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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday 26th April: 50eme Anniversaire de Marriage

Last night's gig was to celebrate Michel's parents-in- law Golden Wedding Anniversary. At Alexander's suggestion, the party was held at Andre's restaurant in Carnac. 

The place was decorated with red and yellow balloons and banners strung across the ceiling proclaiming Felicitations Bernard et Yvette and Heureux 50eme Anniversaire de Marriage. Each table held a vase of red and yellow tulips. Somebody had gone to a great deal of trouble. Alexander and Kieron were already setting up. Kieron was in a cheerful mood, entertaining us with stories about his crazy customers. Michel arrived a few minutes later and wanted to show me the table in the centre of the room set up with a disply of framed photographs of his parents in law on their wedding day with several of their daughter, Antoinette, and a couple of their little granddaughter, but none with Michel. I had the feeling he wanted me to comment on this, but I said nothing.
The guests were taking their seats as Ines turned up with Gavin. They'd been asked to sing a duet; the theme tune from the 1964 film LesParapluies de Cherbourg by Michel Legrand (Bernard and Yvette's favourite song). They'd been practising and were looking forward to performing as it. Gavin was in his usual form; hard to ignore his fake laughter as he circulated amongst the guests, dominating their conversations.
The guests stood and applauded when Bernard and Yvette made their entrance with Antoinette. The room soon fell silent as Ines and Gavin began their duet. They performed the beautiful love song so well (obviously been rehearsing together). Bernard and Yvette were beaming; they looked so pleased. When the song came to an end the applause was deafening. Gavin bowed, kissed Ines, and then announced in French that he had an important announcement to make. Clasping Ines's hand, he announced in his booming voice that a date had been set in September for their wedding. This drew further applause from the guests. Gavin gave several more of his theatrical bows, paused to congratulate Michel's parents in law, then, leaving Ines on the stage, made a grand exit through the front doors. I wondered where he was off to: there's something so fake about him.
As soon as waiters started serving we began our first piece, LesFeuilles Mortes as sung by Yves Montand; another request from Bernard and Yvette, but there was so much chatter at the tables I'm not sure if anyone noticed. Our next piece was Besame Mucho by Consuelo Velasquez. Ines was singing well, probably because she was in a happy mood.
During our break Alexander and I wandered out into the moon lit garden while Kieron had disappeared into the kitchens. Michel was already out there, pacing up and down, smoking. I asked him what he thought of the evening so far, but was unprepared for the rant which followed. Violently grounding what was left of his cigarette into the grass, he told Alexander and myself he was desperate to return to Canada. He hated living with Antoinette's parents. While they fussed over his wife and daughter, they constantly interfered. He often felt as though Antoinette was ganging up against him by siding with them. Although they were saving, his job in the music shop didn't pay well enough for them to find a place of their own. Antoinette had just found out she was pregnant again. We congratulated him but, although he was pleased, he was now worried that Antoinette would use the new baby as an excuse to stay at her parents' home. 
When we returned to the restaurant, Michel made no attempt to go over and speak to his wife and parents in law. In fact, it was Ines who was talking to them, showing off her engagement ring. During the second half we livened things up with Capullito de Aleli and the upbeat So Danco Samba before the speeches. The first to speak was an old man, a friend of the couple who'd been their best man, but I couldn't hear a word he said. This was followed by Bernard's speech; a long rambling recollection of his wedding day and stories of married life. He mentioned their grand daughter and I wondered if they knew about the new baby. I noticed Michel making a study of his drumsticks, seemingly bored with the proceedings. Photos were taken of the couple and several with Antoinette. Just as the replica of their wedding cake was about to be cut, Michel dropped his drum sticks with a loud clatter and strode over to his family and announced he would like to say a few words. The room fell silent. Bernard looked worried and whispered something to him but Michel turned away and shook his head dismissively. First he congratulated his parents in law, then, putting his arm around Antoinette, he announced they were having another baby, and, soon after the birth, they would be leaving for Canada to bring up their family there. I couldn't help feeling sorry for Yvette. She looked devastated. I thought she was about to cry. Bernard put his arm round her. Antoinette stared ahead, her body rigid. She was fuming. The guests were unsure of how to react. A few clapped and some called out congratulations at the mention of the baby, but most were silent. Michel avoided looking at us as he returned to his drums. We listened to a recording of Sacha Distel singing C'etait plus Fort que Tout (the French version of I Can't Stop Loving You) whilst Bernard and Yvette cut their wedding cake. 
I was glad to get away at the end of the evening. I went over and congratulated Yvette before I left. She thanked me in a quiet voice. Bernard was nowhere to be seen. I asked Antoinette if she'd enjoyed the music and she hardly looked at me when she replied. She was still extremely angry. Michel was also quiet as we packed away; just muttered goodbye to us as he left. His wife and her mother were busy collecting their photos and presents and ignored him as he passed by. I understand Michel's frustration but I don't think he should have made his announcement. I hate to think what will happen when they get home. One of them is going to have to compromise and I don't think it's going to be Antoinette.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Thursday 16th April: A Broken Peace

