After the ceremony, an elderly man grabbed Mrs S's arm and pulled her across the square, saying something that we thought was probably, "Come and have a drink". He chattered away as we went into the restaurant and it at last dawned on us that he was "Onions, very good", our next-door neighbour. Perhaps if we had been more observant we would have recognised the cap that was his habitual companion, but we had never seen him wearing anything other than blue overalls; he looked completely different in his suit and wearing a tie without the stains from the various vegetables he grows. Well, I hope that's where the stains come from.
We all headed towards the restaurant, the band leading the way at a double quick march. By the time Mrs S and I arrived, still accompanied by our neighbour clinging to Mrs S's arm, there were already more people in the restaurant than there had been at the ceremony. Trestle tables had been placed down the centre of the largest room at the restaurant and these were laden with bottles of wine and plates of biscuits and other assorted nibbles. Our neighbour, having released Mrs S with some reluctance, burrowed his way through the crowd and returned clutching two glasses, one of which he handed to Mrs S with a small bow, and the other he immediately raised to his lips in a toast to the good lady. Meanwhile, I might as well have been on the other side of the moon as far as he was concerned. If I wanted a drink, it was up to me to get it for myself. I had considerably greater difficulty than the old boy in getting near the bottles, but my perseverance triumphed. I returned to Mrs S just as the mayor tuned round to offer her a plate of biscuits. He actually had two plates, one in each hand, and was also holding a glass of red wine that was in danger of being slopped over anyone within about six feet of him.
Monsieur Gabois, the mayor, is a pretty switched on guy and it didn't take him long to realise that he was face to face with somebody whose hand he had not shaken that day – or at any other time come to that. Good manners dictated that he put matters right immediately and he started to juggle the plates and glass in an attempt to free his right hand. Two plates of biscuits and a glass of red wine dropped onto a tiled floor make a bit of a mess, and Mr Onions had another stain on his tie. We crept away in the confusion and slipped through the fire exit, unwilling to face the mayor's embarrassment.