I found this scrumptious picture whilst rummaging around amongst my computer's photos.
Does anyone know where and when it was taken?
In this blogposting...Continue at your peril...
* La vie en France: Noël
* AGM XXX
* La vie en France: Noël
* AGM XXX
LA VIE EN FRANCE / LIFE IN FRANCE
NOËL / CHRISTMAS - PART ONE
For all but two of the last 62 years I have spent Christmas at home in the north-east of England. Wherever else I may have been for the rest of the year, Peterlee always called me back in late December. Unlike both my brothers, I had no family of my own to spoil with presents and Christmas stockings, so each year I reverted to type, as it were. Once again, I became the baby of our larger family nestling safely and snugly in the bosom of home.
The first exception occurred when I was 21 and working as a bus conductor in London. For reasons known only to themselves, some large corporation or other decided to sponsor a skeleton bus service for Christmas Day. So London Transport operated a few buses free to passengers.
In those primordial days London’s buses were all open-platform Routemasters so conductors had to be present whether they collected fares or not. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse; six hours‘ work at triple time for doing nothing except smiling sweetly at whoever happened to be out and about on Christmas Day.
I enjoyed it - but it felt very odd indeed to get back to my grotty little bedsit and spend Christmas night on my own. It would be another 25 years before I stayed away from home a second time.
And the second time was even worse. My then partner and I decided to spend the holiday in a rather grandiose hotel near Hawes in Wensleydale - and it was awful. It was full of comfortable, middle-class couples with Daily Mail tendencies concealing their hatred of each other’s company by being silently and smugly self-satisfied. They couldn’t take their supercilious eyes of the two thirtysomething men, neither of whom had, at the time, the confidence to stare straight back.
Add the typical North Yorkshire po-faced brusqueness with which we are all regrettably familiar and you have a recipe for disaster.
So, apart from on those two memorable occasions, Mam proved to be a very effective - and very welcome - anchor at Christmas; a magnet whose force I was perfectly happy to yield to.
But the grey place that patiently awaits us all has called Mam to her. My remaining Christmases will have no more of her smiles and no more of her Thankyou kisses. And there will be no more grateful thoughts that she has reached another Christmas unscathed - for this time, she has not. Instead, I have reached it alone, and very much scathed.
This Christmas, then, there was no anchor and no magnet to hold me in the north-east - and there was really no argument about where this meant I could spend Christmas. For the first time in my life, I would not only be away from home - I would be overseas.
I would be spending Christmas in France.
I’m lucky enough to have travelled to Beaujolais enough times to say that I have a ‘regular’ route. I fly from Newcastle to Paris and then complete the trip by train. Almost every other way of getting there is preferable - but rarely affordable.
A particularly attractive option would be one that lands me at Lyon airport; it omits the dreary necessity of travelling across Paris and instead deposits me at Serge’s doorstep. There are, however, no direct flights from Newcastle to Lyon.
When I searched the internet for a cheap Christmas flight, though, I discovered that my luck was in (for a change). There was an affordable flight from Newcastle, changing at Amsterdam for Lyon. Almost door-to-door, then.
I booked my ticket at once and confidently looked forward to my first Christmas on foreign soil.
What could possibly go wrong?
Here are some more photos of AGM XXX. Works of art, the lot of them.
And a big, warm, seasonal hug to Vivienne for sending them to me.
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