Sunday, 25 September 2016

Journées du Patrimoine

Moss has taken over the crumbled towers
Last weekend were the Journées du Patrimoine – the European Heritage Days. This weekend, towards the end of September, is always a feast for us perpetual tourists as they are the two days in the year that some special places are open and it is the weekend that entry into the large attractions is free or at a reduced price.

Cees is the senior tourist and he pours over the pages of the newspaper (aka Le Journals de Saône et Loire) and spends hours trawling the internet to find out exactly what is going on. Priority is given to places that are rarely open and a couple of days before the Saturday, a proposed visit plan is presented to the junior tourist. She then scrutinises, criticises and adjusts the programme and we come up with our final plan of attack.

The largest part of Lournand castle that is still standing
Sadly this year, the weather, which has been hot and very summery, decided to break on the Saturday morning. The day started grey so that the flypast I mentioned in my last blog was cancelled. Not a good omen for the weekend. But even faced with such adversity, we were not downhearted and we moved from the non-existent fly past to our next destination - the castle at Lournand. This castle is only ever open to the public on the Journeés du Patrimoine and so it is a must see. The site is large and rather dangerous for those who do not know their way around, so it normally locked and the public is kept away except for these two days when guided visits are available. Saturday we were there for the first tour after lunch and we were not disappointed.

Trees growing into the stonework
The site is much larger than I had expected and we were escorted around by the president of the association that has dedicated itself to rejuvenating the site. They won’t be rebuilding the castle, but they are restoring it into a safe state. To rebuild would be an impossible task and would take away from the beauty of the place in my opinion. I was fascinated by the way nature had taken over this ancient structure during its years of neglect. Where the towers have collapsed, moss has covered the stones in a brilliant green carpet and where the walls are still standing, trees have grown into the stonework creating a feast for the eye.

It started to drizzle as we went round, but we completed the whole visit (not far short of two hours) relatively dry.

We then moved on to see a small chapel that is never open - not really exciting, but it was turned into a post office for the weekend, so we bought a postcard and mailed it to ourselves.

Sunday dawned even more miserably than Saturday and by the time we set off (09.30) it was chucking it down. Knowing that it was likely to rain, we had reserved the indoor sites for this day. We went to the Doyanée at Bezornay, which has been split into four residential properties and is therefore never open to the public. It was a real treat. We had visited the site many months ago, but of course we could only see the outside and not all of that either. Seeing the place from the inside gave us new insights as to how the whole was in its heyday.

Imagine a living room like this
The chapel, which has just been restored and is now someone’s living room was spectacular, the attention to detail in the restoration process and the enthusiasm of the owner, made that for me the highlight of the weekend.

Despite the horrible weather, it was a very successful weekend.

Monday dawned sunny and we are now back to the Indian summer we have been enjoying for the last few weeks - long may it last.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

I’m Back

Patrouille de France in action
After taking a holiday from blogging over the summer, I’m back in the saddle again. To celebrate, Mâcon organised a fly past from La Patrouille de France (the French equivalent of the Red Arrows) over the Saône on Saturday morning. The elite of the French air force in their fighter jets with smoke trails of red, white and blue over the river - just for me!

They must have known that when I was young I wanted to be a fighter pilot, I even managed to get an introductory interview with the RAF by not giving my Christian names and not saying I had an O’ level in needlework. They were surprised when a five foot nothing female turned up and rather patronisingly told me girls can’t do that sort of thing – born too soon - they do it nowadays.

The noise of the planes, the roar of the engines, the adrenalin rush as those machine race over your head, just what any red-blooded engineer wants. The closest I have got to that is watching Top Gun with quadraphonic sound and an enormous screen at the IMAX in Rotterdam, but that is a few years ago now.

So yes, of course I would be delighted to be the guest of honour, thank you!

James Bond comes in to land in his Republic Seabee in Mâcon
The fly past was due at 10.30 and when Cees confirmed the time with the organisers, he was told that it was set for 10.30 but it might be 11.00 or even 11.30 ummm….. Let’s get this straight, the Patrouille de France is manned by the crème de la crème of French fighter pilots who can be scrambled at a moment’s notice and are less than 20 minutes flying time from any point on the French mainland, how the heck can they be an hour late?? Ah well c’est La France, say no more.

Back to Saturday morning. Being genetically and psychologically Northern Europeans we turned up on time, ie we were in situ at just gone 10 o’clock. I know, I know I can’t help it, but at least I was dressed warmly for the hour and half wait - I even had long trousers and socks on - now that is a first!

