10 December, 2016

I'm running running running running

I have just had a rather hectic week: some of it was planned, some of it was not.

Last Thursday I took a plane from Paris to Bangkok. The main reason for this trip was to sing with the choir for the wedding ceremony of my French friend Pascal Butel, with whom I used to sing in the Bangkok Music Society choir. Pascal had invited all his singing friends from various choirs we used to sing in to join the music-making for his wedding. When I got the invitation last April I immediately replied that I would come because it was also a golden opportunity to meet all my friends from the choir in one go. Bangkok-based singers had already started rehearsals throughout November. I had worked on my parts at home and arrived for the dress rehearsal two days before the actual ceremony.

My diary was already quite full with events related to Pascal and his lovely bride Ko Tammy: a dress rehearsal for the wedding's music on Saturday afternoon (including 1.5-hour one-way travel to the venue and another 1.5 hour back), drinks and light food on a yacht on the Chao Phraya river for the foreign guests on Saturday evening, an Indian wedding dinner ceremony on Sunday evening, departure at dawn on Monday for a final rehearsal of the wedding ceremony's music, the actual mid-morning wedding ceremony and the delicious Indian and Thai luncheon that followed.

The trip started to become hectic when I also inserted other activities into my Bangkok programme: visits to meet other friends who would not be part of the wedding on Friday afternoon and all day Sunday, Friday evening drinks and dinner with former colleagues from FAO's Bangkok office, my Christmas shopping at Chatuchak week end market on Saturday morning and in town the rest of my free time, and preparations for a few days at the beach in the Gulf of Thailand following the wedding ceremony. The two hours' delay of my incoming plane did not help; I arrived with my bags just in time for my first lunch appointment on Friday noon. Basically, my time in Bangkok was completely filled up. The guards at the apartment I was renting must have thought I was strange: every day of my stay I would leave in a hurry, come back in a hurry at midday and leave 20 minutes afterwards having changed clothes, but still in a hurry, and again in the evening. 

And then the unplanned elements of the trip kicked in. On the morning of the wedding ceremony on Monday, I read an unsettling email arrived during the night from my father informing me that my grand-aunt Yvette Laulom had just passed away at the very respectable age of 96 years old. By the time the wedding ceremony had started, I had already made up my mind that I would forgo Thai beach and seafood and fly back immediately to take part in the funeral. It was easy to find a good-value one-way ticket back to France that evening, and I bought a ticket for the next train to join my parents in their country house and help prepare for the Thursday funeral ceremony.

Grand-aunt Yvette was an important person in our family. Although she never married, she took care of her nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces, feeding us all when we came to visit, or handing us food, cake and biscuits to bring back home or to boarding school. She also patiently knitted clothes for three generations of babies in the family, and elaborate and colourful pullovers for the children and teenagers. As if taking care of her extended family was not enough, she would also regularly visit the pensioners of one of the old persons' homes in Mont-de-Marsan, talking away with them, running small errands and knitting woolen blankets for them. She would fondly refer to the ladies she was visiting as "the little grannies from the old persons' home"; but she was often older than them. She only joined an old persons' home herself in the Summer of last year. 

Having been asked to say a few words at the funeral service, I did some research and managed to insert the reading of Matthew 25: 31-46 into the service. Given the good deeds she had done all her life, there was no doubt for those listening on which side of God she would sit if His Kingdom came. For the final homage from our family, my parents asked me to find a more cheerful text. I selected the beginning and last section of a poem by Victor Hugo mentioning chirping birds; she liked walking outdoors and was a keen amateur ornithologist and botanist. My parents, two of my cousins and an aunt all thought the text was well chosen and well read.

After this busy and stressful week, I will take a few days at home to recover. Today my parents and I put up the Christmas tree, which we cut out from the forest behind the country house.

Gave me something
Jess Glynne, I cry when I laugh, Mis

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