rachel's bar

“So if you had to choose one thing from all the stuff in this house, what would it be?”
She reflects for a moment. “Maybe the table, the monastery table that seats 24 – but no, I think it has to be the bar in the conservatory.”
The extraordinary house in rural France that she and her husband and two little boys recently moved to from their one bed flat in Paris is stuffed with objects, left behind by James, the charming octogenarian.
“And why the bar?”
“Oh, I remember the first time we came here, last Autumn, and James sat us at the bar and plied us with exotic drinks and told us how he ‘d had it made, a copy of a twenties bar. I loved the carving, and the zinc surface – look at how we’ve scrubbed and polished it to get it gleaming like new. I loved the glasses and bottles, all lined up, ready for happy times to come. I love the lights hanging down above the bar, the cupboards where all sorts of stuff is stored, cigarette and cigar boxes, silver ashtrays, a cocktail shaker. Its aesthetically so pleasing, but also it speaks to me of happy memories and good times to come.  I fell in love with it…..I remember, during all those difficult months of doubts, and disappointments, and financial calculations, and re-calculations, then all those negotiations, dreaming about the bar in its corner of the long south facing conservatory. I dreamed about sitting on the stools with two or three close friends, and lots of family reunions, surprise birthday parties, maybe a wedding or two……I already have lots of lovely memories -sitting there with James on the 8 or 9 times we visited before we moved it, for instance. He would stand behind the bar with his charming crooked smile and mischievous twinkly eyes telling us outrageous stories of being a red cap deserter in Madagascar in the 50’s, loads of anecdotes of his many girlfriends and adventures, whilst he polished the glasses on the soft green polishing cloth which still hangs there. And all the time, Molo would run up and down the conservatory, 20 times the length of the living space we had in the flat. And I remember my tummy getting bigger and bigger every time we came, and James urging me to drink the local aperitif, the “Prune” they call it….and me holding out….”

She smiles and prods at the costume she is making from a coathanger and woolly pink socks  for Molo to wear at her mother- in- law’s 60th birthday party.

“We moved in when the baby was 2 weeks old and then I could really enjoy my first proper cocktail at our bar. James has visited us since he moved into his place 50 kilometres away and now its our turn to ply him with cocktails and polish the glasses. But its still him who tells the stories and offers us tips – like where to hunt for the secret cepes in the woods, and what to do if the pipes get blocked…..And, now that its Autumn again, and its raining and raining on the glass roof here, I can look out at the sodden garden and dream of summer, and summery cocktails sitting on those stools.”

I inspected the bar for myself, marvelling at the array of bottles and glasses, admiring the colourful postcard on the shelf with its well known message, which sounds somehow more inspiring in French:
“Ce ne sont par les Annees qui comptent dans la Vie mais la Vie qui comptent dans les Annees” (Abraham Lincoln).


I pick up the RICARD ANISETTE bottle to replace it in the cupboard and am assailed by the powerful  aroma of alcohol and perfume and cigars  smoked long ago .

“You could wear your beautiful vintage wedding dress, sitting here,”  I say to my daughter and her eyes sparkle at the idea, even though she laughs and doubts whether she would be able to get into it.  “Would there be music playing?”
“Of course”, she says.” Edith Piaf….”Autumn Leaves” perhaps …or” La Vie en Rose”
And in our minds we listened to that unforgettable voice – and the words

Des yeux qui font baisser les miens
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche
Voila le portrait sans retouche
De l’homme auquel, j’appartiens

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose

Il me dit des mots d’amour
Des mots de tous les jours
Et ca me fait quelque chose

Il est entré dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause

C’est lui pour moi
Moi pour lui dans la vie
Il me l’a dit, l’a jur pour la vie

Et, des que je l’apercois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat

Des nuits d’amour ne plus en finir
Un grand bonheur qui prend sa place
Des enuis des chagrins, des phases
Heureux, heureux a en mourir

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose

Il me dit des mots d’amour
Des mots de tous les jours
Et a me fait quelque chose

Il est entr dans mon Coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause

C’est toi pour moi
Moi pour toi dans la vie
Il me l’a dit, m’a jur pour la vie

Et, ds que je l’apercois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat

Lalalala, lalalala
La, la, la, la


Molo, running up and down whilst I examine the bar in the south conservatory and Rachel works on his costume at the far end


Posted on November 11, 2013, in musings, songs, sons and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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