The day begins with vast outlay of cash at the fishmonger in the market, who always looks pleased to see me heading for his stall. We buy prawns, scallops, cod and trout and return home to labour over a Nigel Slater recipe for the friends coming for dinner this evening.
We are ready and waiting, corkscrew poised for action from 7.00pm onwards - something of a first for me. (I have told everyone 7.30pm, but since some of the invited have been known to arrive a quarter of an hour early on previous occasions - once while I was still in the shower - I am taking no chances.)
But by 8.00pm, no-one has arrived and I am starting to worry that I gave people the wrong date. Then with astonishing synchronicity everyone arrives at the same moment. I throw open the upstairs windows to greet the little crowd in the street outside.
‘We have a bird cage for you,’ shouts Isabelle, gesturing towards Jean-Pierre’s van.
‘A birdcage? For me?’ I ask, wondering if I have misheard her.
‘Yes, for you,’ she says. ‘Have a look. It’s old. We think it will look nice in your courtyard but if you do not want it, it’s not a problem.’
Jean-Pierre emerges from his van with a small wire birdcage. ‘And there is a stand too,’ he says. He carries it through to the courtyard and puts it in a corner against the stone wall, where it looks utterly charming. I can’t stop admiring it as we drink our aperitifs outside for the first time this year.
Isabelle has a flair for thinking up the most perfect and thoughtful gifts: a bunch of fresh basil leaves from her garden, some homemade shortbread, or - after I mentioned that I still had trouble with the subjunctive - a list of when to use it, written in bold felt pen to pin to the kitchen wall. Always, it is the something that you realise you have been wanting or didn’t know you wanted - until now.
By strange coincidence I had been looking at small finches and canaries in the market earlier in the week. But while I love the idea of a couple of birds singing in my courtyard, I think there is something quite cruel about constricting their freedom. I am also worried that they might constrict mine, as birds, like most pets, require some maintenance. So the birdcage will remain empty for the time being.
Today I wore: black ruffled DKNY skirt; black fitted Zara shirt; flat silver Miu Miu shoes.