Yesterday I went to Paris for the stone setting of my uncle Albert buried in Montparnasse Cemetery. I took the Eurostar and was met by an old friend Monique. Unlike the UK this was a mixed religious cemetery and Uncle Albert was interred in a Jewish section. I noted near him a mausoleum for la Famille Dreyfus. Gathered around the grave were my aunt and her daughters whom I had not seen for twenty years.
The car journey back to Monique’s apartment took well over an hour. We learned later there was demonstration as the President had invoked a special article of the Constitution whereby he could enact anti-Labour legislation without formal approval by parliament. There was a reception at the home of one daughter in the Boulevard St Germain and we decided bus might prove the best travelling option. It was not as the driver had to terminate the journey at Place de La Concorde as the next stop the National Assembly was the site of the demonstration. We had to take the metro .
My French family have proved over the years prodigiously hospitable so previous experience taught me to expect quite a spread. I was not disappointed though the Rabbi led us in prayer for sometime before we could start. As my paternal grandfather used to say when confronted by a sumptuous buffet:
“There is plenty there but you have to be quick”
Thus I was ahead of the queue as plates of smoked salmon, carpaccio of other fish, herring on black bread, and caviar were set out on the dining table. To my surprise only claret was available so I contented myself with some premium vodka. My French cousins told me what an event a visit Of my mother was. She was brought up in Lodz Poland with their mother and her twin sister now in a wheelchair with Parkinsons. She would tell them stories – and they owed much to my mother’s imagination of the Queen. My mother was early onto the practice of a manicure with unusual pattern would show off her nails and the daughters of my cousins would look on in wonder. This rather contrasted with religious service for my uncle which was short on memories of him and long on platitudes. We rarely visited Paris, perhaps once very 5 years, but I can remember at the end of a similar feast my mother jabbering away in Polish with her cousins at the end of the table for hours.
There were exquisite platters of Ledoreee macaroons, eclair and berries by which time I had to run up the flag and admit defeat. I partook of a mint tea. So deliciously flavoured I had several more. A sad event proved a convivial family occasion.