Tom Cruise on his way for my fly past
While we waited, we were treated to a display of amphibious aircraft taking off and landing. One of the planes was a Republic Seabee which had actually been in a James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, with Roger Moore. That was in the days when James Bond was real and was not one of those modern alternatives – am I showing my age?

So there we were, on the first cold day since mid July and just before the fly past was due to be late, an announcement came over the tannoy, the cloud cover was too low to fly, they weren’t coming. There went my first blog of the autumn!

Not to be defeated I found a nice photo from the Internet to show you what my fly past would have looked like had it been a nice day. I think I’ll stick with Top Gun next time, at least it starts when I want it to and I can watch it in the warm!

Monday, 11 July 2016

Music and food

Duo Duende performing
It is that time of year again when the guitar music festival takes place in our village. Last weekend we started with a charming father and son duo from Albi playing Spanish and Brazilian music. The members of the audience were tapping their feet to the interesting programme they performed.

The first concert in the series is often under attended, but we were pleased to see that Chazelle church was over half full. An excellent start to the series.

Dinner awaits
Sunday we had a local favourite Bernard Bruel who sings Jacques Brel songs. He normally sings to a taped accompaniment, but especially for our festival, he accompanied a number of the songs on the guitar. He should do that more often as it was a much more pleasant effect, than just a tape in the background, an accordionist would be even better, but that wouldn’t have fitted into the guitar concept! The church was almost full and everyone really enjoyed his interpretation of the songs, a selection of old favourites and lesser known Brel songs.

Bruel sings Brel
There are three more concerts in the series, Emmanuel Rossfelder, who appears every two or three years and is one of the “Godfathers” of the festival, a group of Corsican singers who will be performing a traditional polyphonic repertoire (something I have never heard before)and we will end the festival with a French, Irish music band, who were so popular last year, we had to turn people away at the door. All three of the remaining concerts have already sold more than half of the available tickets, so it looks like it will be a good year not only musically but financially, which will enable us to carry on after the last two lean years have rather depleted our coffers.

Superb buffet
After the concerts, the volunteers get together with the artists for a buffet meal prepared by Monique and Chantal in Monique’s house, conveniently located almost nextdoor to the church. They do us proud every time and these evenings were no different.

All in all, we had two very interesting evenings, with delicious food, the only downer was France losing in the Euro cup final – but you can’t have it all can you?

Onwards and upwards to the next concerts - I can’t wait.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Nuts and Bolts and Road Signs

What are all these bits for?
All winter I have been on a committee to discuss and implement new road signage in Cormatin village – and who says life in rural France is boring?

The discussions were seemingly endless and mostly about the colour and shape and size, although we have taken a radical decision that I am sure no one concerned has fully understood. I am waiting for the flack we will receive when the new signs are installed and the old ones are removed, but I’ll keep my head down and plead ignorance on that one!

First the hammer then screw it into place
Saturday was the day that the new panels were to be put together. We turned out in force to help – umm well not quite in force, apart from us, there were Pierre the potter, Patrick the painter and Silvyane the sculptress. The ones without alliterating names and jobs didn’t turn up.

Cees and I are a whizz at Ikea kitchens and this should have been a doddle, but as non-fluent French speakers, we bowed to the superiority of our co-workers and even though I did my best to run around and pick up the multitude of fallen nuts and bolts, we still ended up with quite a few getting lost – to be blamed on the supplier of course.

In any case it was a good lesson in French, I have learned some new words even though the assembled troupe couldn’t decide whether the word for screw was masculine or feminine - une vis versus un vice. My word for the day is un écrou (a nut) not only because it took me the whole afternoon to remember it, but it sounds rather nice as well, although rather surprisingly it doesn’t go on a bolt (un boulon) it goes on a screw (une vis) – umm I not sure my teachers have been so accurate in their language usage here.
Just don't let it fall over
I have learned a bunch of swearwords which I won’t elaborate on, but they help when you are trying to hammer a self-tapping screw into a steel frame - lets not go there. My inability to pronounce the words “above” and “below” clearly enough to be differentiated from each other (they sound exactly the same to the uninitiated - read anyone who isn’t French and then not all of them either) caused endless hilarity, but we got there in the end.

Finally after 3 hours of work, four panels have been constructed ready to be “planted” on Tuesday and a fifth was mounted on the campsite wall. Fortunately we do not have permission to put up all seven panels as yet, so we have a chance to buy some more nuts and bolts to make up for the lost ones.

