01 August 2012

Visiting with neighbors

"We were invited to dinner by friends on Bastille Day (le 14 juillet) over in Noyers. There were 28 people for dinner, and we sat outside under tents. I wore my scarf, my coat, and my hat all evening. That's how cold it was."

That was our neighbor (age 77 — her birthday was yesterday) last night, telling us about July's weather. She and her husband invited us over for wine and finger foods at the last minute, when Walt walked by their place on his way home after walking the dog. Three of the neighbors' daughters, all in their 40s and 50s, were there, along with one son-in-law and half a dozen grandchildren.

The neighbors' house and yard seen from our kitchen window
just a couple of minutes ago

We talked about plants, gardening, and fruit trees. Like ours, the neighbors' apple trees are nearly bare. They have no redcurrants or raspberries this year. There are few pears, they said, and one of their cherry trees died in the big February freeze. The little yellow mirabelle plums are full of worms, they said — usually they give us a big basketful of them in August.

I asked about the little red plums on another tree. Those are the ones I like for making jams and tarts. « Il n'y en a pas », the neighbor said. « Les blaireaux ont tout bouffé. » — "There aren't any. The badgers ate them all." A colony or "clan" of badgers has dug its burrows, called a "sett," down the hill on the other side of the neighbors' property, where a creek runs through a steep-sided, narrow valley.

All the neighbors' children and their spouses know me and Walt, and many of the grandchildren do too. We stayed for a couple of hours, in the midst of all the lively, rapid-fire conversation covering many situations and people we don't know. We were able to keep up and participate. We drank champagne and rosé wine. We ate goat cheese, sausages, radishes, blinis, potato puff-pastry squares, and two desserts (apricot cake and crème caramel).

Good memories: the neighbors' Bastille Day party in 2003,
a month after we arrived in Saint-Aignan

It was a fine evening. Nine years ago, when we moved to Saint-Aignan, these neighbors would have one or two big parties every summer, with anywhere from 50 to 125 guests for sit-down dinners under big-top tents pitched in their yard. Sometimes they'd be out there until two or three in the morning, singing and dancing. We were invited many times. Now, at age 77 (her) and 82 (him), they've slowed down a little. It was nice to catch up with them one more time.


  1. It's so nice of your neighbors to have invited you even that first summer :) What a big production, with those canopy tent things!

    Do they know about and read your blog, Ken?


  2. Fantastic to have entertaining neighbors like yours. To have a sit-down dinner for so many people they obviously like to socialize and share their wealth. I'm always impressed that both of you have so melded into your neighborhood and that you both can be just like other french neighbors (language)!

    Mary in Oregon

  3. Now that's what I call being neighborly!!!

  4. Judy, I've told the neighbors about our blogs but I don't think any of them have read them. At least they haven't said so.

  5. Mary and Starman, the neighbors' biggest party, with well over a hundred guests for a sit-down lunch, an afternoon of lazy conversation in the yard or taking a walk through the vineyard, and then a sit-down dinner followed by music and dancing, was held one summer several years ago to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They are an amazing family.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?