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A Walk in the Vineyards

The sunlight was beautiful. After hours of driving – through France and into Italy, back to France then back to Italy – a walk in the evening sunlight was the perfect way to end the afternoon. The Italian lady spoke of a ‘big bench’, but more importantly she spoke of a fantastic view over the vineyards. The English of the Italian gentleman was as limited as our Italian, yet still, without words, he managed to show us the way to go.

The sun shone on our faces. The dogs barked as we walked past the lemon trees. And then we were off. Down a country lane between rustic farm buildings. Up a hill between the shining green vineyards.

We stopped to look at the vines. We stopped to look at the grapes. Not the grapes you find on the shelves of Asda or Waitrose, but tiny green balls. Baby grapes. Now, I suppose all grapes must start this way, but we’d never seen grapes like this before.

And as we looked at the grapes, my friend started to sing. He did not sing an Italian song. Nor did he sing a pop song. Instead, upon that Lord’s Day evening, he sang a song of praise.

Now, when I tell you that my friend started to sing a song of praise, perhaps what you imagine in your mind is the latest ditty from the latest album. Or perhaps you imagine one of those songs which has managed to pass the test of time and endure for a year or two. But, no, that’s not what he sang.

I will rejoice in You and be glad;
I will extol Your love more than wine.
Draw me after You and let us run together;
I will rejoice in You and be glad.
It was a song none of us had sung or even heard in a decade or more. A song that people were singing before either of us were born. To my other friend (the wife of the first friend – she had grown up with much more respectable church music than us!) this was a new song, and she looked on bemusedly as we explained how it was to be sung ‘over and over and over and over and over and over again’ (sorry I just couldn’t resist that reference while I was typing!) world without end, Amen.

And so we wandered through the vineyards singing this ancient chorus. We strolled past the tiny grapes in the beautiful evening light. And then we found the aformentioned ‘big bench’ – it really was a big bench, so big it seemed to have been made for giants. There was no climbing up to the bench, for it was already occupied by some local teenagers, chatting and giggling – enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon with friends.

We gazed out over the rolling hills covered with vines. We saw the majesty of the high mountains beyond and understood why they called this place Piedmont. And then we walked back down the hill – back to the lemon tress, the dogs, the hazelnuts and the friendly Italian man who made us an afternoon espresso. And echoing over the beauty of the light and the rolling vineyards, and over the majesty of the mountains, and over the gift of friendship were those words we had sung: ‘I will rejoice in You and be glad / I will extoll Your love more than wine.’

(The Baby Grapes!)

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