Grace Duke Cariadoc in his essay, Little Things.. In the following interview, any question where the answer would simply be a duplicate of Jehan's has been removed. A few questions have also been added.

M. de la Main Gauche...

(interrupts) Gaucher, please. Almost everyone calls me Gaucher.

All right. Gaucher, what kinds of money do you use? What are the relative values of the different kinds?

Calais is a trading city so we use all sorts of money. There's still a lot of English money floating around, we used to be under the English we're so close to Dover. There has always been a lot of Spanish money in Flanders, and these days there is even more, although the value is dropping now that we've kicked them out. French money is the best.

Why is that?

It's easiest to remember. You can look at a coin and tell what it is worth without having to weigh it.

How much does dinner at the inn cost? How much does a horse cost? How much does a skilled worker make per month?

Dinner at our inn costs 2-4 sou. We're cheaper than most places because we cater to tradesmen and locals - not nobles. But our food is much better than most.

I have no idea how much a horse costs. Fifty ecus? Something outrageous. Ask my father. As for a skilled laborer's wages, about 12 sou is right. Less if you feed them. Oh, and Jews and foreigners make even less.

What system do you use to describe what time it is? When does one day end and another begin? How do you tell time (sundial? clock?)?

What a strange question. There are still enough roosters in Calais that I can say that I honestly get up at cocks' crow. If I need to know the hour, I can listen for the church bells. They toll every third hour.

What system do you use for describing dates? What is your calendar like?

My calendar is twelve months to the year. One of the popes...I don't remember which one...was said to have stolen 11 days out of the calendar. I haven't noticed anything -- and the Protestants will accuse the Pope of stealing anything that might be valuable.

Can you read? If so, what have you read? What poems, tales, etc. have you heard told?

Of course, I can read. We're a well-lettered house. Even Leanor can read. I've read the Bible - and heard it read to me almost every day. I've read Villon and Amadis de Gaul. My father is fond of Ronsard, but I don't see it. Oh and we have a copy of M. Montaigne's Essays. It's fascinating that someone would just write down all his thoughts like that.  It's not like the book is about anything. My father likes to read, so he keeps spending money we don't have on broadsheets and little books.

M. Villon's poems, though a hundred years old, are very close to my heart. I know a lot of stories. Merchants have brought me tales from all over the world. I've heard the Song of Roland, and a lot of the tales of the English Arthur. And Charlemagne...Alessandro wouldn't let me forget him.  And I saw a group of actors perform a comedy once. I did't think it was funny, but the author was English - so what do you expect?

What do you know about history? Have you heard of Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? Charlemagne? Vergil? Saladin? What do you "know" about each?

I know more about the history of the war now than I used. M. Jehan has told me about the Massacre and some sieges he lived through. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were Roman knights. Charlemagne was the emperor - which is like a king over other kings. He was also a great knight; better than Arthur. Alessandro tells stories about his paladins, but he gets the names wrong. Virgil is a foreign poet - I think he died before Villon did. Saladin was a Saracen knight, so he was a Moor.

What do you know about geography? What is the most distant country you have heard of? The most distant country you have met someone from?

Well...what do mean by 'met'? Some fellows came through a while back with the body of a Red Indian that you could look at for a denier, so I did. I've heard of Poland...Jerusalem...Mexico (my sister is there, married to a prince)...the Indies...Italy...

We meet all kinds here. I saw someone from Nippon once, but didn't talk to him. He skin was the color of old butter and he had hair like a horsestail that ran to the middle of his back!

Who is your immediate overlord (title and/or name)? Who is your ultimate overlord?

My immediate overlord is my beau-pere, Jehan du Lac. We don't have an "overlord" in Calais -- we do have a mayor though. Or did. I think the Spaniards probably hanged him and we don't have a new one yet. My king is Henri IV; ultimately we all answer to God.

Speaking of God...what can you tell us about religion?

Not much. I try and leave God to the priests. No, wait. Don't tell my father I said that. My parents were strident reformers; I think it was mostly my mother's doing. It wasn't great for business. I try and mind my own business and I wish everyone else would do the same. I've seen too many families torn up over these questions. I mean...there's only one God, right? If we all agree on that, why are we killing each other?

What do you eat for breakfast?

Whatever is left from the night before, usually. Some bread, some beer, some fish -- herring or smelt. Milk and cheese don't sit well in my belly, so I try to stay away from them. If it's cold, I usually have bread in warm beer.


