28 January 2007

Neighborhood get-together (1)

Our neighbors the J's invited us over last night (Saturday) for what is called apéritifs here. We thought we would walk up the street to their house at 6:30 p.m., have a glass of wine and some finger food, and then get home by 8:45 to watch a movie on TV that we wanted to see.

Well, we ended up getting home at midnight. There turned out to be 14 of us there for the soirée. We all sat around a big coffee table in front of a fireplace with a nice fire going. We drank sparkling wine — not too much — and ate canapés. Smoked salmon on little bread squares, foie gras on toast, little puff pastries stuffed with sausages or anchovies, and things like that. There was a quiche lorraine cut into little squares so you could eat it with your fingers.

Mme J the eldest is 84 years old, she told me. It was 1967 when she and her late husband bought the house she now lives in. It was basically a ruin. There was an old-fashioned kitchen and one other room. The rest of the building was the barn. It had been a farm, and the main part of the building dates from the 1740s. Some of it was renovated in the 1850s.

Mr and Mme J had the barn portion of the house finished off to make a big living room with what we would call a cathedral ceiling. There's a lot of dark woodwork, including a nice wooden staircase up to a mezzanine and an upstairs bedroom (or maybe several). A big French door leads out to the back yard, and a wide French window looks out onto the street on the other side of the room. There's a huge stone fireplace.

Mr and Mme J later added a wing onto the east side of the house, which is Mme J's studio. She's a painter.

The J's moved here for good in 1985, from Paris. Their daughter, who like me was born in 1949, stayed and worked in Paris in Paris until 1992, but then decided to relocate as well. I don't know when Mr. J died, but it might be that it was about the time that the daughter moved in. Mme J the younger also has a daughter. She was born in 1987 and is now a student in a city about 3 hours' drive south of Saint-Aignan. That daughter was there last night as well.

I'll call them the three J's (and yes, I'll use an apostrophe).

The other people at the party included two other sets of neighbors along with some other people. More later...

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