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05 October 2012


5 October 2012
Greetings from an autumnal Burgundy.  We are surrounded by rich autumn colours, the change from summer to autumn has all happened so quickly.
This has been a very busy month, starting with my birthday, and culminating in a celebration of our joint 140 years at the end of the month. 
This little gate was a birthday surprise from our kind
neighbours Jacqueline and Alain Argant

Birthday delivery!
We celebrated my birthday with an outing to a restaurant in Cluny, a beautiful meal and lots of fun.  At the table next to us a couple were speaking quietly, and we were curious to make out what language they were speaking.  Eventually we realised they were speaking Irish, and finally asked them if that was so. It was indeed, and they were surprised they were ‘sprung’ so to speak.

John’s brother Stephen and partner Barbara arrived later in the week with their new Labrador puppy, Coco.  They were breaking the journey on the way from Ireland to their home in Spain.

Breakfast juice for months!
Amazing grape harvest this year
One of the major happenings this month has been – at long last – the installation of ADSL in our house. We signed up immediately it became available. And we get free phone calls to 100 countries! So hopefully that is the end of our internet struggles.

John holding the big horn of a very
tame sheep
 Sunday 16th we drove to Geneva airport to meet Jane, John and Ciara after their long trip from Sydney. It all went well, and home they came to establish themselves here for a while.  Since then, we have had no time to ourselves, busy, busy, busy.  Doing things with the children, cooking, walking etc etc. Jane went to Ireland the following Thursday, so we applied ourselves to entertaining the children with outings.  This included a visit to the Plassard woollen mills, and their park with 96 breeds of sheep and goats.  John and Ciara had great fun running around feeding all the strange kinds of sheep. The next day a farmer friend took the children for a ride on his tractor and allowed John to steer.  All very exciting for the children.  Another day we visited Cluny Abbey as well as having a very popular bonfire in the garden. Sunday we started with the vendage at Chateau, where the children joined in picking grapes in our one remaining small, vineyard. Later we took a picnic to AzĂ©, and went on a conducted tour of the underground ‘grottes’ - prehistoric caves.  All fascinating!

Fun in Pierre's tractor
Chateau Vendange
Solitaire lessons....
What a load!
Jane came back on Monday, and we prepared ourselves for the arrival of Brigid, Conor and Daniel the next morning at Geneva.  They had spent a few days in Singapore on the way here.  After that it was all go, the children were crazily happy to be together, and suddenly our house was full of warriors with spears and swords.  The caves below became an ancient battle ground… wow!
On Wednesday, Jane’s friend Una arrived from Ireland, and as our house filled up, we organised ourselves to move into Le Nid, a neighbour’s gites complex, where several of our friends were also booked in, and Marilyn and Paul Collins had arrived that day.  We all returned here to have dinner, and were presented with a beautiful blown up photo of the grandchildren on canvas as our gorgeous present.  However, we were glad to go to the peace and quiet of our lodgings that evening.

Harnessing up
The next day Nick arrived from Canberra, via Geneva again, and Friday Patrick arrived.  Both fathers/husbands, had picked up hire cars at Geneva so we were saved the long drive.  Friday with the help of some friends we organised a ride in a caleche, drawn by a very beautiful dray horse.  We went to the owner’s farm at Jalogny, a village nearby, saw the horse being harnessed up, and then the children with their mothers rode from Jalogny to Chateau and were deposited at our gate.  Great fun all round.
During the week we had a panic about the weather – it was obviously going to be too cold to have the party in our courtyard, the numbers had now grown to 52.  This is a gathering that started off with a small group of family and very close friends. We contacted the mairie and had an anxious 24 hours before finding out that the community hall was available.  What a relief.
Friday evening lots of other guests arrived, so a pre-party party at Le Nid.
Eli and his Orgue de Barbary
Saturday was a busy day, setting up, decorating the hall.  But all organised by Una, Jane, and Brigid, with another friend, Amanda, doing the flowers and the candles and the guys helping.
We pushed off at 5pm, and the hall quickly filled up.  A local played the Orgue de Barbary, old fashioned French songs – gorgeous, the children loved having a go.
At 7pm we sat down to dinner and the other musicians had arrived -  a cellist and piano keyboard player.

The evening went very well, lots of music, singing and dancing.  Former colleagues from our Moscow days sang – Kyle Wilson, a friend with a very deep base voice - “God save the Czar” in Russian, and another folk song about the steppes.  Powerful and moving.  Another journalist colleague, Trevor Fishlock, from Moscow days sang Happy Birthday in Welsh, beautiful, and the French guests sang it in French, as well as an old Burgundy folk song.
It was a great occasion, and a happy one.

Sunday morning a big clean up at the hall and in the evening - another gathering around the piano at Le Nid, and most of the guests left Monday morning.  We moved back home with old friends Humphrey and Amanda.  Jane and Patrick and their children left for Basel, Una left for Ireland and we had Brigid, Nick, Conor and Daniel until Wednesday, when they left for Barcelona for a week. Amanda and Humphrey left for long drive to Caen in Normandy where they caught the ferry to England.

The last two days have been continually washing sheets and towels and tidying up toys, sorting out the warriors’ equipment and putting everything back in order.

During the month I had some wonderful walks with Katia.  Around 8-10kms on the local walking tracks, up hill and down dale and so enjoyable.  Katia knows all the tracks and the various historic points we passed on the way. Including a Merovinginian burial site, a cross dated 1242 where the Abbot Guillaume of Cluny met St Louis… and so on. 

We continue with the big tidy up, and look forward to a several evenings of quiet dinners with friends to say farewell until next year.

We leave for Geneva on Wednesday, where we will be meeting Jane, John and Ciara.  We are all staying overnight in a hotel ready to fly out the next morning.  We are going as far as Abu Dhabi, and then on to Istanbul for a week, Jane and the children fly straight back to Sydney.

Enjoying the orgue de barbary

Rachel and Jean Sabitini

Kyle singing Russian song about the steppes

Too tired.......