If I survive the fallout when certain people find out they no longer have their own personal sign, I’ll let you know how we get on with the installation!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Sad story

Sad, sad day
I’ve been rather down in the dumps the last few weeks; I put it down to the unusually wet and cold weather we have had in May and early June, but the scaremongering and Armageddon predictions tumbling out of my mother country have not helped my mood either. You see, I am one of the disenfranchised British citizens who stood to lose a lot with an exit of the UK from Europe, but who were not allowed to vote.

As it got closer to the 23rd (referendum day) I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I still hoped that (what I deemed to be) reason would prevail. As I got up in the early hours of Friday to watch live streaming of the results of the referendum, that sinking feeling proved to be justified. The British people, had decided that they wanted to leave the European Union.

The new Europe
It brought back a memory of my early days in continental Europe, when I would moan about Dutch bureaucracy or another “European” oddity that I couldn’t grasp and a colleague would say to me “why don’t you just f.. off back to your little island”. That was a cue to me to rethink what I was moaning about and see if maybe, just maybe, it was me and my way of thinking that could do with a tweak and maybe, just maybe I could learn something from another way of thinking.

Now the British population has spat out its collective dummy and f..ed off back to its little island and pulled up the drawbridge to boot. I fail to see how this will help them, but as I have come to realise, I am no longer really British and as I have felt more and more on each visit back to my homeland, I am well and truly out of step with this current British mentality.

I wish them well and as they sort out their messy divorce, I must now also start the process of extracting myself financially and emotionally from the island that no longer wants me or my kind.

Yesterday the weather was heavy and oppressive, matching my mood after the vote, and last night we had one humdinger of a storm. Scary though the storm was, it cleared the air and today has dawned sunny and calm. A new start for everyone. Let’s hope the British population does not live to regret its decision, but whatever happens to them, I am very grateful that I have a passport from a real European country and not just a British one, so that I can continue to live in a great community of countries, striving to work together to make a better life for all their citizens, not just the rich and petulant ones.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Birthday Dinner

Cees' favourite starter- escargots
This year on Cees’ birthday the weather was so atrocious that we aborted mission on a day out and stayed at home in the dry instead. We did however go out for a celebratory meal.

We have been trying to get into Hostellerie Héloise in Cluny almost since we came to live here. It has a good reputation, but every time we have tried, it has been closed that day, closed because of holidays or just plain full up. Not that I was getting paranoid you understand, but we did get the feeling we weren’t welcome. So on Tuesday it was one last try and this time we succeeded in getting a table.

Duck breast done to perfection
When you get inside the restaurant you realise why they are more often than not full up. The restaurant area is not exceptionally small but when you give your clientele a modicum of personal space (unknown in most French restaurants) combined with the fact that they also have a thriving hotel business, tables are at a premium. They can only seat about 30 people, so if you want a table you must book in advance.

Cees tucks into his steak
After all the time that we have been waiting to get into this restaurant and the build up of expectation, this could have been a big let down. I am very happy to say that it was not. The service was perfect and the food was better than that. The wine was on the recommendation of the restaurant and with a three course meal for me and four course meal for Cees we did not reach the 100 Euros mark. Quite amazing.

The menus couldn't have been better designed for our own personal tastes. I started with warm asparagus, something I am particularly fond of and Cees chose his favourite - escargots. For the main course Cees could not have been happier when he saw pavé de boeuf (thick steak) in a red wine sauce was on offer. I was rather jealous of his pommes dauphinois (potatoes in a cream sauce browned in the oven) but my tiny new potatoes were a better accompaniment to the magret de canard (duck breast) that I had ordered.

Aren't these the cutest baby baguettes you have ever seen?
We both had a selection of local cheese - I didn't know there were so many different types of Epoisse and Cees finished off with sorbet. I must give a mention to the bread "rolls" They were individual baby baguettes, warm from the oven, how luxurious is that?

The view over the river just added the finishing touches to a perfect meal. We will certainly be visiting again, roll on the next birthday or maybe we can come up with a different excuse to sample their cuisine again.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Antillean Week

It's not often such a colour outfit is seen in Cormatin
Every year the Antillean society in Saône-et-Loire has a week of events in this region. They seek to promote understanding of the Antilles, their culture, their gastronomy and their history and each year their week centres on a theme. This year the theme was the abolition of slavery.

France abolished slavery in 1794, but Napoleon reintroduced it in 1802 and it wasn’t until 1899 that all French colonies had abolished slavery once and for all. It wasn’t clear to me why this year was chosen to dedicate itself to history surrounding the abolition of slavery, but this year it was.

