Entente (fairly) Cordiale

Tuesday August 2, 2022

Having survived 87 months of June, I did not intend writing about July, but it keeps making the headlines, and I realised that for the whole of my adult life July has been: scary (at the moment), chaotic, bizarre, party-ing, see-sawing bringing up children and making a living, and very, very international.

There are 11 years between eldest and youngest of my five children. This means that from when the first started school (1961) till the last went to 6th form college (1984) there were non-stop sports days, open days, speech/prize-giving days. There were changes of schools (could be traumatic) getting the uniform together (definitely traumatic) organise driving rotas. Satchels, notes, sports gear, cooking ingredients (had to be weighed). All during the busiest month – dictatorial markets, (ditto irrigation) foreign labour, student labour, government form filling, (much worse now). But international?

Our second house was a 17 roomed wreck, we needed money, I needed help.  Aux pairs, Finnish (they curtsied to Mr G!) French (useless) Australian (marvellous, except she was petrified of UK driving). We had foreign students, French,Italian, German to learn English. No way, they just caused mayhem with our lot. I had no compunction in taking the money, I could not make them learn English. Anyway, I reckoned their fond parents would have paid double to get rid of them. Bizarre, when Malaysia decreed education was to be in Malay a copra millionaire sent his grand-daughters to be educated in a strict convent in Staffordshire. Poor things, the guardian sent them to us in July/August. So quite normal to have dinner for at least twelve, and 5 nationalities.

But it was moving to France  that really started major parties. Mr G’s birthday was 10th July, Bastille Day 14th, plus best French friend’s birthday. I decided (warped sense of humour) that we Brits would throw a big party on French national day. It became an institution. One year some people apologised before the day that they would be away. I said we were not having it anyway. I imagined a queue of people on the pavement hoping for the usual food, drink and gossip. I always had a ‘theme’ Spanish tapas was the favourite.  After a scary crisis in Jakarta our  6 year old grand-son was sent to us – never been away from both parents. I said ‘Right young man you are co-host, you take the presents and put them nicely on the table’. First gift, a dozen bottles of wine! Then he was hidden behind bouquets and pot plants. The local priest turned up, already had moules frites, said he would have a ‘friendly’ drink and stumbled out of the house after dinner around 2 a.m. The ‘cordiale’ bit of this still gladdens me. Everybody came – French provincial sociability is very stratified. Anyway, last market day French pals, a Danish family with two adorable blond daughters, a Mexican family with two teen-age beauties. I wonder what tomorrow will bring? Market day. Now I have to save my plants.

How has July treated you?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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