1 JUNE 1991, Page 28

Counting Her Steps

She would still enjoy a head-to-head with Heidegger, but not the waiting for it. Her ardour for the sensual kept well in check (say, chaste Lucy Rie) is no less pronounced than it ever was, and her rejection of the less than excellent uncompromising. A gift for metaphor — and a sense of humour. I can praise that woman!

But anxieties make her hoarse: her health; the whole estate of her children.Her hair is silver and ash, and downy as a cygnet.

Today she told me that on her constitutional — and all day golden rods and storm clouds, charcoal and indigo, and swirling leaves she counted her soft steps. One by one. `Two thousand three hundred and ten,'she said.

True, she went on to ruminate on aspects of the mile, beginning with the stride of the centurion. But how easily she tires. She sips and sups no more than a sparrow. Is this how she begins to simplify