the first postcard
We agreed to meet for lunch in the rather camp but fun Opera Café in Avignon. I got there first and found a little room for my six oversized unattractively coloured plastic bags near the only remaining table. I had tried to disguise the presents but ‘Casa’ shrieked loud in bright green and the huge copper pan was very huge copper pan shaped. Luckily I had something small and secret for him at home.
I sat there with my glass, admiring the cotton wool covered piano, the chocolate desserts and the beautiful people, slightly shrinking from the gilded angels on my chair back, and waited for my husband. Julian arrived with two small bags, both elegant and perfectly coordinated with the restaurant’s décor in gold and orange. One of them was definitely from a chocolatier and, unless he was being clever by borrowing a chocolate bag to disguise lingerie, I knew that present was more for him than me.
We celebrate Christmas eve in the French way. We always start with oysters and champagne and then we open presents from the tree. After that we have a seafood dinner.
After a few warm ups like the obligatory socks and knickers (bamboo and organic cotton this year) I passed over the biggie. About the size of half a matchbox, I had wrapped it in lots of frills and bubble wrap so it did not look like a book or a cd or indeed a painting.
‘It’s a duane oddment!’ cried Julian when he took off the final layer and saw his ‘sourball3’.’You’d better have yours then!’
Julian passed me a distinctively postcard shaped package in delicious glittery paper, much of which was on Julian’s face as he smiled. When I unwrapped it I saw a plum and corn coloured landscape of such beauty that I burst into tears. On a card he had written something about falling in love.
‘The original postcard painting’ said Julian ‘painted on a cigar box by Claude Firmin in Avignon in 1901’
‘The year my Granny was born’ I said. We were both crying now.
It was possibly one of the nicest Christmases I have ever had.
Then, just when we thought we were full to the brim, Duane’s book arrived in the post, with an inscription from the original daily postcard painter, the Grandaddy of them all, quoting from the marvellous Annie Dillard, that made us both cry even more:
May you spend “a lifetime of days” painting the light of Provence,