I walked into Montreux gare to get the 10.45 train prescribed by my discount ticket. At Lausanne I changed for another inter-city express to take me in an easterly direction to Bienne, also known as Biel, as the roeschtigraben seems to run through this town, so French and German conversations can be overheard on the streets. You're never sure whether neighbourhood passers by are going to greet you with bonjour or groetzi as polite social custom requires. It keeps you on your toes. Laura met me in the station car park. We were both incredulous that our last meeting was in 2010, the summer I retired.
First stop was a big Migros supermarket to buy fish, fruit and veg to cook with, then to Laura's amazing modern wooden house whose exterior is entirely glazed in armoured dark glass. It has a modern kitchen too, with powerful induction hobs to cook with - a good as gas. She invested in photo voltaic solar panels early this year, a wise long term economy in a place which gets more than average sunshine.
Despite the unfamiliarity of the kitchen, cooking the paella went well. I felt especially blessed to be able to cook with olive oil, which Laura was recently given by a Florentine cousin - pressed from his own Umbrian olive trees. I was pleased with the end result, and thankfully, so was Laura. She'd bought a Catalan Tierra Alta Garnacha red wine, which we drank with the meal, and afterward some ice cream with figs her cousin had also preserved. Memorable flavours all round.
After lunch and washing up, we went for an hour's walk in the communal forest to the east of her housing estate. It's mostly deciduous woodland flanked by cornfields currently being harvested. At the turning point of our walk, the snow capped peaks of the Berner Oberland were visible across the fields, some seventy kilometres to the south.
There was much to catch up on. News of our children, and the story of how Laura has come through the nightmare experience of losing her husband Daniel when he was away walking high mountain paths in Corsica. His body still hasn't been found. He was an experienced mountain man, careful and fully aware of the risks.The only other person I ever met who shared this experience was Peggy in my last Parish, whose fiancé, a naval captain, disappeared in Cairo towards the end of the war, and was never found. It's hard to imagine what it means to live with a person's unfinished life story. Laura never ceases to be a positive person, and says that having many friends, and an active, varied musical life have sustained her this past three years. "Despite what happens, you just have to get on with life in the end" she said. Or go under, I thought to myself. Such admirable courage.
I left on the 16.45 train to Lausanne. It was very crowded, but I found a seat, and dozed off half way along Lake Neuchatel, waking up only when arrival at Lausanne was announced. The connecting train once more was conveniently just a 30m walk from one platform to another, and I was back in Montreux, walking home by 18.15 after a very easy discount journey.
The rest of the evening I spent helping Ashley with crisis management resulting from a breakdown of relationships over strategic policy in the BCRP Board of Management. It's what happens when busy people don't take sufficient time to develop a full understanding of what 'partnership' requires of them, or try to lead on the assumption that everyone must agree with them. Everybody does it. Brexit negotiations show this happening day by day.