Saturday, 2 September 2017

Wedding in the clouds

Back on the train to Le Chable for the wedding this morning. The Saturday timetable for the Car Postal differs from the weekday, and I was faced with a long wait to make the ascent to Verbier, in the rain with little or no public shelter available at the building site of a station. So I bought a ticket for the téléfériqueCHF13 allez retour, rather than trust my return to a sub standard bus service, and reach Church House hours later than I needed to.

I was met by the wedding arranger outside the téléférique arrival area and taken up to Le Hameau in good time to meet the couple who were hired to play and sing for the wedding, and arrange points for their contribution during the service. Sadly, it was even more overcast than yesterday and it was raining intermittently, although the cloud began to life after the ceremony. There were sixteen family and friends, four of whom were children under two, including the bride and groom's own child Chester. It was an advantage that the chapel was only a third full, as it allowed parents minding their offspring to move around.

As guests arrived they were given a glass of champagne at the door. With the weather there was no question of hanging around long outdoors, so people sat in the chapel to drink and chat relaxedly until the bride arrived. In such an intimate space, everyone was very attentive during the service, and only once for a short while did Chester come into the sanctuary and climb on to his dad's knee. I had been exercised by the thought of what I could say in my wedding homily, and woke up at six thirty this morning to write down what was going through my head. I was pleased with the result, and just hope that it made sense to the audience. I may have gone on too long.

We finished just before three, and as the guests made ready to be ferried to the reception, I was given a lift back to the téléférique with enough time to have a late lunch of coffee and a pain aux raisins before riding down to Le Chable for the 16.11 train, both pleased and relieved that it had all worked without a hitch or an embarrassing moment for me, leaving the couple and their family with a memorable experience to treasure.

In the evening Clare and I were taken to a supper party in the village of Jongny on the mountainside above Vevey, hosted by Caroline, St John's sacristan, a long standing member of the congregation, for church members. It was an evening of splendid food and conversation, with white wine from the fields around the house being served - a Chardonnay. I'm not keen on Chardonnays I have tasted from elsewhere, but this one was drier, not quite so rich, reflecting the character of the stony soil, an unexpected and agreeable difference. Caroline is the daughter of novelist Graham Greene, who died in the nearby village of Corsier and is buried there. She inherited many of his memorabilia, and from her mother, a collector of doll's houses with a museum dedicated to them, a magnificent century old family doll's house, containing even older artifacts. It's in the hallway, and unfailingly attracts visitor curiosity.

It was such a comfort to enjoy the convivial hospitality of a family home after a day of confusing frustrating experiences in empty places largely managed by user friendly robotic devices which are still operating on the presumption that you know more than you do, at first use. We travelled back to Territet with Walter, who runs the Youth Hostel, just off the lakeside promenade on the south side of the port, tucked behind and beneath the railway line. It must be a noisy place, but is undoubtedly a popular destination for budget travellers to this area. Walter's a Swiss German, fluent in several languages, and St John's has been his spiritual home during his twenty years working here. During his previous twenty years, he worked in places all over Asia, so he's a well travelled man, typical of many people of different nationalities and faith backgrounds who find St John's and make it part of their life of discipleship.

We arrived at Church House just in time for this week's episode of 'Inspector Montalbano' on BBC Four. Whilst the story, about the death of a loan shark contained a few comic moments and exchanges of dialogue, the mood was a little different from usual. The tale wasn't about the victims of monetary injustice, but about the victims of a loan shark who was a sexual predator on young women, with an incestuous relationship with his daughter which drove his wife to suicide. His son decides to kill him to avoid dis-inheritance in favour of his father's latest paramour. The daughter decides to kill him out of jealousy. She succeeds with poison, but her brother turns up shortly after and doesn't realise he's dead, and shoots him.

It was an unusually dark story, reflecting the exposure of such dysfunctional family goings-on over recent years. What was impressive to me was the considerate treatment Montalbano showed as the investigating officer. Luca Zingaretti is a fine actor, and the acting of a succession of abused women which he had to interview was remarkably, well observed, a cut above the more stylised portrayal of wronged women of episodes made twenty years ago. Yet again, more food for thought on a Saturday night.

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