'Paraules d’amor' floated on the warm Asian evening air, sowing timeless sweetness

With so many words and deeds of hate and violence in the world it was so good to hear words of love.

Paraules d’amor floated on the warm Asian evening air, sowing timeless sweetness and affection, the words lost in translation to the assembled Singaporeans, but the richness and softness of the sentiment transcending language.

For Maggie and me it was every bit as emotional as hearing Joan Manuel Serrat sing his signature song at La Palau de la Musica. Then, some years ago now, our dear friend Conxita had been seated beside us smiling through tears, mouthing the words, then singing along with hundreds of others for whom it sustains, going to the heart of memory, of youth and life.

Ella, five when we made Catalonia our home, is suddenly 26. Where have the years gone? Ella and our son Joe, seven months old at the time of our move, will, forever I am sure, continue to talk to one another in Catalan regardless of where in the world they are.

In April Ella married Bryan, a moment of magic when we were weaved into this gentle and kind man’s large family during one of the happiest and most bewildering weeks of our lives.

Ella and Bryan have been together since university, both film graduates and now set on directing and writing careers. They will begin in London this autumn, by necessity not choice because that is where the opportunities are greatest .... at the moment.

We talk of a gathering, a celebration, here on our Priorat farm next year for European family and friends, but for the wedding it was deemed safest and wisest if our small core family group, five of us, headed East rather than Bryan’s great clan coming West.

The nine days went spinning by. The travel was an endurance test but we managed better than we had hoped. It was Maggie’s first visit to Asia. Work had taken me there many moons ago, to China and the Philippines, so I had an inkling of what to expect, not least the humidity, and we talked of the bewilderments we faced.

Neither of us expected to be serenaded in Catalan.

Guitarist and vocalist Carles Sendros, originally from Barcelona, living and working as a musician in Singapore for 14 years, stunned us, blending the radically new aspect our lives with the one we love. Words of love were his parting gift, weighed with meaning, perfect. Before that he cast the spell of Song of the Birds.

I managed to make a speech, unrolling a marriage contract that was my surprise for Bryan, defining the need for him to, among other things, learn Catalan and declare his undying allegiance to Barcelona FC (both male and female teams). Maggie Whitman read some Walt Whitman, we thanked our new family for their warmth and kindness, and we tried to remember the names of so many people.

We dispersed reluctantly, eventually, but not the music. It lingered. It will stay forever.

Thank you Carles.

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