John Lichfield: In Brittany, a wedding with a difference

Paris Notebook
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Few things are more joyous, or prolonged, than a French country wedding. I recently attended one such marriage on the island of Groix, off the coast of Brittany.

After the ceremony, we sang French folk songs as we were were transported in two buses to a sandy cove. Full champagne glasses had been lined up on the rocks, waiting for us. We walked, happily, across the island to the house of the Young Married Couple. A detailed lunch was served in the garden, followed not by speeches, but by poems and songs written by the guests.

There were two bands. The first was a pair of young women from the Auvergne who played an accordion and theAuvergnat bagpipes. The second was a Serb folk and rock band, who had several months earlier been rescued by the Young Married Couple when their van broke down on an autoroute.

The two bands combined at one point to produce a new form of world music: Serb-Auvergnat electric folk, with bagpipes. All the guests formed a conga line and danced through the garden and into the house, the first dancers emerging from the living room before the last had entered the kitchen.

The Young Married Couple, Martine and Olivier, are in their 50s and have already been married for more than 20 years. They are among our dearest friends in Paris. They also have a house in Groix.

Their first marriage was in a town hall. Two decades – and three grown sons – later, they decided to get married in a church.

Marriage is a declining institution among young people in France, who prefer to live together and see what comes along. Late second marriages by long-married couples are booming – a triumph of experience over hoping for the best.

Memories revisited

Thirty-seven years ago this week I spent a night in a youth hostel in La Rochelle.I have long had a hazy, happy memory of sitting for hours in a park near the sea, soaking up the exoticism of the trees and the flowers and the sparkling streams of water around me.

I came across the same park this week – a dullish affair, criss-crossed by brackish ditches. Has the park changed or have I?

It started with a kiss...

One of the first stories I wrote when I arrived in Paris was about my son, aged six, receiving a kiss from his teacher on his first day in French primary school. Twelve years later, he has just passed his baccalaureat with a Très Bien, the highest grade. Just shows you what a kiss can do.