What a Week.. 2 Goodbyes, 1 Birthday and an Engagement

I’m sitting here, almost not knowing where to start with this week’s blog as so much has taken place in the last 7 days. It would be fair to say that our heads are spinning with everything that’s happened, in a week that has seen us meeting ourselves coming backwards, and generally feeling as if we are on a rollercoaster ride that has been hammering along the rails, jolting us in every direction and turning us inside out. Bizarrely it may have felt chaotic and utterly mad, but at the same time, it’s been exciting, life-affirming and just perfectly wonderful.

What a week!

The question is, where on earth should I begin? and here I’ll take the advice of Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland and ‘begin at the beginning,’ and go on till I ‘come to the end:then stop’. So, I hope you’re sitting comfortably and perhaps have a cup of tea, or something a little stronger to hand ….

Everything began so gently; our eldest’s girlfriend had spent Christmas here and last weekend, saw her starting to get everything ready for her return to Istanbul on Monday. It had been her first experience of Christmas in Europe and it’s fair to say that she had really enjoyed the whole experience and we, as well as our son, were really going to miss having her around. She fits comfortably into our funny little life here, adored by Millie & Pusscat, enjoying the simplicity of walks and watching the world pass by, having fallen in love with this little corner of Provence, as well as with our son!

Enjoying Christmas in Apt

Last Saturday, we came back from an early evening walk with Millie to find the front room lit with candles and the little table covered with a superb selection of home-made nibbles and a bottle of fizz, by way of a surprise, early birthday celebration for me, as she was upset she would not be here for the actual day at the end of the week.

A surprise early birthday

It was timed perfectly for our eldest’s arrival home from work and we spent a very lovely evening chatting and enjoying the food. It was all very gentle, the only moment of high excitement being my reaction to getting soaked with fizz, when I popped the cork from the bottle, which itself had been beautifully hand-painted for me, by Beyza, in honour of the occasion.

So beautifully painted

It was a perfectly lovely evening and felt like a great way to mark the end of her stay with us, whilst also reminding me that my birthday was just around the corner. The following day, we just pottered and planned to cook a nice meal for their last evening together, taking Millie for a long walk, whilst organising everything we needed to get done during the week, ahead of Andy having to return to the UK today. A busy few days were ahead.

Little did we know just how much busier it was going to get! In many ways it’s a good job we didn’t, otherwise, I may have been tempted just to hide in a cupboard until the week had passed

Late in the afternoon, George took Beyza for a little drive in Fifi, as a final goodbye to the area, promising to be back in time for dinner. That’s when the week took the most unexpected of turns. Just as I was beginning to wonder whether I should turn the oven down, to stop dinner from being ruined, my phone chimed with a notification for a WhatsApp message in our family group. Opening it, expecting a message to say they’d be back in ten minutes, I saw a lovely photo of George and Beyza, both grinning from ear to ear, in front of a spectacular, firey sunset.

The photo that turned our week on its head

Just below it was a message from George that began;

‘Julie, please be sitting down’….

That made me stand up instead and I then read on to see that George had just asked Beyza to marry him and she had said yes!

To say we were delighted was an understatement and could hardly contain our excitement until they returned, listening for the sound of Fifi making her way up the hill so that we could meet them when they came in. We were so taken aback by the announcement, that the only wine we had in the house was the remains of the Bag in Box from our local vineyard; we didn’t even have anything in a bottle! If we’d had any inkling at all that this was going to happen, we would have made sure that there was a bottle of something fizzy close at hand, but no, not so much as a drop!

It appears that we were pretty much the last to know, with George having already spoken to Beyza’s family and a ring had been bought, which she was wearing with palpable joy and pride. We could hardly take it all in and certainly couldn’t believe that she would be leaving the next day, but that was quickly and easily changed, with her stay being extended by a couple of days, so that we would be able to celebrate properly with friends the following evening.

