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Lovely family visit

Yesterday I waved goodbye to two tearful girls gazing back at me and Poppy from the back of the car heading for Montpellier Airport. The end to a very good week with Jude, Ed and the two girls, Ella and Maddie.

We were blessed by the weather, which remained fine and sunny almost the entire week, albeit – by my standards – distinctly chillier than the past few weeks.. The BPs have a reputation in the family for being impervious to the cold, so they were of course clothed most of the time in shorts and teeshirts, and the parents sunbathed in loungers on the terrace.

The usual ritual of daily ambitious walks was sadly curtailed by an injury, as yet undiagnosed, that Ed has to his leg. But after a couple of days resting and applying ice packs to his leg, he led the family on their favourite Esparon to Bréau walk – twice (the second time at the request of eight-year-old Maddie!). All enjoyed the autumnal colours on these and the shorter walks exercising Poppy.

The girls were actually quite pleased to be allowed to spend as much time as they wanted ‘chilling out’, which they declared was their favourite holiday past-time. This has been a tiring time for Ella adjusting to her new school (Sydenham School), with the 40 minute bus journeys, as well as having proper homework for the first time. Inevitably much of this time was spent on their iPads, on which they designed an ambitious house, complete with sweeping curved double staircase. They also did some wonderful pictures, put on a music show for us, and spent a lot of time down in the garden, happily playing some pretendy game. Despite the four years age gap, they do play so well together. Well, most of the time.

What I also enjoy is the way they join in discussions with us, the adults. Mealtimes are a pleasant social occasion for all. More than that, they are an occasion to indulge in eating too much, as Ed is an accomplished cook and it is hard to say ‘no’ to second helpings.

When not walking, cooking, eating or sunbathing, Ed and Jude had to fit in a fair amount of work. Both did zoom conferences – in Jude’s case dressed up (upper half only) appropriately for Court. Her case seemed to involve, as so often, receiving documents at the last moment (including a 1000-page document). I reckon they both need nerves of steel to cope with so much last-minute pressures. In the evenings they – joined sometimes by the girls – indulged me with frenetic sessions of our favourite family game, Monopoly Deal, which I invariably lost. It is one of those card games which when you win, you reckon you have played with skill, and when you lose, you have had bad luck.

The highlight of the week came at the end: Ella’s twelfth birthday. How can this sparkly girl (nearly as tall as me) have somehow reached this milestone so quickly? Maddie is also exactly eight and a half years, so by tradition she also celebrated her half birthday. The two loved their presents, saying thank you with enthusiasm, and a laid back day culminated in a birthday supper, complete with chocolate and orange cake made by Ed.

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