Sunday, January 09, 2005

christmas under the ventoux

Our first Christmas and New Year celebrations at Les Cougieux, at the foot of the Mont Ventoux, are crammed in between trips to Paris and Valence with my orchestra.
We decide that shopping must be done in style and drive to the market, Les Halles, in Avignon. There we spin at the epicentre of French celebration. The meal on the 24th will be a la Francaise : Twelve Fines et Claires d’Oleron oysters, coquilles St Jaques and bass. For the following days we choose wild duck (with extra gizzards thrown in and a few goose heads for rich deglazed sauces), pigeon and foie gras both mi-cuit and raw. We make a leap of festive faith and go for the traditional provencal winter vegetable we have no idea how to cook, cardoons. It looks, with it’s ugly spiked back, like a cross between celery and a stegelosaurus Rex. It is supposed to taste like a cross between celery and Jerusalem artichokes without the farts.
The 24th is a balmy thirteen degrees but, despite our commitment to spending four days inseparably together, Julian whirrs off to the studio on the bike to finish something mysterious, which may be delivered by reindeer and a red nosed father later on and I am entrusted with budget table decorations. I choose to go a - berry picking at the foot of the far-from-bleak Ventoux and meditate on what this holy day means to me – an aspiring Buddhist who believes in Bach married to a lapsed Catholic who believes in Cezanne and the human spirit. My favourite carol pours spontaneously out of me and as I sing "What can I give him? Give my heart." amongst the bare vines back-lit by the sun and away from canned jingle bells in Sainsburys, something begins to makes sense.
As we are hanging fairy lights around one of Julian’s new fluffy still lives to the sound of the Kings carol service on broad band there is a knock at the door. Nadine and Manuel enter with a flamboyantly wrapped vin de pays. I recover some warm-ish fizz from the ‘boghole’ and we sit by the fire sipping, stroking cats and bavarding. There were no plans, the room is in no particular order though candles burn, no feast is lain and no expensive gifts given but there is love and gratitude everywhere.
They leave after an hour saying "I know we don’t see each other often, but our hearts are with you" and a huge bloc of Nadine’s foie gras appears on her kitchen window as a rather fattening afterthought.
We open a Beaumes de Venise we have been saving, and spread her gift on pain de seigle we toast in the fire. Then it just happens, the feeling steals round us: It is Christmas.
As I jab at the oysters I am told it is present time.
"If I were a painter I would bring a still life…."
Julian brings out the framed self-portrait, which, along with the fluffy yellow still life I adore, are my gifts.
"Yet what can I give her? Give my heart…."
He does just that too.


Blogger julian said...

welcome to the wonderful world of blogging my darling

3:40 PM  

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