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a triumph in the wind

My brain is mush today, but here’s the report: we got through, and it was great. Unbelievably today, Sunday, is warm without a trace of wind. Yesterday, we battled ferocious winds all day long. We spent the morning covering ten long tables with a complex system of coverings designed by the bride – white, with a brown strip then a green strip then stickers – beautiful, but in a high wind, nailing the suckers down required one person practically to lie spread-eagled on top while two others whacked away with the staple gun. We got the tables covered in a high wind and then put on the delicate Japanese-style centrepieces, made of twigs and origami, also fixing them as tightly as possible with the staple gun. The tiny origami cranes tied to the trees tossed in the wind. Last minute weeding and clean up.

But by the time we had to leave for the mairie, the party was set up except for what the caterers would do. Somehow we all managed to get all dressed up – babies, the elderly and all of us in between – and get down to the mairie of Gordes which used to be a chateau. Jacqueline, the neighbour, was waiting in her capacity as civil functionary, with a tri-colour sash across her breast, standing in front of the fourteenth century chimney covering one whole wall of the mairie room.
But there was a problem – Greg arrived looking handsome and debonair, Jessica arrived looking incredibly exotic and beautiful (and tanned, not blue), but several vital members of the family were missing. We waited and waited in the heat, heads craning toward the door, babies getting restless, and finally a decision was taken to start without them. Christopher had gone back to the house to be sure everyone had been driven down, and Manuel had misplaced his cool sunglasses, but they slid late into their places after the start of the ceremony.
The French civil ceremony is impressive – Jacqueline cited Ordinances Number 386, 483 and 542 (or something like that) about the joining of couples. But mostly, there’s a long section about children – how you are coming together for the good of children, whom you will guarantee to nurture and give a good education – and to consult in any important decisions. That consultation is written right into the code. I liked that.
Then for the religious part we went down to the church, part of which dates from the 12th century. Again, a few minor glitches. Lynn was handed the priest’s speech just before the ceremony and had to translate simultaneously. At one point she had to say something about the “charming wife waiting for her husband to get home from work” and nearly choked, and so did those of us who know how rarely such a scenario has ever played itself out in her home. And then later, two of the witnesses were supposed to read short passages interspersed with bits from “Down to the river to pray,” but the sound system at the church, an ancient ghetto blaster, was so poor that it kept cutting in and out, going backwards, fuzzy and choppy, or coming in at the wrong point. We were all heaving with laughter, which made it all the more special, somehow.
The most beautiful moment was when a beaming Denis walked his daughter down the aisle. This man had not ceased to rush about for the last month, the type-A control freak organising every single aspect of this vast affair – but finally, at this moment, he only had one job – to be a father, his face radiant, giving his daughter away to a fine young man. And throughout, the mistral howled around the church.
Then, back to the house to set up for the party. The caterers were late and short-staffed, the wind wreaking havoc with napkins and wine glasses – but by 7, the hundred guests had glasses in hand, the hors d’oeuvres were being devoured, and it was time for the animation and speeches. Denis is perhaps the only person who would start a wedding celebration by talking about a little girl with leukemia, survivor of Hiroshima, who began to make paper cranes – it was an unusual beginning but he was explaining the paper cranes dancing in the trees and asking us to remember our common humanity.
And then the tone lightened, Jessica’s brother and sisters did two funny skits about their sister. Greg’s mother Judy from Canberra spoke in both English and French, which was amazing as she does not speak a word of French – her speech had been translated by the owner of her hotel, and she’d learned it phonetically, speaking with a deliciously Australian accent, much appreciated by the French in the crowd. The Aussie guys teased their buddy Greg and forced him to chug a beer, then the whole row of them saluted him by chugging simultaneously – an Aussie wedding tradition. And then I spoke about being Jess’s godmother, about how she is one of the rare people who is beautiful outside but even more beautiful to the depths of her soul.
And then we ate and ate and drank and drank; the wind didn’t stop and people got really cold, so the hosts moved through the crowd passing out sweaters. We all moved to a lower section of the terraced garden for champagne and dessert, and then the best part – the dancing. We began at 11 and the kids danced till 3.30. My advice to any of you giving an event which you want to take off – invite a few Australians. What an marvellously friendly, open and fun bunch they are. They set up a limbo competition with a rake, at one point, and then we did a line dance which is a traditional Aussie wedding dance. Everyone danced for hours from the youngest to the old crocks, present company included.
Today – we just put together a lunch for 40. It’s 3.30 p.m. on a hot, windless afternoon, many of us are a tiny bit the worse for wear, and the group is still sitting at the table chatting as I sit inside chatting to you. One of the kids secretly drank many glasses of wine, threw up and passed out; his parents drove home with a bucket, which they returned today. Some are packing up tents and departing, but there will still be a big group for dinner tonight; the kitchen team has the meal planned already. There’s a clean-up to do, and many, many staples to remove from the rented tables.
But first, another glass of rosé and a swim to help the tiny headache.

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2 Responses to “a triumph in the wind”

  1. Lynnie says:

    They returned the barf bucket? I think I would have told them to keep it! 😉

  2. beth says:

    I assume they'd washed it.
    The kid spent the following day lolling in the pool.
    b.

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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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