Sunday 23rd - and yet more...

 

Hotter yet !!!

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Sunday morning arrived later for some than for others, but it was hot for us all. I was dragging myself out of bed at around 10 am encouraged to go downstairs by the sounds of merry rejoicing in the kitchen around tea and croissants, when the phone rang. Eric!! From Australia!! If we had felt in communication in spirit before, now we were really talking! We had a long, long conversation. He brought us up to date on Cate’s progress, on Nicholas and Stephen, on so many things. Pete, Sue, Mike and I all had a word and so Eric really joined our reunion. Thank you Eric.

 

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As it had proved impossible to find the time of a church or cathedral service, Pete took the group to visit a tiny, little used chapel, the Chapelle Sainte Anne, in a beautiful rural setting about 5 miles from Meyrieu. Latin inscriptions were perused and photographs were taken so the Chapel once agin fulfilled its function as a centre for love and rejoicing.

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Alwena stayed at home to wave her Mrs Weasley wand to tidy the kitchen before preparing lunch.

 

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The thermometer was rising steadily and everyone was ready for their aperitifs when they got back. We all clustered in and around the rather small terrace, proving yet again the power of magic that weekend as we all fitted comfortably in an area which usually seems crowded with only six people.

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Imagine our delight when, hardly had the aperitifs been served, a taxi rolled up at the gate and Marie joined us. Unlike the rest of us she had managed to go to Mass in the cathedral at 10.30. Then, realising that her total immersion weekend with dogs was bearing fruit, she felt at ease enough to forego lunch at St Anthelme’s and join us, Shep and Nelly!

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Everyone had been trying to help Marie her overcome her phobia with dogs – but the most successful were probably Nelly and Shep. Nelly had already won Marie’s heart on the Friday evening during the guided tour of the house. As we were coming downstairs Nelly was directly behind Marie. This in itself was a dreadful ordeal for Marie who stoically ‘grinned and bore it’. But, Nelly came into her own as, every time we stopped on the stairs, instead of rushing past Marie and tripping her over, Nelly just sat down and waited until we moved on. From then on, during the whole weekend, Marie gained more and more confidence and was able to tolerate Nelly coming to sit near her. She even managed to pat her a little. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, Marie was confident enough to hold Nelly on her lap, and smile.

 

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Of course with Shep it was rather a different matter as, even though he is extremely good natured, he is very lively and has a tendency to leap up enthusiastically at the people he is talking to. Nevertheless, with a bit of encouragement from Pete, Marie was able to give him the command ‘sit’ and then reward him with a dog biscuit. By Sunday evening she could even accept his presence lying under her feet at the dining table. Anyone who suffers from a phobia will understand just what a breakthrough this was. Marie didn’t let the dogs’ presence put her off coming to the reunion and so she didn’t deprive us of her company. Thank you Marie.

 

 

 

As I said, Marie arrived just in time for the aperitif ( about 2 o’clock!). Our French friends must have been scandalised by our late hours but, as mentioned above, time was obeying the rules of Lytteltonia this weekend and extended just as long as we wanted it to.

 

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Instead of the usual nibbles I had made a couple of dips – Roquefort and fromage frais , green herbs and fromage frais to go with the Kir (white wine and cassis - blackcurrant liqueur). These dips go very well with Tuc biscuits, Tortilla chips and Bruschetta (Italian mini oven-toasted slices of bread). We crossed the lawn and feasted ourselves on Mary’s melons with ham, couscous salad, peperonata (red pepper salad) and green lentil salad. Cheese and fruit followed. By now the cheese was so ripe it practically walked to the table on its own! We also had a few chocolates with the coffee ( garden mint tea for Marie and Denise) but it was so hot that the chocolate started to melt in its wrapping paper and we had to take it back inside.

 

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It was getting hotter and hotter. Most people retired for a siesta either in their rooms or in comfortable chairs in the shade. Some slept more audibly than others. A few resilient souls remained chatting around the table The only sound was the buzzing of the hundreds of bees who, every fine afternoon in summer, visit the mini grapes on the Vigne Vierge which covers the front of our house. The bees themselves are hard at work collecting the pollen, but their constant low buzzing has a very soporific effect on us.

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That evening the heat didn’t start abating until very late on in the evening so, apart from going to feed the horses, there were no signs of strenuous activity.

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Because of this intense heart dinner was served late even though many people wanted to leave early the following morning. Once again we ate by candlelight in the garden. With the aperitif we had a Swiss aperitif cheese called Tête de Moine (Head of the Monk), which is sliced in flower like spirals on a special machine and which is very ‘moreish’. That evening we had a simple meal of Lasagna with any salads that were left, ice-cream and fruit.

 

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But this meal was special. Not just because we were all sharing it together. Not just because some people were leaving in the morning. Not just because we were enjoying ourselves so much. It was because of Don.

 

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Don had been suffering from a bad throat and a croaky voice since Saturday, probably caused by the change from intense heat to cool air conditioning in the car or in a shop, or by having got caught in a draught in his bedroom. So he had been rather quiet all day Sunday, dosing himself with plenty of honey and lemon.

 

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What he didn’t tell us was that he was saving his voice. And then, without warning during dinner, he started singing. There was no more talking, no more laughing and joking. We all sat spellbound listening to his wonderful voice. Imagine the perfect silence of a beautiful summer evening, a velvet black sky, the gentle light of candles in the garden under the trees. And Don singing. A magic moment, an unexpected and a generous gift. One that will always be for me my strongest memory of this amazing weekend. Don sang and Don recited poetry. Each rendition different and each perfect. I think it was at this point that Mary quoted the saying

 

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‘Heaven can wait’

 

 

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We all agreed even though we felt we were already in Heaven.

 

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Don had given the signal for the music to begin. Although it was late, Pete brought out his guitar and the music and song went on far into the night. Reluctantly we decided at last that we all had to go to bed. His Holiness Mike the First gave us his blessing and Pete took Marie back to Belley. Unfortunately he must have been standing awkwardly while playing the guitar and had pulled something in his back so he was by now in great pain.

Sue and I talked in the garden until 4 am and then collapsed in our beds, We left Nelly sleeping the sleep of the just on an easy chair on the terrace.

 

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