Lime, vine and cherry leaves have been blown away by the mistral, the first snow is atop the Ventoux and I am remembering a certain wedensday about three weeks ago at St Cosme
, when it was still balmy.
I pull up at the gates to the chateau. The radio in the renault will not budge from the incomprehensible (even for a cultured girl who speaks good French) France ****ing Culture. The boot will not close and the car is matted all over with the remains of two dozen car-loads of horse-poo that I have been moving from the equestrian centre to our organic garden and it is sticking to my bare legs. I haven't had any coffee. It is 9.30.
'Ah a Renault mégane estate!' sniffs Louis, appearing at the gate with a look of disgust in which I detect the respect of my new student waning. 'That is not the same thing as the mini convertible!'
I mutter something about Julian
having his bobbing-about-in-a-small-swimming-pool-with-the-kiné-and-his-frozen-shoulder session and enter. In front of the chateau stand about thirty workers. Polish, possibly. One of them hands me a glass whose contents I imagine fighting with the muesli and fat free yoghurt I am still trying to digest from breakfast. I decline.
'A coffee perhaps?' I say.
'Come, have a drink with us!' says Louis who, in a few minutes is supposed to be playing me a Bach sarabande and concentrating on his abdominal breathing. 'We are celebrating the end of the Vendange!'.
The mood is indeed festive. There have been slim but very high quality pickings. The workers have performed well. Everyone is drunk. Someone hands me a coffee. I gulp it down and suddenly I find myself opening up my cello case.
'A bit of Bach for the party?' I ask.
I play the shakiest Bach Sarabande under a large plane tree I have ever played, which I hope is because of the coffee rather than the beady eye of my highly accomplished deeply respected wine maker student, but the workers seem to love it. Then I drag Louis away for his lesson.
As always we start with breathing, inviting the excitement of the end of the season, the stress about having to pay forty workers before they make their way back to Eastern Europe, the Important Client who will arrive later that day, not to mention the clarinet, ballet, and piano lessons that need to be driven to to fall away. At the beginning it almost doesn't seem worth it. In fact I think we both think it would be easier just to stay in the stress and excitement. Just for today. Anyway, that is what I am paid to do, so we keep at it. I know he does not have time to practice but this week I can hear a difference in his sound and see that his breath is starting to inform his playing. When we talk, about curved notes, tides, tension and release, I can hear that he loves to delve into the spiritual, philosophical and natural side of music making. When he plays his musicality is raw and tender under the guidance of his grape stained fingernails, and as always I am moved, by him and by the intimacy of our exchange.
When we finish he runs off to pay the workers, but he does not forget to return with my petrol money.
'This is my best wine' he says, presenting me with a bottle of Côte Rôtie. Children are running and playing saxophones everywhere. There are cats and an ill dog, but he stands absolutely still under an unframed painting of Julian's onions
and looks me directly in the eye. 'Everything about this wine is exactly the same as the things we have been talking about. You will see.'
And we did see. Julian and I got the good news from Bamako a week later and as we had promised each other, opened one of the best wines of the region. In one sniff I could taste the music.
(These two photographs are of the view from our house in it's last Autumn glory.)