On Saturday morning I drive down to the Limousin to visit my friend 'Midge', a travel writer, who has a house in an idyllic hamlet near Borganeuf, 48k south of Limoges. The plan is to be there by lunchtime, so I set out at 11.00am [admittedly without a map] having been assured by friends that the journey won't take more than two hours. It takes me just under five. [The second Saturday in August, I discover, is A Very Bad Day To Travel as this is the day that half of France sets off on holiday.] So I spend an hour going nowhere and then several more hours going somewhere very slowly. And since my mobile dies en route, I have no way of contacting Midge, who is waiting for me at a braderie in Borganeuf.
All very stressful but by a stroke of luck, I bump into her just as she is leaving the braderie. We spend the remainder of Saturday afternoon chatting in a shady dell in the garden, along with her friend Nina and Nina's daughter Violet, a charming plant conservationist who travels the world collecting plant specimens. Tall, willowy and dressed in a beautiful Indian sarong skirt, Violet's style is effortless, ethereal and very Bloomsbury chic. Having dispatched her new boyfriend on a train up to Paris to go inter railing a few days ago, she is surprised not to have heard anything from him since. The only logical explanation I decide, is that he has lost his mobile [or his mind] as he would be mad not to call her.
The other dinner guests arrive and we eat outside in the wildly overgrown garden under a navy sky polka-dotted with stars that Van Gogh himself could have painted. Over dinner, we listen, fascinated, as Violet talks about places that some of us hadn't even heard of. Who knew for example, that a country called Burkino Fasso even existed? Or Benin? I certainly didn't. [They are both in Africa, in case you are wondering]. Later, armed with an astronomy map, we all gaze up at the sky, waiting for the predicted meteorite cascade.
Unfortunately, I have to race back to the Poitou the following day in order to put the house in order - it looked like it had itself been hit by a meteorite when I left - and cook dinner for friends. We eat in the candle-lit courtyard and for the second night in a row, I gaze up at the star-sprinkled sky, looking for meteorites. After dinner, we walk over to the local chateau, where, standing on the drawbridge we spot a few stars tumbling through the darkness, as well as barn owls flying high above the castle ramparts. It is quite magical. It occurs to me that perfect happiness - or something close to it- is a warm summer evening and dinner under the stars with friends. And if nature throws in a meteorite shower, tant mieux.