I made the most of the sunshine this morning by sorting out the garden. Pepin joined me by racing about like a mad thing, constantly bringing his ball for me to throw. Solange stopped to chat on her way out. Paul, Isabelle, Mathilde, and their new baby Leo, are due to arrive this afternoon and are staying in the gite until Sunday. I mentioned this to Celine when she phoned. She said she'd bring a card and present on her way over. 

Everything was peaceful outside for a while, until the window cleaner's tuneless humming broke the silence. He told me Solange had instructed him to clean my windows. I was unsure of his accent and asked where he was from, and if he spoke English. He told me he was from Portugal, from a town called Loule in the Algarve. His name was Joao. I surprised him by asking in Portuguese if he wanted tea or coffee. He wanted to know how come I speak the language and I told him about my days in Portugal and Brazil. Loule is a pretty little town I've visited many times. I also mentioned that lived in a village called Olhao, not far from Faro. Joao knows Olhao and Faro well and was interested to hear about my time there. He's been five years in France, and is married to a Frenchwoman. We spoke in a mixture of English and Portuguese and I was amazed how good his English is which he picked up from watching British and American T.V programmes. I asked if he missed Portugal, but he said no; he has everything he wants here in France. He set up his own window cleaning business three years ago and has now built up a large client base. He was just finishing when Celine arrived. She chatted to him for a while, asking what he thinks of Brittany and whether he likes living here. He finished up and had to leave in a hurry as he was late for his next customer.
Celine had stopped off at a second hand shop in Lorient and bought two framed photographs of village scenes in the 1920's. One of a smiling lady, taken in the doorway of her town house and the other of a grocer dressed in a long apron, standing outside his shop showing off his display of fruit and vegetables. I pointed out that there was a corner missing from the frame and I would try and fix it. I can't imagine Celine has much more space on her walls. Her cottage is unbelievably cluttered.
When we went back outside I noticed Paul's car parked in front of the gite. Mathilde came running up, followed by her dad, Paul. She was hopping up and down, insisting we come over immediately to see baby Leo. We congratulated Paul. He's relieved everything went well and Isabelle and the baby are both fine. I remember him telling me about several earlier miscarriages. Mathilde beamed as he told us how she's been so good with the baby and helps her mum. She told us to hurry as baby Leo was awake and waiting to meet us. We followed her across to the gite and congratulated Isabelle who was sitting on the sofa, holding the baby. She looked tired but happy. I could tell Isabelle was pleased with the present, a sailor suit with a matching hat. Thank Goodness Celine picked it. I wouldn't have had a clue what to get!
It's good to see them so happy.
Over dinner Celine mentioned she's seen Adele a few times in the last few weeks and is starting to wonder if she's being followed. She's spotted her in the supermarket three times and again in Vannes twice, but hadn't spoken to her. I said she should have mentioned this earlier, but she dismissed it as a coincidence and didn't seem too concerned. I said to note down each time she sees Adele because I'm convinced there's more to it than coincidence. She's already had to change her phone number and I'm concerned about what Adele will be up to next.

