It overlooks the stream but, although the door was wide open, it was already very warm inside. As it was midday there were lots of people to go round and greet before we found a place to sit down.
The noise level is very noticeable in this room and it soon rose to a deafening roar. Eventually the aperitif was served and people near us started to mutter that it wasn’t champagne but a ‘cremant’. Oh dear, that must be sacrilege in this region, Champagne-Ardennes!
Opposite us was a young girl in a wheelchair with her parents, new members of the club. I thought she was probably a victim of multiple sclerosis but her father later explained that it was the result of an accident when she was six months old. Her cot was in the back of their car and another driver crashed into them. She was thrown out of the car and found in a ditch with severe head injuries.
It was a Sunday and so, although she was taken to Reims, nothing was done immediately. Eventually they operated but she remains a ‘baby,’ incapable of doing anything for herself. She could go into a home on a permanent basis but her mother would not permit it. She just goes for two afternoons a week to give her a break. She went to special school until she was 18 but for the last 21 years (she is now 39) her mother has coped alone.
However, all these years of selfless devotion mean that the mother is not entitled to a pension! “Maybe when she is 65 she will get something but it makes me very angry.” said her father.
The only times when the noise of conversation abated was when food was served. The menu consisted of Salade Landaise (magret de canard, gesiers, egg and lettuce), Trou Normande (apple sorbet laced generously with calvados), Joues de Porc et ses legumes (pigs’ cheeks on a bed of vegetables), Cheese and salad, a variety of ice-creams with fruit coulis and, finally coffee and brioche.
The caterer was Alain (who had been responsible for the wedding we went to recently) and I certainly didn’t envy him working in the kitchen on a hot day.
The lady in the pink top sitting next to me is the ‘matriarch’ of our local ice-cream maker. She was widowed two years ago and passed the running of the business over to her son and her husband’s brother. She has moved to a smaller house but is having trouble selling the enormous ‘maison de maitre’ on the edge of the village. She was proudly telling us that her grandaughter is now involved in the business and there was a photo of her on the front of a magazine she was passing round.
Opposite us was a couple we know quite well. The husband is always full of fun and enjoys teasing Bear but the wife has been very ill with cancer and didn’t come to the last meal. it was great to see her looking much better and tucking into her food with pleasure.