Ladies and gentleman - may I introduce the lady who made all of this possible: my mummy.
Not only my mother and undoubtedly my biggest supporter, she's also the greatest source of cooking knowledge throughout my life and a humbling reminder that no catering challenge is too much (who else can single-handedly throw a gourmet birthday party for 110 without batting an eyelid?)
In addition to being a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen (not to mention other talents), she'd give Apollo a run for his money in the sun-worshipping department and, on her first morning here at Le Manoir de Raynaudes, she had turned towards the sun and stripped down to a bikini before I could utter "Piz Buin". Between murmers of "Uh! It's heavenly here" and "Ooh, my wine seems to have gone down rather quickly" (and this from a supposed lightweight), we did manage to fit in a bit of culture (Albi, Cordes, Najac - you know the drill - plus Puycelsi, St Antonin and St Martin-Laguépie) and some lovely food, including a loooooooong supper at our local, Auberge Occitane.
After six glorious days, she was gone, leaving Peter and Orlando in awe of my brilliant mother and me missing her hugely. I climbed one of our cherry trees the morning she left and, as I remembered the kilos and kilos of cherries she'd stoned for me while she was here and I looked out across the fields towards the Pyrenees, I thought of her oft-used phrase: "It's not a bad life, really." So true. Come back soon, Mummy. You fit perfectly into my idyllic little Raynaudes existence.