Saturday, January 06, 2007

From rural Berne to rural Vaud

A very lazy morning, packing, then reading in a quiet house, as Camilla and Martin took advantage of one last lie-in before their return to Geneva tomorrow, to their house in Thoiry, ready for the start of term on Monday Laura went out early to ski with a friend, but I took my skis back yesterday, renouncing another outing before departure, in order to avoid having damp sweaty ski togs with all the rest of my clean clothes.

We all lunched together, and said our warm farewells before Martin took me to St Imier's Collègiale church, a simple église romande, rather large for a town of just 8,000. Before the reformation it housed a foundation of Canons Regular, and endured a couple of make-overs before being restored to present essential simplicity. I was able to take the photos I wanted to add to the ones of its exterior I took yesterday, much to my satisfaction.

We then left for the gare CFF for the 14h45 régionale to La Chaux de Fonds, en route Yverdon via the lovely lakeside town of Neuchâtel, two train changes, the second to the swish Intercity train to Geneva, stopping at Yverdon, where my dear Pastor friend Valdo Richard met me, to take us both home to Baulmes, the main village of the four which he looks after. Despite cloud covering most of the sky, the horizon was clear clear enough to see across country fifty miles to the Alps during the hour long rail journey and subsequent 20 minute car trip out into the countryside to Baulmes. It's something I've rarely seen in my recent winter trips here, when fog and low cloud have been persistent.

They live in a huge white painted mansion with characteristic green and white chevroned shutters which advertise the fact that this is the residence of the pastor paroissal. The tower part of the building large enough to contain a couple of rooms on each étage dates from the fourteenth century. The ground floor is occupied by parish rooms and an office. The three floors above that belong to the two of them. During most of the two years they have lived there the roof and walls have been renovated, so they have endured living in the midst of a building site. Fortunately the walls are nearly three feet thick, so most of the sound was shut out!

We had soup de courges, cheese and home made bread for supper. The soup put me in mind of Anne-Marie Hester, who introduced us to her German variety of this dish, a decade or more ago, when we lived in Geneva. I hope to be able to catch up with her and her husband Alec before I return home. Valdo has a culte in the morning, in the church next door to the house. I can see it from where I am writing in the lounge, floodlit on a promontory opposite the house, dramatic against the night sky.

Valdo says that the chamois which usually graze in the back garden of the house in the early morning haven't yet started to descend. There's not enough snow to hinder them grazing in the fields or forest higher up - a 500 metre cliff rises up from the top of this garden - also they were culled during the year, in oder to keep the numbers at a sustainable level in this setting. The snow has started later than ever this season, and it's also unusually mild here, as in Wales. We may not be able to ski this week, but there are many wonderful places to walk and visit, when Valdo's leave starts on Monday. Tomorrow we shall be able to share the Eucharist together, the first time, I think, since he came to my induction service five years ago in Monaco, although many times since we have communed with God together in remote places to which we have skied, in the beautiful vastnesses of wild nature in the Jura.

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