Having survived the beer festival, I was desperately trying to think of an excuse not to go the Gioux 'do'. Typically though, I still hadn't thought of one when Isabelle rang at about 4pm last Saturday and told me to get my arse round to her place for a 7pm drive to Gioux. With the benefit of hindsight, I could have said that I still hadn't recovered from the previous Saturday and am under doctor's orders to steer clear of future drinking sessions with any of my neighbours. Or that I'd just joined a Hare Krishna sect and my body was now a temple, no longer a bicycle shed, and therefore closed to abuse by alcohol. Or that I couldn't go 'cos I had to get an early night due to competing in a Sunday marathon run as training for my forthcoming Olympic appearance. But, alas, I didn't think of any of these brilliant excuses in time. So that was it, I had to go.
Rendez-voused at 7.30 (I'm always late), freshly shaved and reeking of Chanel pour hommes (circa 2002, purchased on a Santander/Plymouth ferry to cover up the stench of leather and sweat that one inevitably gains after a week or two on a motorcycle) and was somewhat surprised by Christian and Hadrien not being there. Apparently they were already at Gioux, helping get stuff set up.
Drove off in Christian's massive 4x4, six seater, pick-up truck thingy with Isabelle at the wheel. About fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the home of Francois and Jane (pronounced 'Jan'), and kids Margaux and Axel, en route to Gioux. Stopped off for a drink or six (I definitely need one after Isabelle's speedy driving round the back lanes) on their sunlit verandah with its splendid view across the valley. Christian joined us about half an hour later, then Jane's brother Guillaume and his daughter Lola. Cue more drinks. By the time we all piled into two cars and headed off to Gioux, I was already seeing double and muttering incoherently despite my determination to imbibe with moderation.
Arrived at Gioux, I guess around 9.30pm. Don't really remember a lot after that but I do remember taking some photos. These reminded me that I spent some considerable time attempting speech with Christian's nephew Davide and partner Kelly (she's English but I was in no fit state to parlez-vous in Anglais, or any other lingo for that matter) plus a few others who I vaguely recognised. Seem to remember the only person who understood a word I was saying, was Guillaume. And that's because he was equally blotteau. He didn't speak a word of English though, just drunken jibberish. Made sense to me. Come to think of it, as the night wore on, conversation improved as speech deteriorated. Often the way at these sorts of soirees.
Another thing I vaguely remember was nattering to Guillaume's daughter Lola. Tried to tell her that she was named after a Kinks' song. Then had to explain who the Kinks were (an impossible task when one's wrecked, let alone from a pre-disco music age). Then, having discovered that she hopes to study photography, I recommended she look up Henri Cartier-Bresson. Then spent ages with her and Kelly while they tried to work out what I was gurgling about as I tried to spell out Henri CB's name in order for Lola to enter it into her mobile phone thingy for future reference (luckily I refrained from wrongly accusing Lola of rudeness in making a phone call while I was trying to blurt out letters in the correct order - being from the stone age I keep forgetting that these modern mobile phone thingies are also notebooks, cameras, computers, tellys, radios and probably microwave ovens too).
At some point I remember Isabelle trying to usher Guillaume and me into the grub tent for steak and chips. It was only about ten yards away from where we were discussing the meaning of life in fluent Swahili but, somehow, we got lost on the way and ended up at another watering tent where some poor chap had apparently dropped dead in a chair. Did my best to get him out of it 'cos I fancied a sit down but he wouldn't budge. Had a couple of drinks there then suddenly found myself sat at a table confronting a plate of ham and chips (steak had finished). Gulped it down and re-joined the bevvyers. Caused a bit of a panic when I joined Isabelle and co. at one of the bars. Asked if I'd been in a fight. Hadn't a clue what they were on about. Then twigged. I'd sploshed tomato sauce over my moosh and down my front. Not a pretty sight.
The only other bits I remember were the fireworks (very pretty) and sitting on the stage behind the deejay in the disco room where I must have spent hours staring at the swirling disco lights and muttering to myself about the terrible taste in music that modern kids have. When I could stand this musical dirge no more, I made a dash for freedom, fresh air and the nearest booze tent, scattering teeny-bopper kids in all directions (luckily, out here in redneck country, the youngsters are used to standing aside when an elder staggers around pished as a rat). Joined Guillaume and Davide and Christian and Francois and all the gang for a final bevvy or ten before Isabelle and Jane rounded us up and drove us away. Apparently arrived home at around fourish and then walked the dogs under a moonlit sky. Not that I remember.