You mean in the middle of the day? Lately some fruit -- an apple or two -- and some more bread. Sometimes one of Jeanne Marie's sausages, if I'm lucky. Come Winter, I'll probably just eat in the morning and at night. This is going to be a hard winter.  The weather this past one was mild -- but the occupation was very hard on our stores, and even if the weather is mild, I don't know how we're going to feed everyone through the winter.


Jeanne Marie constantly amazes me. What we eat changes with the seasons, of course. We're coming up on the best time of year: late Fall, after all the crops have been gathered and preserved, and we've slaughtered the livestock we're not going to keep through Winter. There's not as much to do, and a lot more to eat! Pigs are wonderful animals; you can eat almost every inch of them, and make shoes, cords, and pouches from their hides. My father -- my real father said you could use every part of a pig except the squeal.

What do you drink?

Beer, mostly. Some people drink milk or whey -- you know, from making cheese -- but it makes me ill.

Where do your food and drink come from? How is the food cooked (style of cooking, tools, how does the oven work, etc.)?

Jeanne Marie could answer much of this better than I could. We buy a lot of things. Lambs and goats from le boucher; bread from a baker; sausage and cheese (when we need it) from le chaucuterie. Fish, eels, and shellfish from merchants as well. Jeanne Marie makes sausages and I make cheese, but not often because we don't keep cows. We get salt from M. Jehan's cousin, Thibault.

Cooking is done in the kitchen, over the hearth. We have some claypots, cauldrons and pipkins, and one or two metal ones. Our utensils are metal or wood. I carve a little -- spoons and things.

What sorts of wild animals live in your area? Which are dangerous? Which are good to eat? How are the latter hunted?

There aren't any wild animals here; we live in a city. Every once in a while someone's pig or goat gets loose and ends up in Jeanne Marie's herb garden. Than I have to put a rope on it and take it to the pound. It's a crime to keep a stray, but I can usually get damages from the owner. Those animals aren't dangerous though. The only thing I can think of that's dangerous is a mad dog. Oh, and the rats -- but that's why I keep a terrier. To chase and kill the rats.

What clothes do you wear? What are they made of? Where do they come from?

I wear a linen shirt (it's a little big; It was my brother's), trews, hose, and square-toed shoes with low heels and buckles. If I'm working, I wear a leather apron over everything. I rarely wear a doublet, except when it's cold, a practice my father finds immodest. If I'm not working I have a loose sleeveless coat of black leather. My trunks are made of wool; my shoes of leather. Most of my clothing was inherited. I've been known to try to mend things every once in a while, but I'm not very good at it. And I wear hat with a spoon in it.

What? When you say "spoon", you mean a crease in the brim, right? For fashion? When I say "spoon" I mean a pewter spoon -- for eating. Some people just keep them in the brims of their hats. I have holes in my hat for it. Some people keep knives in their hats instead.

What language(s) do you speak? What language(s) do other people in your town (city, barony...) speak?

I speak French...not like they do in Paris of course...English and Flemish. And I'm picked up Spanish fairly quickly, but I guess I won't have to worry about that now, will I? I have a good ear for languages -- and we get a lot of different ones in here.

If you or one of your friends wrote a poem, what form would you use?

If one of my friends wrote a poem? You're joking. We don't have any Villons living here, I'm afraid. I guess Alessandro might write something.  I don't have time for things like that.

What about a song?

I couldn't write one, but I've heard plenty. I like Bon vin doit and some of the Italian dances that Ace - I mean M. Justin plays. The Spanish have some nice music too; I learned the words to Oy comamos y bebamos a few months ago. I've forgotten them already, I'm afraid. I guess most of the songs I know are about drinking. And I know some psalms.

What "mythological" beasts do you know about? Which ones do you believe in? What do you believe about them?

Our world is pretty boring...but there are all sorts of strange things in the Indies! There are men who eat nothing but human flesh (all of their teeth are pointed) and a race who have no heads - but mouths in their bellies and eyes in their chests. We have eels here, perhaps six or nine feet long. In the ocean there are much bigger ones; they crush ships sometimes. In Mexico there are men with feathers instead of hair.   My father and some men killed a loup garou while he was in the King's service.  I think that may have been how he was lamed, sit down and I'll tell you about it...

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-a. newman