A first Engagement card

Of course, over dinner, the talk quickly turned to the wedding itself and we came to understand that traditionally, whilst engagement celebrations are organised by the bride’s family, the wedding itself is organised by the groom’s, which at first came as a bit of a surprise. After chatting through all the options, including a traditional event in Istanbul, it quickly became apparent that ideally, they would want to be married in France, as they are planning for this to be their future home. And at this point, any thoughts of everything we had already planned for the week went out of the window, as we needed to look at what may be possible, before Beyza flew home on Wednesday.

It is lovely that they want to celebrate their wedding here, as George became resident in July and is now happily settled into work and life in Provence, already talking about what he will need to do to prepare to apply for citizenship, when he becomes eligible, in a few years time. It also means that I will be able to play a part in planning a wedding, which as a mum of 2 boys, is something I never imagined I would be able to do, and I can’t even start to explain how ridiculously excited I am about it already.

We had a joyful evening with friends on Monday, celebrating the news and toasting the couple with champagne, doing it properly this time, with glasses and a bottle. It suddenly hit us that this was one of life’s big moments and took us back to our own decision to get married, whilst walking around Westonbirt Arboretum, in 1988, which feels like a lifetime ago. It almost feels impossible that one of our children is taking those same steps now, as it really doesn’t feel too long ago that he was wobbling along on his first bike. How did the years go so quickly?

A first bike ride in Alderton

We had to start somewhere and on Tuesday morning went straight to our local Mairie, where we found out that they would be able to be married by our local Maire, just as they had hoped. That was a good start and a big step forward, although, I have a feeling that the paperwork required for 2 non-french nationals to be married in France, is going to test every sinew of my dossier-building ability. But I have the time and it will be worth it.

So by Tuesday lunchtime, we had taken the first fairy steps and then turned our minds to thinking about where we could host a reception and how we could try to make it as easy as possible for people to come over to celebrate with us, bearing in mind almost everyone will have to travel, whether it’s from Turkey or England, or possibly even further afield.

Perhaps we could find a house that could be rented for a week, which could serve a dual purpose, not just as accommodation for some guests, but also as a venue for a small, but elegant wedding breakfast, based on the ideas that Beyza had already shared with me. We knew just the place and after a couple of messages, arranged to pop and see it that afternoon, to show Beyza and get her thoughts, whilst making enquiries with the owner, whether they would be happy for a small reception to be held there too. Happily, he said yes and she was delighted by the place, with its vine-covered iron pergola & glorious views across to Mont Ventoux and we chatted animatedly about how we could use the space and dress it to create the setting of her dreams.

A covered terrace with a view

Heading home, we stopped off in Caseneuve and sat on the bench with Beyza, watching the sunset tint the valley in shades of red and gold at the end of what had been a busy but very productive couple of days. By later that evening, we had the bones of a plan in place and had even sent ‘Save the Date’ messages to family and friends that we really wanted to be able to come. Whilst George was at work, we chatted through the basics of style and what may be needed over a glass of wine, realising just how much we’d managed to get done in 48hrs, meaning that Beyza would be able to get back on her flight content that the wedding plans had started and that we have a date (early September) in the diary.

Watching the sunset from Caseneuve, on the last evening

They left for the airport the following morning, with hugs and tears all around, but excitement for the future too and as they drove off down the hill, Andy and I looked at each other and laughed. Our life is mad, utterly mad and this is just the latest exciting hairpin in the road. This year we had been planning a calmer, more settled time than last year, which had seen a lot of unexpected upheavals. We had been starting to plan for a long-distance cycle ride from Devon to Provence in early September, with our original plans seeing us setting off the day before the day we have now arranged for the wedding, but that’s life and it’s a joy. We’ll still be planning something exciting for that week, just not what we originally had in mind.

As the car turned the corner, disappearing out of sight, our minds twisted again, beyond the wedding, to questions of where they would live, once Beyza was able to join George here and the paperwork mountain that will be needed for that, but that was for another day and another sheet of paper than the wedding plans. Our brains were fizzing, but at the same time, were feeling like fudge, so we grabbed Millie and went for a long walk, listening to the birds as we ambled along and filling our lungs with fresh, cold air in the winter sunshine, talking about everything that needs to be done.

