Yes, we’re back in the UK, so technically this is the first of the Leamington Letters rather than the last of the 2011 Lettres d’Uzès. But on this first anniversary of my blog, I’m looking back over the summer rather than forward to the winter. I want to stay in those moments – what Wordsworth called “spots of time” – for as long as possible.
It was, by any standards, a good summer. We met some wonderful new people and, I hope, made good and lasting friendships. We got involved in the vendange for the first time, and loved every moment of the work and the comradeship, which culminated in the Picker’s Party at La Gramière ten days ago. Our boot on the journey home was laden with samples from this excellent, garagiste domaine and a glass of their 2007 Syrah will remind me, on cold winter evenings, of our summer days. We spent some time with Cap’n James Walker on his boat on the Canal du Midi and we stayed at La Colombe d’Or. We played host to the children and their partners and to little Max, who arrived in St Quentin la Poterie a baby and left a toddler. (I saw him this morning and he is now a sprinter!)
In between visits and lunches and harvests, Jill painted some fine paintings and I wrote several thousand words of indeterminate quality. I also, of course, as many of you will be aware, established a blogging routine. My first ever post was a year ago today, and was read by fewer than a dozen people. There are now close to a thousand of you visiting this site each month. Thanks.
We left St Quentin with reluctance, turning north for the first time in months. There had not been the usual epiphany that it was time to leave. We found ourselves talking of “returning to the UK” rather than “going home”. And we had an endless succession of final occasions: the last market, the last oysters and Picpoul, the last salade gourmande, the last pastis. (There were several of these as I recall.)
But the north-bound journey had its compensations. We spent a delightful evening chez Bevan in Burgundy and drank an excellent Maconnais white as an apéro. It was gratifying that Neil and Janet admired the two bottles of La Gramière which we brought with us: their approval augurs well for the tastings arranged with a leading English wine merchant later this month. Even the ferry trip was a pleasure. I had not known that P&O now boast a Langan’s Brasserie on each boat. As an erstwhile habitué of the Stratton Street original, I was surprised at the quality of the service and the food. Not bad at all.
Oh, and Tom Conti was on the ferry. He sends his love.
Leamington Letters will start next week in one form or another. If you have been, thanks for reading and commenting during the summer.
Today’s listening: Grateful Dead, the complete re-mastered European Tour from 1972. This is going to take some time.