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a really big lunch

It’s Sunday morning in Gordes; the church bells rang at 10.30 and Denis went off to mass on his bicycle. I was already in the village shopping for lunch – pork roast and ratatouille. First thing this morning, Denis made bread in his bread machine and a tarte tatin aux abricots, because apricots are in season and we had too many of them. He caramelised butter and sugar in a heavy pan, packed the bottom with apricots sliced in half, added almond syrup and cinnamon and cooked them slowly on the stove top for half an hour or so. Then he cooled them, added a top of thawed “pate feuillete” and baked it all in the oven for another half hour. The final and most thrilling step is the turning out of the tarte onto a platter – if the fruit has not stuck, you end up with the crust on the bottom and a stunning arrangement of beautiful apricots on top.

Three p.m. We put the pork roast in the oven with garlic and fresh herbs, and I made a rata, also with thyme and basil from the garden. Denis brought out a bottle of champagne because it’s Father’s Day in France, and he is the father of five children and the grandfather of two. We ate olives and drank champagne and toasted fatherhood and talked about “meres porteuses” – surrogate mothers – the raising of children, the necessity and yet destructiveness of feminism, ending inevitably in difficult issues like abortion, cloning and the uses and abuses of therapy. He ran a L’Arche community for many years but is now a psychologist in private practice.
And then, talking the while and finishing the champagne, we ate pork roast and ratatouille, then cheese with his homemade bread – chevre, banon, Roquefort and Camembert – then his divine tarte tatin aux abricots (two slices each), and, to finish, an espresso with some chocolate. All this, on the terrace overlooking the garden, as the mistral winds blew.
Because the mistral is still blowing fiercely. Yesterday morning, Chris and I became acquainted with this phenomenon – that one day it’s 38 degrees and the next it’s chilly with a relentless wind. Chris ended up wearing three layers of clothing and I was bundled up too; though the sun was hot, the wind was deadly. Branches were sailing across the roads and in Avignon we saw an old lady I was sure was going to be toppled by the gale force blast. We did see a fire-truck on a narrow street dealing with an emergency – pieces of a high wall were being blown down onto the sidewalk below, so the fireman in his cherry-picker was hammering the wall to bring the pieces down himself. Extraordinary.
Chris and I spent Saturday wandering around Avignon before his train – having lunch, stopping for coffee, poking into shops and interesting places. He bought a few more shirts at Monoprix and a new, bigger suitcase to carry them in; I found a great second hand clothing store where I bought a skirt for myself and several things for the Blin grandchildren for a grand total of six euros – nine dollars. The wind blew, the sun shone and the city was beautiful.
Finally it was time for us to say goodbye. Time for new adventures for us both – he off to friends near Toulouse and I in Lynn’s car, without my chauffeur now, back to Gordes. I returned to an empty house, switched on my computer and began, for the first time in more than a month, to read the work begun in Paris. Back to work. I am happy it’s so.
But right now – Denis home from Versailles and not at work on a Sunday – I am so full of lunch and champagne I could doze off in this chair. In fact … excuse me for a moment. I’ll get back to you soon.
5.30 I don’t usually nap, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open – had to lie down because my brain had ceased to function.. That’s what half a bottle of champagne and a tarte aux abricots in a high wind does to you on a Sunday afternoon. When I awoke, Denis handed me a book he’d told me about: “The Star of Redemption” by a German-Jewish philosopher called Franz Rosenzweig, 589 pages of philosophy translated from German to French. As well as feeding them well, Denis likes to keep people busy physically and intellectually. So – to work.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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