The bright, ice cold days this week

Thursday became a day of chatting with family and friends, trying to sort out flights and accommodation, ending the day with the first guests having booked their flights and others planning routes too, and I woke on Friday as a birthday girl, without having even given it a thought. Andy had bought me a wonderfully colourful bike-packing bag, in anticipation of September’s planned ride, which has now been postponed, but we sat over breakfast talking about some smaller, taster trips that we may be able to fit in, just to test it out.

My new, colourful and fun bikepacking bag

In fact, even though I hadn’t given it a thought, it proved to be the perfect day, with breakfast at our favourite boulangerie, a little bit of tentative house-hunting with the future in mind, and a mini-break in Apt, when our friends who run Cent Cinq Apartments in the centre of town, invited us for supper and to stay overnight in one of their rooms. Honestly, after the week we’d had, it felt as if we were being treated to a luxury night away, sharing a lovely supper with more fizz and cake, followed by a peaceful and relaxing night’s sleep in one of their elegant rooms.

Room 3 at Cent Cinq

We must have been exhausted, as I can’t remember the last time that we slept until nearly 8am. It surprised me, as their house is in the heart of the old town, with the busy Saturday market being set up just outside their door, but it was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop and we started the day feeling well-rested for the first time in a while. In the spirit of a mini-break in France, we popped into the market, buying croissants from a little stall by the Sous-Prefecture, taking them back to have with our friends for breakfast, before another morning of house-hunting.

Our favourite croissant stall at the market

By 7pm last night, we were exhausted and were both wondering if it was too early for bed, but equally knew that however tempting an early night was, we still had things to do, before Andy left today to enjoy a couple of weeks with our youngest, back in Devon. Normally we go into a state of decline for a few days, before one of us has to leave, but this time, we hadn’t had a moment to give it any thought and actually, that was rather nice.

We struggled through till 9, before heading to bed, having spent the evening writing lists of what we both need to get done over the next couple of weeks, with even the most mundane things being written down , as my brain in particular seems to have turned to jelly!

We managed to enjoy our last morning together today, leaving early and heading across to L’Isle Sur La Sorgue for a nice breakfast and an amble around the market, although despite our best efforts to live in the moment, we were chatting constantly about what the next few months holds and how exciting it will all be, mentally adding more things to the list, although I’ve forgotten some of them already!

The goodbye was as horrid as ever, pulling into the kiss and drop zone at Avignon TGV station and watching Andy walk off towards the platform, but at least we hadn’t been building ourselves up to it this time, which was so much better. So, this evening he’s on the bus from Bristol Airport back to Exeter and I’m sitting in front of the fire with Pusscat asleep next to me and Millie snoring gently at my feet.

Looking back over the last 7 days, it’s hard to actually get my head around everything that has happened. Part of me feels as if we should be sitting in a darkened room, rocking gently back and forth, munching chocolate and drinking gin, but bizarrely both of us feel energised and excited by what has happened. There’s so much to plan for, and if we can find a small house for them to buy, it’s likely that we will have lots to do there, to help them too and that’s exciting, rather than daunting.

One thing is certain and that is that I won’t have any time to get bored, whilst Andy’s away. I already have a long list of things that need to be done and it’s growing with every hour that passes. What’s lovely, is that when he comes back, our youngest is coming with him for a week’s holiday here and it will be so nice for us all to be together again, even if it will only be for 7 days and Andy has to have another leg operation in the middle of it, but that’s another story….

I have a feeling that the coming months will fly by, with days passing as quickly as hours & weeks feeling like days and September will be upon us before we even realise it. I know what needs to be done and I know what else is likely to have to be achieved too, although even with planning, I expect there will be some worries and possibly some panicking, but at the end of the day, we couldn’t be happier…

The happiest of couples

What a year it’s been …. and it isn’t even February! Perhaps you’ll find me in the darkened room yet!

4 thoughts on “What a Week.. 2 Goodbyes, 1 Birthday and an Engagement

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