Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A blessing, baptism and a birthday…..

Jacques’ 30th birthday was in August 2000, so it was a good time for a party. We decided it was the right time to christen Nina too. We thought this time we would do it in France, in the church in Caunay, the village where we have a house. We met with Henri, the local Catholic prêt for a preliminary meeting. Henri had been around for nearly thirty years; he had given Jacques and his siblings catechism lessons when they were at school, married Pierre and Philippe and knew the family well. We explained that we wanted a rather special ‘bilingual’ christening, if possible.

Henri had a few reservations about my non-catholic Church of England background though, and was concerned that we only had a civil marriage in Budapest. It was possible to bless our marriage at the same time as we baptized Nina, he told us. This seemed like a perfect chance to bring together our families, nearly four years after our official marriage. Henri agreed to open the tiny village church in Caunay on Saturday 12th August - the day of Jacques’ birthday. To my amusement he opened his Book of Saints Names to check if ‘Nina’ was in there. She was, thank goodness, and he read out her saintly character to us, perhaps hoping Nina would follow suit. After several other meetings we hand-picked the verses, prayers and music for the ceremony which included Ava Maria and one of our favourite opera pieces from the film ‘The Fifth Element'.

We stopped work on the Columbier house-clearing and worked on the nearby Logis. We planned to hold the party there after the christening, which was walking distance from the church. But we soon realized that a party venue without toilets, water or electricity might be rather tricky (for the guests certainly!). So we chose a local farm, which had a restaurant, serving farm-grown produce and we ordered a typical three-course lunch – pâté on fresh bread, braised lamb and potatoes and fresh haricot vert, goat’s cheese. The dessert was a traditional pièce montée, a confection of stuffed profiteroles held together with a strong sticky caramel to form a pyramid. It is usually served at weddings and seemed appropriate for this joint blessing/christening celebration. We planned an early evening cocktail at the Logis and after that a small disco with 70’s music at a hall in the village.

Finally we had to choose the godparents. We chose Mikeal, a French family friend who had known Jacques for many years, as her godfather and my sister, Jayne, as her godmother for a true French/English balance.

We had a great turnout - my parents, sister and my uncle, nearly all the French family plus a few friends from my side and several of Jacques university friends. In the church Henri did a superb job, managing to squeeze in all the French prayers and chants alongside a few English lines of welcome. Jayne, who studied French at university, read a poem in French, which impressed everyone. The blessing did not over-shadow the christening, but confirmed that we were a couple now married in front of God, which felt comforting. It was good to do it we both felt, after so much indecision and postponing. My parents looked happy and at ease in France, as Jacques family had in England in 1997, and I was touched at how they managed to chat and exchange news as if they were living in the next town. My parents were delighted to visit Odile and René’s house, which is at its best in high summer and enjoyed eating with the family and visiting all the houses the Hauwaert family owned around the area.

After the baptism we ate all afternoon, staying at the farm till after 4pm and then slowly moving on to the Logis for the evening cocktail. Jacques and I gave tours of the empty and derelict Logis, showing where the future rooms would be. This required great imaginative powers, and some were skeptical of us taking on such a project when you could build a new house in the surrounding field. As dusk came we lit candles, but were eventually obliged to leave the Logis for the brightness of the Village hall in Caunay. There we had the disco till the early hours of the next morning, with a lively mix of French and English seventies music…

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