Friday 21st - the merriment begins


Hotter !


The reunion had started but most people were due to arrive today.

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Don and Pete set off for Geneva in the morning heat to pick up Sue Williamson and Mike Duggan from the airport. They all then went for Marie Varley who had been staying with an old school friend (by strange coincidence also a friend and colleague of mine) in her flat in north Geneva




I stayed behind in Meyrieu with the dogs and cats to prepare a few salads and be on hand in case the phone rang.




Marie had elected to stay in Belley in the Maison de St Anthelme, an old Jesuit Seminary turned hotel, as dogs make her very uneasy and we have a young sheepdog called Shep who is very bouncy. We also have a rather elderly Cavalier King Charles spaniel called Nelly – but she has such a lot in common with a child’s stuffed toy that she was hardly a problem! On their way back to Meyrieu the gang called in at St Anthelme to check Marie in and leave her luggage.




Shep, Nelly and I waited with anticipation. At least Shep and I did – Nelly was asleep. The car arrived and I was surrounded by friendly, smiling faces. I tied Shep to a tree and was pleased to note he accepted his loss of liberty without complaint.



My heart filled with joy as these dear friends came into my garden. Our lives have taken us apart but the bonds of friendship keep us close. When we are together again, and especially when a group of us are reunited, there are no words to express the depths of these strong emotional ties.




Shandies were called for to quench the thirst occasioned by travelling a long distance in the midday sun in a car with no air-conditioning. And we talked!!




Of course none of these good people arrived empty handed. I was showered with gifts. Windsor tea towels from Marie (now in Geneva where more people can admire them), English soap and a Constable mug from Sue, and bars and bars of delicious Cadbury’s chocolate from Sue and Mike. Swiss chocolate is very nice, but, when you’ve been out of the UK a long time like me, you can’t beat the taste of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (except with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut)!! My thanks to you all for your thoughtfulness and pampering.




Lunch was more of a High Tea as we didn’t eat until about 3.30. Melon and ham, tomatoes and mozzarella with a bit of green salad, a platter of French and Swiss cheeses and a bowl of summer fruit. The wine and the conversation flowed effortlessly. The sun shone and we appreciated the shade provided by the trees in the garden.




No hurry, No fuss. Everything proceeded in a leisurely fashion, the extreme heart rendering it impossible to do anything impossible until the sun began to set. Sue and I took Shep for a walk around the ‘Tour de Champagne’, the local name for a walk through and around the village, and met Marie, Don and Mike going the other way.




Later on, at about 8 o’clock, Pete and the gentlemen went up to the field to give the horses their supper – a nice mix of what looks and tastes like best quality muesli – and check that they had enough water. Horses, as you know, are very playful animals, and they like nothing better than to play with their water buckets. You might find it difficult to upturn just with your teeth a bucket containing 100 litres of water, especially if it is securely attached to a 1000 litre water distributor – they don’t!!




The ladies stayed in Meyrieu to recharge their batteries. I was beginning to get worried as I hadn’t heard anything from Mary Lavelle (née Cahill) who was arriving by car on Friday. I didn’t have her number and the daylight was almost gone.




Marie and I were enjoying a little chat in the garden when I saw a strange (i.e. not of the village) yellow car go past the gate. It didn’t stop so I didn’t really look. A couple of minutes later it was back and parking outside the gate. Mary had arrived!!



Imagine if you will the smallest Peugeot on sale at the moment in a vivid yellow colour. Then remember Mary Poppin’s bag and how much she could put in it. This reunion weekend had more than a touch of magic about it and Mary had certainly cast a spell on this car. In not very quick succession, as the car only had two doors, we saw emerge flattened in cartoon fashion and then straightening and filling out to their full size Mary, her sister Bernadette, her son Connor (who also came to the first reunion) and her niece Siobhán. Then came the luggage. All of it. If you measured the volume of passengers and luggage and then compared it with the official cubic capacity of the car, you would have to accept that it was impossible to fit them all in. But Mary could possibly have managed to squeeze in a few more cases!




The rules of physics went by the board this weekend. Magic was in the air – Mary’s car, one bathroom (with toilet) that proved quite sufficient for twelve people, time that did not go by at a normal rate but seemed to last as long as you wanted it to, and enough space in the house and garden for people to mingle and talk and yet find a quiet spot occasionally. Love conquers all they say. Here was the proof!




We showed the new arrivals around the house and where they were sleeping. There was a slight delay while I made up a new bed for Connor. Phone calls are great if one listens attentively. But somehow I had understood that Mary was coming with two nieces. When Connor extracted himself from the car instead of the second niece I realised my mistake! So the settee in the living room became a bed, which in the end Mike D elected to take so as not to inflict on Don his nocturnal musical efforts.




Connor was the only one of the ‘children’ of the first reunion to come to the second. Even mine were unable to make it! He bravely entered in full into the spirit of the weekend and discreetly helped wherever he could. He was a quiet tower of strength and his company and conversation were much appreciated.




Siobhán was only 14 and by far the youngest of us all! Poor girl! She looked after Shep for me the whole weekend so I didn’t have to worry about leaving him tied up all the time. He loved her and thanks to her he too was able to enjoy the weekend. In addition, she always volunteered to lay the table and helped me in so many small, unobtrusive ways. Beautiful, sweet-natured and very tolerant of the older generation, I hope that she will come again soon.




The two youngsters were a boon for us ‘oldies’ as they reminded us of ourselves when we were young.




In spite of having spent a week in Paris before coming down to the reunion, Mary had carefully carried around with her a beautiful gift of two bottles of Jameson’s. As we sit by the woodstove in the kitchen this winter when the temperature outside is –10°C, we will drink to her health and the warmth of the Jameson’s will remind us of the warmth and companionship of this weekend. The magic will still be here.




Supper started late so that we could benefit from the cool of the evening. The aperitif was served in the terrace. After lingering appreciatively awhile we moved out to the garden and were soon eating under a starry sky, our table lit by candles and paraffin garden torches. The noise level was tremendous as at any one time there were at least three intense conversations going on! And the laughter……. so much laughter ricocheting out into the ether. Our vibes of pure happiness, delight in being in each other’s company again, unadulterated good humour and the rare sensation of genuinely not wanting anything more from life must have sent out a very positive counter balance to the negative feelings of hatred, jealousy, prejudice and dissatisfaction that emanate from so many parts of the world.




The fact that so many people had been unable to come did, however, tinge the proceedings with a certain sadness. Especially as so many of you have serious medical conditions. But, even if you were not physically present, you were with us in spirit all through the weekend. You were there in our anecdotes, you were there in our discussions, you were in our thoughts, and, most importantly, a lot of toasts were drunk in your honour. And we know that you were thinking about us, too.




To accompany the conversation we ate Yummy Summer Chicken with new potatoes and a green salad, followed by raspberry fool. The merrymaking went on well into the early hours. But finally it was time for Pete to take Marie back to St Anthelme - where he had rather an acrimonious encounter with the concierge.




Soft or hard, our beds were calling, and we were all glad to collapse into them in spite of the mosquitoes and the heat!