We have part of an apartment in the South of France, and have got to know a few of our neighbours since we’ve been going there, so this is how we became friends with the Old Couple Upstairs (affectionately known as the OCU)
The OCU live in their apartment full time, and speak French with the occasion English word thrown in for our benefit – Wifi (pronounced wefe), Internet and cafe Anglais, which is how they rather insultingly describe my husband’s need for milky white coffee. They are the type of French couple whose staccato language always sounds so lively that it borders on argumentative, and leaves you wondering – what are they talking about ? Well, this year we were there for their wedding anniversary, 54 years, and at the party, and the subsequent evening managed to piece together part of their story.
As an avid romance reader I’m aware that we tend to focus on relationship start up’s, but their is so much joy in hearing how the relationship develops, like picking up a dull stone, and finding that the underside is cut through with stripes of colour.
Marthe and Georges met when they were 22 and 28, Marthe was the sister of Georges work colleague, and they didn’t like each other to start with, ‘he was a uptight wanker’ and she was ‘stuck up’ and ‘disliked his bourgeoisie attitudes’, but he also though she was beautiful. So gradually their differences became less, and they fell in love. When they decided to get married Georges asked Marthe’s Papa , who told them both ‘that she could a lot better, but he seems dependable’. A comment that Marthe brings up, at least every month, according to Georges.
The OCU marriage has been turbulent, they had to move from the South of France to the outskirts of Paris when Georges Maman, who ran a hardware shop, became ill, and for 30 years they ran the shop, which Marthe hated. She left 5 times, but came back because ‘without each other life isn’t as good, the sun isn’t as bright, the joy is dull’. I cry at the drop of a hat, usually at Disney films, and at this stage of the evening, after a few glasses of champagne, had been imagining Georges and Marthe as the couple in Up, so there were tears. When I explained why, Georges told me I was a big idiot, and that while Marthe felt like that, he took her back as it was his ‘duty to protect the rest of the world from her behavior when she drinks white wine’. My husband said that’s why he sticks with me as well, although my vice is rose.
I came back from holiday happy, and reminded that sometimes the love we have can be like romance novels, sometimes it can better- the romance of daily life.
Marthe’s papa was in the Resistance but I’m saving those stories for another time.
No apologies for the song, it’s one of my favourites – and we played it at the party.