The Party

 Picture France as seen from space. Then, Google like, the camera moves closer towards the south of France, then Provence and on to the Luberon area. Aix is left behind, the roads get narrower and a little village comes into view. The camera turns down a road below the village and a pink house with lavender shutters comes into focus and moves to the back yard. There is a party going on with twenty people talking and eating under a cabana recently painted pink by the hostess. The hostess had thought they would also be standing or sitting on the porch but the sun was beaming down and it was too hot.

 The hostess had thought, in her American way, that it would be fun and interesting to have everyone who lived on their road over for a cocktail party. Several of the neighbors have second homes here and are only seen in August, the month when the French take their vacations. She had met a few of them here and there but they didn’t seem to socialize much. At least she and her husband hadn’t been invited to anything except by the couple who lived above them and who built and moved into their home at the same time as the hostess and her husband. Only the occupants of two houses weren’t able to come.

 The hostess had read in her horoscope (although she didn’t necessarily believe in them but occasionally found something mysteriously true) only the day before that she should take special notice in the people around her and that the people watching would be fantastic providing new material for the inner stand-up comedian that had taken over her subconscious. Since her French was not good, she would spend most of the party observing people anyway. It would also provide fodder for her blog.

 The first people to arrive were the Swiss couple. They apologized saying that because they were Swiss they were always on time (“Could this be why the Swiss are known for their clock and watch making?”, the hostess wondered.) She told them that it was the same with Americans. The French seldom arrive on time. The host and hostess learn that he is a doctor, a generalist. They have a lovely home at the end of our road with an olive grove. They are very friendly and fun to talk with.

 Most of the French neighbors arrive in a group. There is the neighbor across the way from the host and hostess resplendant in a black and gold shirt and black pants. His wife is more casually attired in summer pants and top. Octave, a sweet, short, skinny and small man is with them wearing a white hat, pink and white striped shirt and a tiny pink belt around the waist of his navy shorts from which are seen his little legs. The hostess notices a surgical scar going from ankle to knee and wonders if he had some sort of heart surgery requiring a vein from his leg. The hostess sits next to him to ask him his secret of his wonderful looking vegetable garden. He uses chicken manure (he has several chickens) and covers the base of his tomato plants with leaves as a type of mulch. His wife doesn’t come with him. She is known for not wanting to attend parties or dinners and the hostess often sees her dourly trudging up the road on her daily trek to a nearby village for patunk games with other women. (“She must have some friends”, thinks the hostess.) The hostess never offers her a ride as she knows she would be turned down.

A lady not technically on our road also arrives with a bottle of champagne. Two other bottles of wine were brought by others. Interestingly, to the hostess, no one offered to bring food and she remembers how Americans always offer to bring something to help out. The exception to this is the neighbor up above. She and her husband bring extra tables and chairs and she brings food to help out. They also bring their two year old, full of energy, who spends the time throwing pebbles on the porch, pulling out bricks lining an area of the yard and, when he finds a plastic dish that the hostess uses to put water in for a dove who visits every morning, throws it down a level to the rock garden then goes down the stairs to get it, climbs up some other stairs and repeats over and over. The hostess doesn’t mind but thinks of her own grandchildren as she watches.

 At the end of the road, across from the Swiss, are a gay couple. One of them has a shop in Clingacourt selling antiques. He also puts on a performance every summer up at the village which is very professionally done. He gets other actors and sometimes dancers and the whole village turns out to see what he is going to do. His partner is a very nice man but the hostess always remembers the view she got of him from behind one day as they drove past when he was wearing a thong bathing suit.

 The neighbors below the host and hostess arrive a little late due to a concert they attended. She is French, he is Spanish and they live in Belgium. We only see them in August. The house is so much nicer when they are there with the shutters flung open, a table and chairs on their porch and life going on. They are very friendly. Also arriving late is a man who was involved in building the pool of the host. He is tall with broad shoulders and is wearing a black and white flowered shirt unbuttoned a few buttons to show his chest. His wife has cancer and isn’t doing well. The hostess finds out that it is pancreatic cancer, a cancer without a good prognosis. He only stays a short while.

 The camera does a slow shot of the food moving across the table which has wine glasses and bottles of wine at one end and food and plates at the other. There is too much food as the host kept saying to the hostess, “There are twenty people coming. We can’t run out of food!” All of the guests keep saying, “Wow, there’s alot of food!” The hostess made guacamole with chips, and also has olives and almonds. She made hors d’ouvres of bread baked with either egg plant, tomatoes or onions on top cut into small squares (the host kept saying, “They have to be small. There are twenty people!”), an Italian bean salad that the host insisted on. The hostess wanted all finger foods as she didn’t want to have to fool with forks but she gave in in the end. The neighbor brought cherry tomatoes with cheese each on a toothpick stuck into a melon half looking rather like a satellite in space and some chick peas spiced with curry. There was also melon cut into cubes. And there was too much cheese. The hostess had let her husband get the cheese at the store. She was surprised to find eight cheeses in the refrigerator, most in huge sizes. Very little was eaten at the party and the hostess is wondering how long it will take for she and her husband to finish it.

 Half the guests left at 8 PM (the party started at 6:30) for a concert and the rest stayed until after 9 PM. The hostess reflected afterwards that it was alot of fun and was thinking that maybe they should have a party every year in August. She also realized upon replaying various scenes from the party in her mind that she had spoken most of her French, for some reason, using the past tense.


12 thoughts to “The Party”

  1. Great story – I love the bit about your unfortunate peek at the guy in his thong!

    And… I wonder what deep dark psychological reason you have for speaking mostly in the past tense?!?

  2. Sounds like the hostess has a very successful party. Loved all of your descriptions and I felt like I was there with you. Well done!

  3. Great narrative – very Jane Austen-ish 😉

    Congratulations to the host and the hostess for the successful garden party!

    And if I was there – there’d be much less cheese left over 😉

  4. A charming tale Linda, and well written. I particularly like the narrative form, which truly draws the reader into the action.

  5. The Google Space intro is really creative — you have a cinematic mind!
    I’m lucky if I can stay in the right tense in English (my native language).

  6. Sounds like a lot of fun! Great for you to take the initiative. Who knows….maybe this will lead to more festive events. I especially like the classic tablecloth from Provence.

  7. She must be the “Hostess with the Mostess”. Sounds like a lovely time. I can’t imagine having neighbors for a party. Yikes. I mentioned once (in jest) to my husband whose reaction was somewhat like a person sticking their finger in an electrical socket. Poor guy. Although, you my dear, would be most welcome on my patio!!!!!!

  8. Great story – somewhat odd party (I would have helped devour the cheese if invited!!) and sounds like ones my brother has hosted at his home in France. Glad that neighbor covered his thing – oops I mean thong!!!

  9. Ah, if only I were closer. My four children and I would LOVE to take some cheese off your hands.

    This was great fun to read, by the way. I can only imagine how much more fun it was to attend!

  10. Thank you for sharing your party with us. As usual I find your story a great way to start the day. A little window into life in Provence! By the way, how lovely to go to Jamie Ivey\’s party and meet Peter Mayle. Thankfully, he has done so much for travel literature. Have you thought of publishing a book – with your wonderful wonderful photos?

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