Tonight, whilst walking in the streets of Salamanca, discovering this beautiful Spanish town for the first time, beginning this way our summer holidays whilst we are headed to Portugal, I receive an unexpected phone call on my mobile.
The number is saved on my phone list as Mr and Mrs Blueman. I have just sent them recent pictures of the kids before leaving London, as I do twice a year to keep them posted since they don’t use internet (they are both over 80), so I assume they are calling to thank me and congratulate us on how our children have beautifully grown once again since our last letter.
When I pick up it is in fact Mrs Blueman who has just received my envelope and comments on the snaps I sent them with joy and enthusiasm as usual. Unfortunately she has no good news for me: she is the only one on the phone as Mr Blueman passed away a few months ago. He was very ill so I knew I could get this phone call at any point in the last couple of years, yet my heart is filled with sadness.
Who was Mr Blueman to me?
Many years before I could even imagine to move to the UK, John Blueman was the English man who bought in 1998 from my French grandfather Roz Al Len, my dearest grandparents country house that my grandfather had commissioned in the sixties on a land he had purchased next to the sea, and where all my best summer holidays of my childhood memories lies.
I was devastated when my grandparents, who felt too old to continue looking after this big countryside residence properly, decided to put ‘her’ on the market. Every time I travelled to Brittany since I was parted from ‘her’, my parents first and then myself (when I got my licence) would drive in the area and would stop on the opposite side of the road to look at it from outside ‘her’ gate, to see if ‘she’ was loved and well kept as we would have, with a pinch of jealousy that it was not our family’s anymore.
Crazy as I am, after living a few years in London and gaining confidence in the language and the British culture, I found the courage to write a letter to ‘her’ new owner of whom I knew the last name, I obviously knew his address in France and I was starting to understand the culture so it made me feel a bit closer to him.
I sent him a collection of photocopied picture of the house through my childhood years, starting from a picture of my mother in the garden being pregnant with me. I explained how much the house they were now living in had meant to me. And I asked to forgive me if I had bother them, but if they could let me know the day they would sell it, I might be interested in buying it back.
I could not be more surprised of their reaction. A few days later I received a letter back from Mr Blueman sending pictures of Roz Al Len in the past decade, how it had changed under their care, what plants and parts of the garden they had improved or needed to alter and how they had modernised and furnished it internally.
They were very happy I wrote to them that letter as they loved Roz Al Len as much as I did. I found out from them only then that some other cousins of mine had got in contact with them in the past in quite rude ways by stopping by and demanding to visit the property with dramatic tears in their eyes. But my approach had been completely different and a new friendship stroke up from that fearless letter I decided to send them in 2010.
Since then we started writing each other twice a year, at Christmas and at the beginning of the summer for the kids’ birthdays. Lately I felt life was so busy that I was usually just posting pictures with only a couple of words included with them. Below is probably the last proper old style hand written letter that John Blueman have read from me, could he rest in peace.
Dear Sarah and John,
Thank you for your lovely Christmas card, we received it just in time to know at which address (in France or the U.K.) to post our pictures this year!
We hope this finds you at best as you can be. So many things happened since our last letter…
Our son has started primary school and our daughter, always so active, is already riding child scooters despite being only 18 months old!
We spent a few days in Brittany this summer, at my mother’s flat: both my parents were there and thoroughly enjoined the kids company as you can imagine. When we drove passed Roz Al Len we noticed it was in not too bad conditions, have you had a chance to be back there since, despite the illness?
Unfortunately my beloved aunt passed away the day we were returning to the UK when we were boarding the ferry at St Malo, as if she wanted to make sure we would enjoy our time before leaving us and don’t let us feel sorrow for her whilst we were all together…
It is a very sad Xmas as every year I would post her the same pictures I was posting to you but this time there will be only one letter leaving from London…
On another note G and I went to New York for the first time in October, whilst G’s brother and sister in law looked after the kids, we enclose a picture of us there to show it was an amazing holiday!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our quartet with love