Sonata : This weekend was all about memories . We went down to Gent on Friday afternoon for an early funeral on Saturday morning and were immediately swept back to 1980 . The centre of the city has moved on , of course , all glitzy shops , elegant customers and bright lights among the medieval walls but the side streets stay just the same as always , little cafes and bistros serving Gentse stoverij and steaks the size of a baby's head , full of serious eaters and families with well behaved children . Restored , we sat for hours in a small cafe , listening to Elvis and surrounded by chunky old men , all woolly jumpers , jowels and comb-overs .
The funeral itself was just as one should be with the knowledge that it had been the right time for him to go , however sad .
Later , the family gathered and legends were dug up and retold . A little boy ran in , his exact resemblance to his grandfather startling , while a baby determinedly crawled backwards and forwards over my lap , looking just like her mother when I first saw her , forty years ago .
The tumble of children went off to the verandah , the older ones supervising the proper progression from cold meats to chocolate spread on an unending supply of crusty rolls . A huge table was filled with food and plates were passed round . The merits of different local hams were debated and one cheese was eaten to the last crumb as everyone enthused . The splendidness of the local baker was universally acknowledged . The plates of macaroons , florentines and chocolates were all enjoyed . It was , after all , a very Belgian occasion .
People took it in turns to sit next to a very frail aunt whose grasp of the here and now was vague but whose smile was as kind as it had always been . Garden improvements and children's homework were admired . Little cousins scaled a climbing frame , sisters-in-law vied to hold the baby . Fishing tales were laughed about and photos examined .
As we left , the widow stood , arm in arm with her daughters , knowing that between them , they'd keep it all going for the next generation .
The Cold Bare Boughs of Winter
1 day ago