Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Returning

Just a quick one on landing.  We've been spending a couple of days at Pontorson, near le Mont St Michel, the trip we were meant to have done on my 50th birthday, which we booked a couple of weeks ago.  We viewed all the amazing engineering works that have been going on around the Mont, travelled on the new electric shuttle buses to the foot of it, walked quite a bit of the way up it despite saying we'd done it before and didn't  need to again, because once you get there you just have to.  Took quite a few photos which I haven't downloaded yet.  And we lounged and read and consumed large amounts of delicious food and drink remarkably cheaply in a very simple but friendly hotel.  I mulled a lot but didn't mope. The weather, the light, the flowers and the colours of sea and land and sky were miraculously beautiful, and it felt like a gift, not to be squandered.

We left on Sunday, Heather's funeral had been on the Saturday, a long day and a demanding one and a lot of driving.  The mass part was in the church of St Michel in St Brieuc, a building which has long tended to give me the horrors, though of more recent times I often parked near to it when I visited her, and came to rather like the quartier. It was very cold in there.  Then we made our way up to Paimpol to join the boat which was taking her to be buried on the Île de Bréhat.  There are no cars there, and the tiny cemetery, where her eldest daughter is also buried, is at the top of the town.  The image of the little red tractor pulling the trailer with the velvet-draped coffin, and a motley band of reasonably solemn but lively people (and one dog, Molly came too) following along behind through the diminutive streets of the island, with its pink rocks and houses, strange warm air, clouds of perfumed flowers and crowds of wondering tourists, is one that will stay with me for a long time.

I'll sort out some photos of the Mont St Michel trip shortly.

12 comments:

The Crow said...

Through your gentle words, Lucy, I easily imagined I was walking--far behind--the tractor up the hill on Heather's island home.

I think the most touching thing was that Molly was among the mourners. Don't know why that image of a small black dog walking Heather home affected me so, but it did.

Dale said...

Hugs, Lucy. Lovely post.

Julia said...

I'm sending you a virtual hug
Such a sad occasion but it also sounds beautiful which is, I think, how one's final journey should be, don;t you think?

Zhoen said...

Much to mull over. Sounds like an ideal funeral, an honor and a comfort.

christopher said...

One of your best posts, dear Lucy. I especially liked it that Molly was part of the proceedings. Bless you for your kindness to friends. I have felt it too from you from time to time.

Roderick Robinson said...

Paimpol - the scruffy restaurant which had stuffed cabbage on offer. Sounds mundane in the context of your post but for me I was re-connecting with a part of France that has almost disappeared. I trust Heather would have understood.

Ellena said...

Ile de Brehat - Heather rests in paradise indeed.
In 2001 I walked the spiral path up to the Abbey on Mont St.Michel without realizing that I needed legs to do it. Are the sheep still crossing the big road? I'm looking forward to see your photos.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

We agonised long about what to do about Mol; she's never been a patient dog,and we feared she'd whine and fidget at inappropriate moments. Tom was going to stay behind at the port with her and the car, but Heather's son had said feel free to bring her. In fact it became apparent it was quite a free and informal occasion, so we decided to take her, and apart from some restlessness on the boat over so I had to walk her around, she was really very good. She received a fair few smiles but not too much fussing which tends to wind her up a bit, and no one seemed to disapprove.

It was a lovely send-off; French Catholic funeral masses we always have problems with, though there were a few more personal touches in the music, and the priest was a friend of hers and his eulogy was clearly sincere and intelligent, but the acoustics and PA in that church are so atrocious it was difficult (even for the French speakers, it seems) to catch much of it. So the Bréhat part was especially important, and it is a beautiful place.

RR - Heather's naturalising as French never really extended to an enthusiasm or interest in the food; I got talking to another English woman - there weren't many of us - and we laughed about her builders' strength tea and how you could never give her too much English style marmalade. She could wax quite nostalgic about shepherds pie, and enjoyed a mince pie at Christmas.
I was thinking about you at the hotel in Pontorson though, and your observations about the variable nature of half-board, which previous brief experience had rather confirmed, but here it was astonishingly good value and quality, with far more choice and cheaper than was available for non-residents, and the kind of thing I think you'd have appreciated: grilled pre-salé lamb chops with a big pile of flageolet beans and home-made chips, coquillages farcies dripping maître-d butter, excellent oysters which came in nines, enormous slices of ham smothered in Madeira sauce that Tom couldn't find the edge of they went so far under the other things on the plate, apple sorbet swimming in Calva... two days wasn't really long enough, but probably quite long enough for our waistlines and arteries.

Ellena - we didn't go right to the top this time; in fact the crowds are more tiring than the gradient I find, though we got there reasonably early and they weren't too bad. I think the sheep no longer come and go; the whole topography of it is being changed markedly, so eventually it will be more truly an island. I'll get on to the pictures and do a bit more research on the works they've done and are doing.

Roderick Robinson said...

Dinner as a sort of layer cake: I loved "that Tom couldn't find the edge of."

I'm trying to guess how the French pronounced Heather's first name, esp the diphthong?

Bruce Taylor, a.k.a. Catalyst said...

Sounds like a sad but beautiful day, Lucy. The problems of befriending older people is that they tend to disappear.

Rouchswalwe said...

I've been thinking of Heather and I am glad that you three were able to be there together.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

The kind of funeral to be wished for, if such a thing can ever be wished.

And the hotel...and the food! Marvellous.
I'd like to go there one day.