I showed Celine the lemon drizzle cake I'd made earlier. She said she'd never tried it before, but she must have liked it as she finished off three slices. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Saturday 4th April: Animal Rights‏

I was surprised to see Stefanie and Tomas at Karl's house yesterday. They chatted for a while, but I sensed a tension between them. Tomas was even hairier than before; dreadlocks and beard covering most of his face. There was also a musty, damp smell about him, as if he'd been sleeping rough. Stefanie looked tired and drawn with dark shadows under her eyes and had lost a lot of weight. She was quieter than I remembered. It wasn't long before they announced they were going for a walk.
I asked Karl if anything was wrong. He said they'd arrived two days ago and the atmosphere between them has very strained. Tomas was sleeping outside in a tent and insisted on Stefanie sleeping there too. Apparently, because she was cold, she'd crept back into the house at three in the morning and this had caused an argument between them. Tomas had also caught her using the washing machine and started ranting about the chemicals in washing detergents. He'd stormed out of the house, slammed the door and left Stefanie crying in the kitchen. She'd told her dad she'd moved out of the student house she'd shared with two other girls and moved into the squat to be with him and, although she loved Tomas, she missed having hot water, proper heating and a washing machine. Tomas insisted she mustn't wear make up or use deodorants and demanded she only use water to wash her hair; no shampoo or conditioner. She's already a vegetarian but Tomas is now putting pressure on her to become a vegan. I was surprised that Stefanie had gone along with all this. I remembered how, at Christmas, she had a very good appetite and had gone for second helpings which included meat. 

I said she must love Tomas very much as she'd given up a lot for him. Karl thinks she'll follow him to the ends of the earth, but he's worried how she's being so influenced by him. She did well at school and, up until recently, has been getting good grades at university. He wasn't sure whether to say something to Tomas. I said they would probably see it as interfering and it could make things worse.
We walked down to the lake and watched the ducks and geese. Karl had to point out out Gertrude, the goose we'd rescued from Jean Luc last summer. Little does she know how lucky she is as she nearly ended up on the dinner table. She's now grown so much I wouldn't have recognised her. We were wondering how Jean Luc and his mad wife are getting along when we heard shouting behind us. Stefanie was clinging on to Tomas's coat whilst he was trying to push her away. I don't speak any German but it was obvious Stefanie was very distressed. We went over to see what was going on. Tomas had packed up his tent and was collecting his belongings. Stefanie was sobbing, pleading with him not to go, but he barely glanced at her. He just picked up his rucksack, gave a dismissive wave and marched off down the road.
Stefanie was inconsolable, clinging to her dad. I wondered if I should leave but Karl asked me to come back into the house with them. He told Stefanie to sit down and made her a coffee. Once she settled down, they spoke in German for a while. She then left the room.
Karl said he'd he'd told her to have a hot bath and catch up with her sleep. Apparently Tomas had been planning to break into a mink farm nearby and release all the animals. He'd been up to the farm a few times, making sketches and plans of the area. He'd wanted Stefanie to take part in the break in which he planned to carry out the following night, but she was worried. When she told Tomas she was concerned about them being caught he'd become angry and told her to go back to her father's. He'd told her she was weak and pathetic and was no use to him.
While neither Karl nor myself are supportive of the mink farms here in Brittany, I know he is more concerned about Stefanie getting into trouble with the police. He believes there are more effective ways to go about closing these farms and doesn't think releasing the mink will do any good. I'm inclined to agree.
I stayed for a while and told him about meeting Josephine from the book shop, but Karl wasn't really listening; I could see his mind was on Stefanie.
That all happened yesterday.
This morning I was clearing the garden when I had a call from Karl. When he'd got up he found a note on the kitchen table from Stefanie. Tomas had come back for her and they decided to return to Berlin. Karl had a feeling this would happen and the previous night he'd put some money in Stefanie's bag whilst she was asleep. He was concerned about her hitch hiking and wanted her to have enough to make the journey back. There was no mention of the mink farm.