Wednesday, 2 December 2009

34. Jura service

/contd. The next day we finished the long drive to Dôle, in Jura, where Tante S & Oncle M lived and checked into a nearby hotel. The celebration kicked off at midday on the following day at the local church where we met up with all their family, relatives & friends. This being the first time I'd met them all, the introductions took a while. Afterwards there was a vin d'honneur.. following which we all set off to where the lunch was being served at a hall in a park high up overlooking the town.

A great L-shaped table had been set up in the hall with M and S sitting at the corner angle while all the other places were seated by age order.. "Oldest on the right, youngest on the left.." I think there were about 50-60 of us. M knew his wines and he told me he'd been saving up his best bottles for this occasion. One of the wines that was new to me was a wonderful vin jaune (yellow wine) from Arbois, a neighbouring town. As each course was demolished, the next one was brought in by the traiteur. I don't think there's a direct equivalent in the UK for a traiteur - perhaps an upmarket caterer. Traiteurs provide fine food for meetings, weddings, receptions, etc.

We were sat next to Madame's cousins from Belfort (in eastern France) whom she hadn't seen for years. As the wine disappeared, the jokes, the singing and the dancing started.. I think I must have danced with every female member of the family.. Unfortunately I can no longer recall what we ate - except that it was all superb. The wines too were memorable - the taste of the Graves lingered long in the memory. With the coffee, unlabelled bottles of rocket fuel appeared from under the table and were passed around. At 5pm, we ground to a halt and we all got up to go for a short walk around the park before reconvening back in the hall for Part 2 at around 6pm...!! (Only in France!)

It all started again - except this time it was dinner! I seem to remember saying to Madame at about 11pm that perhaps we should be heading back to the hotel soon. Being France, you just can't get up and leave - we went round everybody (repeat handshakes & kissing) to say au revoir before finally driving (yes I know!) back to the hotel.. By this stage we'd been eating and drinking more or less continuously since midday and we were more than ready for bed.

When we arrived at the hotel there wasn't a light to be seen. I tried the front door only to find it was locked. Ringing the bell proved fruitless. There was a phone box across the road but again, no response.. So we got back in the car and drove to S's house where we parked on her drive and, putting the seats back, we fell quickly into an instant coma.

Some time after 1.30am, we were awoken by the sound of returning cars. After explaining to all and sundry what had happened, S said that one of the neighbours had a spare room all prepared in the event of an emergency overspill.. We drove around the corner to the house of S's friend where we parked outside and went into the house through the basement garage before tip-toeing up to the bedroom earmarked for waifs and strays on the ground floor.

The next morning I woke up with an urgent need to see a man about a dog.. Madame was vehement in her demand that I shouldn't as she was convinced that I'd wake up the family but after a short passage of time I persuaded her that it would be in all our interests if I went..!

I stood there in the bathroom with one of my Dad's wartime expressions running through my mind: M for sema, N for mation, O for the garden wall before getting to P for relief..* Opening the door quietly I crept out only to find a lady standing there looking at me.. with a quizzical expression.

Using the complete gamut (at the time) of my French language skills, I ventured a "Bonjour madame!" Hearing that, Madame sprang out of bed and took over.. (phew!) The lady and her husband had seen a car with a GB plate outside and put deux and deux together.. She'd been shushing her husband too in case he woke us up so it was fortunate I broke the circle.. He'd been out and bought fresh croissants too.

We had breakfast and before long we were chatting like old friends.. they were a charming couple. It was a bizarre experience though to wake up in a strange house with no idea who our hosts were.

* The other letters go like this: A for Horses, B for dinner, C for miles, D for ential, E for brick, F for vescence, G for police, H before beauty, I for nate, J for dollar to spare, K for teria, L for leather, M for sema, N for mation, O for the garden wall, P for relief, Q for hours, R for Bitter, S we have no bananas, T for two, U for mism, V for La France, W for a bob, X for breakfast, Y for mistress and Z for the doctor..
Answer to November's quiz - What was it that Audrey Hepburn could have done all night, and still have begged for more..?
While most of you got the correct answer - which was of course "danced" - there were one or two colourful suggestions that I won't repeat here. But thanks anyway!

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