All went well till I got to Rauzan. But there was no signpost D123. No signpost to Augey No road. No nothing.
My phone's GPS is based on Google Maps, so it was no help. My printout from Apple maps omitted some new roads and a roundabout. The excellent automatic Golf that Nico loaned us while he went to America had no built-in satnav. But there was a group of folks eating outside a restaurant.
The guy looked at the address, at my directions, the print ... then pursed his lips. Then he said, with a sudden certainty that was strangely unreassuring, "You need to take the Blasimon road. The Chateau is on that road before you get to Blasimon. Yes. That's it"
It wasn't. I got to Blasimon. There had been no Chateau.
I stopped the NicoWagen and reflected. I had left Bordeaux at 1 for an hour-long journey to the Chateau, aiming to arrive at about 2. The wedding was actually at 3. It was now 2:30 and I was in the centre of Blasimon, not far from the Chateau but with no idea how to get there. Obviously, the best thing was to ring for directions.
I took out my phone. There was 25% charge but no mobile signal. Blasimon was enjoying its siesta. Nothing was open. Nothing except - a pharmacy.
"Hallo! Excuse me but I wonder if you can help me. I'm looking for this Chateau."
The woman pursed her lips. "Sorry, no idea. And the bar is closed. That's where the grandpas hang out. They would surely know."
"Oh dear. And my mobile phone has no signal"
"You have to stand in the middle of the square to get a signal here."
I went to the middle of the square and tried to summon up a suitable phone number... As I fussed I spotted a grandma sat in the shade by her front door.
"Hallo! Excuse me. I don't know if you can help me but I am looking for Chateau Augey, I am on my way to a wedding."
She reflected. "Chateau Augey. Chateau Augey. Oh yes! It's only about 3 or 4 km away. I know it. I'll call my son. He'll be able to give you directions."
Out came her son. It was now 14:40. "Chateau Augey?" He pursed his lips. "No idea!"
"Yes, you know it! It's the one that recently changed owners"
"Oh yes! oh, it's quite easy. You go down that little road, then at a certain crossroads you turn left just after Chateau Bel-Air, then through a hamlet called..."
"You'd better write it down for him"
He drew me a map and I set off through the winding hills of the Entre-Deux-Mers, past a hamlet so small they called it Petit.
I turned left just after Chateau Bel-Air. "After perhaps 500m it's on the left"
Ahead on the left was a copse. In front of the copse was a gate. At the side of the gate was a pillar. The pillar said "Augey".
I rolled up in style at 14:54. A group of Chinese watched me arrive with no sense of expectation, urgency or even interest. Further on another group of folk was hanging around with an aimless elegance that was perfectly embodied by the straw boater one of them was wearing. I parked the NicoWagen, changed into my special ceremonial shoes, tied my tie and put on my jacket. My surplice I left in the bag. I'd get it out if folk insisted. (They didn't.)
Nobody seemed in the least stressed. Over by a group of chairs JunYang, Ruru and some other folk were practicing the songs. Ruru asked about some awkward words in Amazing Grace. "Twas". "Bright shining".
Ah, here comes one who's stressed. Ruth, the Master of Ceremonies and Wedding Coordinator, who was charged with ensuring that everything went smoothly, hove into sight.
"Hi Ruth, sorry I'm late, I got hopelessly lost."
"Oh well everything's running about 30 minutes late anyway."
"Well it's in a lost corner of darkest France"
She nodded and scuttled off to solve another problem, while I enjoyed the blazing sunshine, drank fizzy water and chatted with some charming guests: Americans, French and Chinese.
Later that night I drove Ruth back to her hotel in Bordeaux. She had had a day of intense fire-fighting. In the end, despite the blatantly scorned timetable and the grave error of producing the apéros with the dessert ("we didn't know there were any") the day had been a wild success. The couple were handsome, elegant, charming and sweet. The gentlemen far outshone the ladies in elegance - there were enough bow-ties to stock a butterfly farm, a splendid example of a late Victorian waxed and curled moustache and one man from La Belle Epoque. Where he got his clothes from and how he pulled it off amazed me, but he did. The bride's father's speech had been delivered with exceptional rigour and energy in Mandarin, punctuated by beautiful bowing to the gathered assembly. In China they don't do speeches at weddings and he was determined to follow the western style, but turned it into something wholly other, beautiful and quite remarkable.
As I drove to the wedding, round and round, in ever decreasing circles, I vowed never to do another. It's time to encourage the younger guys here to do that, I think. But as I drove from the wedding I thought how much I love the life God has given me here. This crazy, bizarre life, full of linguistic minefields, errors of etiquette, multi-cultural fault-lines and ...
well, and charm.