Plaque on the chateau wall
There were a number of different events throughout the week but the one that caught our eye was of course the event in Cormatin. The day started with an Antillean mass in Cormatin church, then proceeded to the unveiling of a plaque at the chateau, laying a wreath in Ameugny cemetery and a glass of wine and a presentation on the history of slavery in Ameugny village hall. In the afternoon there was a play in St Roch hall in Cormatin, but sadly we were expecting a gite guest to arrive and we had to miss the afternoon session.

Poppies on the walk through Ameugny village
So why Cormatin and what was on the plaque?

There was a certain General Lavaux who was the governor of St Domingue (Haiti today) who bought the chateau and he died there in 1828. He was a good friend of both Toussaint Louverture and Lamartine and these relationships proved to be critical in the eventual abolition of slavery.

The tomb of General Lavaux
Toussaint Louverture was the leader of the Haitian slave uprising which was a pivotal moment in the fight against slavery in the colonies and through him, General Lavaux became convinced of the anti-slavery cause and was able to lobby the influential Lamartine and other government officials to formulate the abolition of slavery bill, which he sadly did not live to see being passed in parliament. So a plaque has been erected to honour the work of this man who has been a little bit forgotten by history and it was his grave we laid the wreath on.

We think of this as only a lesson in history, but we were reminded that even with all these noble treaties, there is still slavery today, in many cases clandestine but in some areas just accepted and ignored.

All in all a very interesting, sobering and worthwhile morning contemplating the horrors of slavery and hopefully spreading the seeds to enable us to learn from our past and abolish this trade for ever.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Ponies, peacocks and piglets

Duckling huddling in a crate
Bank holiday Monday and off we went to Louhans. It is been a while since we’ve been there for the market selling small animals and we couldn’t have chosen a better day if we had planned it.

It was beautiful and sunny, the first nice day in a while and the place was heaving. Thousands had come for what turned out to be one of the really big markets of the year.

Point of lay chickens, just rearing to go
Every Monday there is a market in the town, but late spring is the time to get your livestock for the coming year and so people had come from far and wide to buy their chickens and ducks for the season. There were a lot of chirping and quacking boxes that passed us as we entered the market area.

Need a cockerel to wake you up in the morning?
The fun fair was in town as well and the atmosphere was electric. We had to squeeze through the crowds to get past a rather terrifying, gravity defying, twirling ride, that was eliciting screams from the teenagers brave enough to get on it and I was worried I might lose Cees – in the crowd not on to the ride you must understand. We decided our meeting point would be by the lamas if we got separated, but fortunately we made it round the market without losing sight of each other.

What a beautiful chappy
The selection of animals was amazing as always, you can buy anything from day old chicks up to laying birds, cockerels, guineafowl, peacocks, ducks, quail and geese and then there were the rabbits, sheep, piglets, lamas and ponies - we were spoilt for choice.

I was very tempted by a peacock, who was a snip at 150 Euros (!) but Cees wasn’t so keen so we left empty handed.

Maybe one day - for now we’ll stick to just having a cat.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Flying Elephants

Balloons over Chalon - photo from JSL
Every Whitsun weekend there is a display of hot air balloons in Chalon. We have never managed to see the balloons fly and so this year, yet again, we decided that this was the year we would actually see them. Checking out the programme we spotted that the balloons were to fly at 19.00 on Saturday, but I also spotted that at 17.00 there was going to be the opportunity for “dou dous” to fly in special small hot air balloons.

While flying dou dous may sound strange to English ears, I should clear up any confusion by saying that a dou dou is the French word for soft toy or comforter, so you could take your favourite soft toy along and it would be able to fly in a hot air balloon. There seemed to be no age limit for the owners of the soft toys, so I decided that a member of my little menagerie should be treated to a flight.

A flying elephant
- with a little help from photoshop
Timothy, my trusty teddy bear who has accompanied me around the world on all my business trips, is getting on a bit on years now (being only a few months younger than me - which may not be old for a human, but it is very old for a teddy bear) so I decided that he might not survive the trip. It then fell to Guus my fluffy elephant to be the one to venture into the unknown.

The only trouble was that we had a gite changeover, so the new giters had better turn up early or he would miss his flight. They didn’t arrive until 17.45 and Chalon is more than half an hour away, so I had little hope for Guus as we left. We headed off anyway as the other part of our mission was to see the main balloons flying - at least we would be on time for them.

As we neared the balloon launching site, many cars were coming the other way- not encouraging. The tops of the trees were swaying rather a lot and I feared that the wind was getting up too much for a flight. Undeterred, we walked up to the launching site with Guus under my arm, just in case the dou dous were still allowed to fly, but as we approached the main area it became obvious that all the balloon flights were cancelled.

