Thursday 19 January 2023

Happy New Mayor

One of January’s highlights (mainly because there aren’t many) is the Cérémonié des Voeux held by the Mairie.  This is where they present their best wishes for the New Year and invite us to share a ‘moment of sharing and exchange’.  No it’s not one of ‘those’ evenings (the village hall is far too cold!) but there is food and wine, so we went.

There seemed to be a particularly good turnout this year and our village is increasing in population every year so it is always good to see the arrival of young families but, as ever, perhaps 70 - 80% of the people there were over 70 or 80 years old.  

The evening started as it always does, with the microphone not working, then working at 70 decibels with a cacophony of static and feedback, and then at last all was sorted and our new Madame Mayor could begin her welcome speech.  She gave us a review of what she had spent our taxes on last year, and what she was going to spend them on this year, and then thanked her team for helping her spend our money.  (To be fair, the village now has an excellent new school, revamped ‘youth club’ and a new washbasin in the village hall so they seem to be doing a good job).  

This was followed by a tribute to somebody called Helène who had just retired from the primary school.  After several false starts when we saw what seemed to be the entire contents of somebody’s personal computer, a video was projected on a screen and we watched pupils and ex-pupils delivering messages of thanks and appreciation. We all applauded at the end, expecting to see the obviously much loved Helène arrive to receive a handshake and a bouquet of flowers from the Mayor.  But nothing happened.

And finally it was the moment we had all been waiting for - Madame the Mayor announc
ed the end of the formal part of the evening and invited us all to participate in the ‘glass of friendship’.  It seemed only natural that we ‘young ones’ helped to stack the chairs vacated by the ‘old ones’.  Big mistake.  This gave them a head start towards the buffet and despite their age they all seemed capable of moving at very high speed and surrounded the tables like a flock of greedy seagulls.

There was some food left by the time we got there and it was delicious.  In previous years there were perhaps a few crisps, dried up bits of meat, tepid wine, but this year there was a wonderful spread of mini canapés, charcuterie, terrine, bread etc and lots of bottles of wine from the local Cave - and not the cheap stuff either, but the ‘La Reserve’!  And just when it looked as if the food was nearly finished, the ‘Galettes des Rois’ arrived (the traditional frangipane pastry cakes), which meant that the flock of seagulls immediately surrounded the tables again. And to accompany this, they produced bottles of excellent sparkling wine.  

Unfortunately, thanks to Brexit, I am no longer allowed to vote in local elections but if I could, this Mayor would definitely be re-elected - if only for her excellent choice in ‘refreshments’.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Is it over yet?

I’ve been looking at the pictures of people in the UK celebrating their first outings since the lockdown was eased - sitting in pub beer gardens wrapped in thick coats with umbrellas protecting them from the traditional bank holiday weekend downpour - and I feel envious!   Here in France we are in what could be called ‘loose confinement’ - which sounds like a great description of the elastic-waisted jogging bottoms I have been living in all winter.   From having been restricted to ‘free movement’ within a 10km radius (or 30km with an attestation proving we have a valid reason for the journey) we can now travel as far as we like.  Unfortunately there is no reason to do this - as there is nothing to do when you get there.  Bars and restaurants are still closed, as are ’non-essential’ shops.

Nobody seems to know what is ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ at the moment and the decision seems to have been made by somebody just sticking a pin in certain words on a random list.   Clothes and shoe shops have been ordered to close but the wine shops remain open (this is France after all…)  In the supermarkets certain displays have been covered up so you won’t be tempted to buy ‘non-essential' items such as socks and pants but there is nothing to stop you buying tortilla chips and chocolate.  It also seemed strange that one couldn’t buy toys for children but you could buy toys for dogs.  I went to a large electrical store to buy printer ink, having used up all my supply printing out the endless travel attestations.  For some reason the fridge/freezer section was taped off like a crime scene - and yet there was nothing to stop you buying electric toothbrushes, beauty gadgets to make your face look younger, electric scented diffusers etc.  

For the moment we are still under a strict curfew and cannot leave our homes after 7pm, unless we have a fantastically valid reason for needing to do so, and have filled out yet another attestation.  I am still not entirely sure why there is more chance of catching Covid-19 at night, but as the restaurants are still closed there is not much reason to venture out in the evenings anyway.  This curfew will gradually be pushed back to 9pm (when outdoor terraces reopen) and then 11pm towards the end of June when everything should be fully functioning again.     The only bonus to all this is that I have learnt something that is glaringly obviously once you know it - the word Curfew comes from the french Couvre-feu (cover your fire).   Apparently it was a law created by William the Conqueror to ensure that everybody put their fires out by 8pm so that the old timber buildings wouldn’t catch fire.  No doubt if their houses had caught fire and people had to leave their burning homes they would have needed an attestation…..