Monday, July 21, 2008

A baptism of firewater

Well, we’ve been to the races again – to Graignes, out towards the Normandy coastline, and came home with a fine second placing – but this weekend racing for once took a back seat. For this weekend was an Event.

The basis for the Event was a christening, the baptism of David and Celine’s two little girls, Clara and Olivia, at the Baux de Breteuil village church, by the same elderly and humorous priest who has now been performing the Hue family ceremonies for several generations. More than fifty guests – family and friends – hit town for the occasion, which was duly consummated between midday and 12.30pm on Sunday. The deed done, grandpa Bernard’s brother, Remy, set the churchbells ringing and we all got back to the other business of the weekend. Partying. For Saturday and Sunday (and the odd small hour of Monday) were what might be called ‘one Huge Hoolie’.

It started Saturday evening, on our return from Graignes. The previous night, we’d taken six inexpert hours to erect a big blue-and-white-striped marquee, and during our absence Teresa and her support team had decked the tables, ready for the morrow, so all that was left to those baptisers who were as yet in town, as evening fell, was to forgather in the court yard and begin what somebody called ‘the warm up party’. Warm? I’d say ‘hot’. Marion can undo bottles of whisky, wine and – as pictured here – champagne faster than any man I have ever met, and we partiers kept him busy at it!

There was feasting – including a 14 kilo crate of fresh oysters that we’d picked up on the way back from the coast – there was drinking, there was singing and, around midnight, even dancing. I got to taste my first ever Normandy oyster, forgot the words of ‘My Way’ (nowadays my only song) and, in spite of my known repugnance for dance, was actually to be found wriggling about to pop music on the living room tiles until 1am

Sunday morning was taken up with preparations for and the accomplishment of the official business of the week, but, once the babes had been oiled and watered, we all paraded back across the village green to where what had been on Friday a whole live sheep was turning on the spit, and – the tent flung open – we got down to the serious part of the partying.

I haven’t got too many pictures of the afternoon’s and the evening’s jollities, I was far too busy jollying myself. I also can’t quite remember what time we called it quits and stumbled into bed. There were certainly a few ummm casualties en route – I seem to remember helping hoist a tumbled Rémy out of a flower bed while it was still daylight, and also coming at least once to the aid of Cousin Bruno, a handsome young father-of-three who’d earlier made my day by bestowing a lusty kiss, smack on my surprised, champagne-sodden lips! Jack took the smart way out of any inclination to excess, by simply falling asleep for several hours in the middle of proceedings! There were also one or two notable (no names!) absentees for the ‘clean-up call’ at 8am today. Hardly surprising.

All sorts of new and newish friends, of course. Tim and Emma (who are the new owners of Quitus, the horse I didn’t buy last year, see blog), their daughter Kate and their son Jack, who was celebrating his 16th birthday, with two pals in tow, on the self same day. Another Bruno, who talked French politics to me (and I talked back!), Bill – who gave me my drive amongst the buttercups last year – and Titi, fourteen year-old Teddy, talking to whom (French) was one of the fun events of the evening, big, quiet Dominique who had earlier played the part of godfather and, of course, all the Hue family including wonderful warm Remy and memorable Cousin Bruno.

It was one helluva party, a real, country, family party – nothing like the dreary first-night dos we used to have to suffer as ‘parties’ in the theatre – and if today is just a tad difficult to get through, in consequence .. well you can’t have joy without a little suffering.

And now the tent is down, the bottles have gone to the recycling bins, the fireplace where the mouton roasted is dead and gone, the tables and chairs stashed, the vacuum cleaner and lawnmower gone silent, and the Party of the Season is done.

And tomorrow its Paris.

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