It is our last day on our wonderful campsite at Le Porte de Limeuil on the banks of the River Dordogne. Tomorrow we will be packing our tent away for a final time and starting our four day meander back to Caen, and the ferry home to the UK, after nine glorious weeks here in sunny France. A lot of people have left already and there are a growing number of vacant pitches as those of us ‘under canvas’ (or in our case ‘under plastic’) sense, from the colder nights, that summer is coming to an end and that it is time to head home.
We spend the day packing away most of our stuff – dismantling our cooker, returning our tables and chairs to their storage cases, packing various utensils into various boxes – more-or-less everything except our inflatable mattress and our tent itself. We know that it will be a tight fit to get everything packed into our car, so we decide to divest ourselves of stuff we do not really need, particularly spare foodstuff of one kind or another. We manage to get rid of everything except a large unopened bag of charcoal. I suddenly have a bright idea. A new family have just moved into one of the pre-erected ‘luxury tents’ just across from us, and I know that the Eurocamp people (who manage these ‘luxury tents’) provide just about everything, including barbecues, for their clients, who prefer ‘glamping’ as it is called, to proper camping. I also know that they do not provide charcoal for these barbecues, however. I wander over and see if they can make use of our spare bag of charcoal. They are delighted with it, and accept it gladly.
I thought initially that they were a French family – father, mother, and several teenage children – because they are driving a French car. It turns out that they are actually British and that they are driving a French car because theirs has broken down and will need to be transported back to the UK. Their insurance company has arranged for them to stay here on our campsite in one of the luxury tents until everything gets sorted out. They will be here for at least a week and are actually looking forward to it since they know this site well having camped here several times before. We are pleased to have been able to help a little, having experienced similar problem with our own car accident in France a couple of years ago, and empathise with them. Later on in the afternoon we see that they have met up with another family, who they met here a few years ago, who will also be staying on the campsite for another week. We are pleased to know that they will have friends and support when we leave tomorrow.
By early evening we have finished all our packing, and after a final swim in the river, we dress up and walk over the two bridges into Limeuil for a final visit and farewell drink. It is about 5.30 p.m. and we are pleased to see that the new family and their friends have all got together in the ‘luxury tent’ to share an evening meal together. The weather is still beautifully warm and sunny and they are having a barbecue. The two fathers are ‘doing the barbecuing’ whilst the rest of the two families are sitting around the large wooden table eating nibbles and drinking wine. The barbecue coals go into the barbecue, on top of some newspaper, the implements are all laid out alongside in their proper order, a small table is alongside with various items to be barbecued on it … and each stage is perforated by the two men stopping for another glass of wine and a chat about the art of barbecuing and how it is truly a ‘male art’!? We leave them to it and walk into Limeuil, and climb right to the top of the little town, to visit the ‘English Garden’ with its amazing panoramic views. The garden is superb – everything we were told it would be and more – and we spend a delightful hour there before returning to our campsite via the riverside café where we stop for a final beer.
When we gat back to our tent we notice that that the party in the ‘luxury tent’ seems to be livening up. The nibbles and the wine are obviously going down well … although the two men seem to be having trouble with the barbecue. We have been away for about two hours but they seem to be no further forward with getting the barbecue going. There is a lot of poking and blowing of the coals but not much sign of life. Judging by the empty bottles scattered around the barbecue their dilemma has demanded some serious discussion and drinking to go with it. We sit eating the delicious stew Julia has cooked for us on the small single burner we keep to use on such occasions when we have packed up just about everything else. I am just about to wander over and help the two men … I know that there is nothing wrong with the coals, so it must be something they are doing wrong … when suddenly there is the tell tale sign of smoke!
An hour – and several more glasses of wine – later the barbecue is seemingly hot enough for the meat to go on. The two men load the barbecue with everything that needs to be cooked, and wander off to join the rest of the party who are having a whale of a time round the wooden table. The nibbles are replenished for the umpteenth time – the women seemingly long ago gave up on their men folk – and the wine is flowing liberally. The meat begins to cook, and then char, and then burn … but nobody seems to be bothered. They have had so much to drink, and the conversation has become so uproarious, that they have forgotten all about the barbecue.
I am blessed with what I call ‘a good forgettery’ – the ability to forget at will things that, for some reason or other, I don’t want to remember. Sadly it is usually important things, often things that Julia has asked me to get or to do, that I easily forget rather than negative things that I really do need to forget and let go of?! I know that I am not the only one who is like this – blessed with such a gift. Sadly, however, we have a tendency – rather like our neighbours across the campsite with their barbecuing – to forget the really important things in life and remember the unimportant.
An interesting example of this – particularly for any Bible-believing Christian – is to take a Bible Concordance and look up the various references to either ‘forget’ or ‘remember’. There are scores of them – far too many to quote in a short blog like this – but many of them prove to be a salient reminder of just how good we are at forgetting the wrong things rather the right things, and remembering negative things rather than positive things. How easily, like Job, we degenerate into inward looking and downward looking people, rather than being upward looking and outward looking? If only Job had heeded his own advice – ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face and wear a smile!’ (Job 9:27). Too many of us live in the past – held back by either painful events that continue to trouble us or our false perceptions that ‘things were better then’ – instead of following Paul’s advice to ‘forget those things that are behind’ us and press on into the future (Philippians 3:13). Elsewhere the Bible exhorts us not to ‘forget the cry of the humble’ (Psalm 9:12) or ‘the life of the poor’ (Psalm 74:19). Nor are we to ‘forget all God’s benefits’ (Psalm 103:2) or the teaching of ‘God’s word’ (Psalm 119:16). The Writer to the Hebrews encourages us to be hospitable to all – ‘do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unaware’ (Hebrews 13;2). He also exhorts us ‘not to forget to do good and to share’ because to live in such a way pleases God (Hebrews 13:16). Jesus himself encourages us to recall the miracle of the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’ – to ‘remember the five loaves of the five thousand’ (Matthew 16:9) – because he wants us to know that God is ‘for us’ not ‘against us’ and has already provided for us in Christ ‘everything we need for life and godliness’ (2 Peter 1:3). Perhaps it’s time for all of us to get our ‘forgetteries’ serviced?
Eventually the barbecue loses its heat, and the charred burgers and chicken bits are left on the grill. The family dog helps himself to a couple of the burgers … the families simply carry on drinking and chatting and laughing, the barbecue completely forgotten. The dog wanders over to us, and growls good naturedly. I am sure I hear him say, ‘Thanks for the barbecue coals … great barbecue!’ He sits near us and eats his burgers. It’s a bit more peaceful, less raucous, over here by the river!