When I had been living in France for a year, I popped home to the U.K. to visit my parents in Cornwall.
"Popped" is, of course,euphemistic for the seventeen hour trek from Nice; North to Chartres and then East to West across France to Roscoff in Brittany; to catch the car-ferry to Plymouth, and then a couple of hours' driving home to Falmouth. All this in an ancient orange Skoda, which was built when the Czech Republic was still Czechoslovakia! It was a good sturdy car; heavy enough to gather some speed downhill, with the wind behind it; but struggling to escape it's own dark burnt-oil fumes if the terrain levelled off. I had more stops to purchase oil than gasoline on that trip.
Mum and Dad lived within a few hundred yards of the harbour and customs house quay. The main street was between them and the water. All very picturesque. Mum had grown up there, I was born there and after all my parents' travels it was where they chose to retire. Aunts, Uncles, old boyfriends, children Mum knew from the days when she played piano to accompany the ballet classes' attempts at "good toes-naughty toes" and some saucier characters from the days when she accompanied a Big Band in this Naval Town during and after the war. Friends from the Wine Bar down the street or from the Fishmongers' or Bakers', Mum knew everyone.
I thought nothing of being told that I should introduce myself to the owners of an interesting clothing store around the corner. They were friends with a couple who had taken a caretaker position in the South of France, near St Tropez and I was living/working in France so it made sense. I went into Xanadu and chatted briefly with the owners. I gave them my contact info and that was that.
A couple of months later, back in France, near Toulon, still South but "not as nice as Nice", (Damn that Mistral wind). I received a call from an English speaking person with a problem. They had a broken tractor fan-belt and no idea how to explain that in French to anyone who might procure them a new one. I have to admit to my paucity of vocabulary in this specialized field, at the time. I barely knew about fan-belts in English, let alone French. However my Boyfriend and subsequent Husband, (for better or worse, as I keep reminding myself), was mechanically inclined although he spoke no English.
We decided that we must meet to sort this out and, the rest is history, as we say. The Visitors from Xanadu became lifelong friends, we visited them often, eating wonderful meals together, or chopping wood from fallen chestnut trees in the hilly, beautiful Propriete which they were care-taking. My first taste of chilled Sorrel soup was from sorrel grown in their vegetable patch, tilled by the tractor in question.
They are retired and back on British soil now, but with a son who is a chef on the Island of Ibiza and a daughter trying to renovate an olive farm in Spain, they still travel often to warmer climes.
The last time we met face to face was in England, several years ago, when we had to meet outside my parents' house because Dad's early symptoms of Alzheimer's included a certain paranoia and distrust of outsiders and, by then, Mum's Parkinson's was also advanced and she wasn't up to challenging him.
I hope that my parents have not bequeathed their health problems to me. I know that, like Witchcraft, the networking gene has been passed along; not only to me but to my daughter.