As a childless couple you could be forgiven for thinking we don’t like children. Au contraire, we love children but have never felt the need to have one of our own. However, we much enjoy spending time with our friends’ delightful, young children.
The other week-end we attended the birthday party of the young son of some friends. We’ve been to all of his three previous birthday parties and we’ve much enjoyed seeing him develop and grow over the period. Now that he’s started to speak French we can even have a conversation with him as previously he’s spoken only Russian. Of course, you don’t always need to speak a language to understand what’s being said, though it helps.
I recall going to his christening which seems like only yesterday at the Russian Orthodox Church in Nice. It was my first visit to the church, although I’m familiar with its tiled onion topped roof which is readily visible from the Nice bypass, and my first orthodox ceremony. I had been pre-warned that I would need to wear a scarf to cover my hair and, horror of horrors, a skirt. Remember, I generally only wear trousers or cycling shorts. Neither of which would have been appropriate.
The scarf was no problem. The skirt proved more of an issue. I only have two skirts both of them evening wear, so neither were suitable. I have a few dresses. A couple for throwing over my swimwear to go down to the beach and a couple for more formal occasions. I had to opt for one of the latter but covered it with a short black raincoat, to match my black cashmere headscarf, so that its bright colours were less obvious.
It was a short – less is always more in my book – but intimate ceremony conducted by a priest who kindly explained everything to us beforehand in French. Only the priest and the godfather had speaking roles, the rest of us, excluding the baby being christened, were interested bystanders. There was no music nor, thankfully, any hymns. But, given the priest sang the entire service, they would have been superfluous.
The entire service was in Russian and I didn’t understand a single word, but it didn’t matter. We sat during the first part of the service, and I’d been warned not to cross my legs, though I’ve still no idea why, and stood facing the altar for the last bit. The baby only had one-god parent, his older brother, and frankly I doubt whether his parents could have chosen anyone better even though they were constrained by the need to choose a god-parent from the Orthodox church.
I have to say, the priest cut quite a dramatic figure and brought a real sense of drama and occasion to the event. He even disappeared in the middle of the service for a quick costume change. The baby got dunked naked in the large silver font, containing warm water. No need then for elaborate christening robes. He was wholly mesmerised by the priest, much enjoyed his splash about in the font and being anointed with oils. Indeed, he took a real liking to the priest and didn’t at all mind being carried aloft by him. In truth I think he just loved being the centre of attention. Who wouldn’t?
He was back at the church the following Sunday for his first mass and I hear he eagerly partook of the communion wine – or is it vodka? There were repercussions. The alcohol rendered him quite vocal, aggressive even, until he fell asleep for hours on end, for much longer than he normally sleeps in the afternoon. No word on whether he awoke with a hangover.
I should add that he’s now very much seen and heard. As the header photo shows, he was delighted with his birthday cake so much so that he wasn’t prepared to share the four small cakes decorating the main cake with any of the other guests. Luckily, there was enough to go round sadly it wasn’t vegan!