The day began neutrally enough in a beigey sort of fashion. It was neither dull nor bright, not quite raining, cool, but not too cold and it would be tempting to say that that’s how it ended as well, in a beige little village. It’s the sort of place that once housed a thriving rural community and perhaps it still does behind all those drawn curtains and shutters, but the baker has gone and the “corner store” and with it all other bits of commerce, victims of the way people want to shop in the twenty-first century; conveniently, in supermarkets with a large range of products just a short drive away, as opposed to the way we tourists would want them to shop in quaint little relics of a bygone time.
To describe it thus however would require a confession that we are becoming a little over-familiar with our surrounds, even a little blasé perhaps. For instance we take for granted that we are moored in a little embranchment of the Meuse, alone, tied to a quay alongside a perfectly manicured park in crystal clear water that flows into and old mill race a few metres ahead. If we open our eyes the village isn’t bland by any stretch, quite the opposite in fact, it’s pretty, with just the right amount of decay to enable us to read it’s history.
At first we hardly noticed the church which has been there since before James Cook was born, with its bells sounding the dot of the hour then chiming incessantly (almost) as the twenty-first century bridal party gathered for its entrance.
As we watched them arrive the familiarity that is the bane of all travellers crept in again, the inevitable comparison to home. This was a scene we’ve been part of many times. We could have been half a hemisphere away. The bride stood on the roadway, her dress dragging in the gravel to the concern of my own bride, her father oblivious, her mother fussing about with flowers. Her uncle, his hair cut yesterday or perhaps by the look of it this morning with a slip of paper poking from the pocket of his old suit waited quietly, staying out of trouble. Was the paper, we wondered, his speech already prepared, or the order of service from a funeral six years ago when last the suit was worn?
We critique the bridesmaids, in frilly dresses that may or may not have been just a tad short to our eyes, in inverse proportion to the widths of their posteriors which in turn seemed to be directly related to the heights of their shoes.
The bagpipes heralded them in and out of our view and for a minute we had our cultural wires crossed, but they were the French kind, (the cabrette I think, blown by bellows).
By then we’d watched enough of the familiar, and wandered off to find another window to peer into.