Certificate to "prove" he actually flew
Guus and I looked wistfully at the miniature balloon baskets which had been grounded and as I started to take photos of what might have been, a man approached me, not saying a word he whisked Guus from under my arm and took him to one of the baskets for his “flight”. Guus was thrilled to sit in a basket, but sadly, as with the large balloons, it was too windy and hence too dangerous for the little ones to go up. It didn’t stop that lovely man from giving Guus a certificate marking his initiation in the ballooning world and he made one dou dou and its owner very happy.

The real balloons eventually went up at 06.00 Sunday morning when I was still tucked up in bed, so I have stolen a photo from the Journal de Saône-et-Loire website to show you what a sight it really was.

As we say every year - we really must see this next year. Who knows..

Monday, 9 May 2016

Supermarket Trauma - again

Wisteria in Cormatin - no relation to the story whatsoever
I just thought it was pretty
When we first arrived in France, we checked out the local supermarkets and quickly settled into using the Intermarché in Cluny.

We did our shopping on a Tuesday and all was well with the world.

Until that fateful day in 2014 when we returned from a short holiday to find our supermarket gone.

After a long search and difficult times, we settled into using the Atac in Cluny.

Our supermarket is a crime scene
We did our shopping on a Monday and all was well with the world.

Until one fateful day last week, when we received a newsflash email from the local newspaper - our supermarket had burned down!

We hot footed it into Cluny to find out that it was in fact the stock room that had burned down, but when I say stockroom I mean more than 200 square meters and all the stock. The supermarket won’t be up and running very soon. The police suspect arson and the whole place is one big crime scene.

So we were back to searching for somewhere to shop. The Carrefour is hellishly expensive (both milk and coffee are 50% more expensive than the Atac) but we reluctantly went there last week.

Our new shopping heaven?
It came to our attention that the other supermarket (Netto) is no longer closed at lunchtime (our preferred shopping time), so this week we decided to try it out again. It is nice, roomy and light, the selection is limited but adequate, but the clincher is that they now stock fresh milk, as opposed to sterilised. An added bonus is that it is less than half the price of the milk in Carrefour!

I think we have found our new supermarket, no matter whether Atac re-opens, we will be using Netto from now on.

We are still shopping on a Monday and it looks like all is well with the world – again.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

May Day

Brrrr.. more like 1st March!
The first day of May is a holiday in France and usually it is beautifully warm, the summer is just around the corner and the temperatures are suitably high.

Not this year though brrrrr.. As we set off in the car to go to lunch it was 3 degrees!

We were going out with some friends to sample the delights of a lunch at a goats’ cheese farm. The lunch was superb even if we did have to wrap up warm as we huddled together in black polythene covered tunnel that served as the dining room.

The menu was suitable goaty with warmed goats’ cheese on toast with salad, boeuf bourguignon with goats’ cheese oven cooked potatoes (I had hope for a goat curry, but that is not really done round here!) fresh soft goats' cheese with cream and sugar, then a non-goaty dessert and coffee.  All that for only 15 Euros each, with wine included. No bad at all I thought.

Goats' cheese waiting to go into the oven
Samples of of the different flavours

The farm was on top a hill with spectacular views, well I suppose they were, but at it was grey and drizzly it was difficult to see.

The girls themselves
After lunch we popped in for a quick visit to the goats themselves. It was nice and warm in their shed and we enjoyed watching the kids jumping around like only young animals can do and watching their mothers munch away the the hay laid out before them. We then skedaddled home to get back into the warm.

Traditional lily of the valley
When we got home we were very excited to see that at least one of our lily of the valley was starting to flower. Lily of the valley is the traditional May Day flower in France and everyone picks them or buys them to bring the lovely scent into their homes. Because of the recent cold snap, the flower growers have very few on offer, so it was a double pleasure to see this little chap smiling at us from the cold garden.

Instead of our usual May Day BBQ we’ll be tucked up in front of the fire tonight, waiting for summer to start which is promised for later this week.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Technological Changes at La Tuilerie

We offer peace and quiet
We pride ourselves on offering accommodation that guarantees peace and quiet. So that means no more than two people in each gite, no children in a gite unless both are booked by the same party, no TV or noise, just the sounds that nature provides, the frogs in the pond, the cows in the field and the owls in the trees. Doesn’t that sound poetic and idyllic?

It is not everyone’s cup of tea and I understand that, those who want those things need to look elsewhere, but even for some of our guests who do want what we offer, our little island of tranquillity would be just that little bit better if there was a some wifi, to stay in touch with the real world, just in case…

Wouldn't it be nice......
This has been a major problem for us, our old building has walls up to half a meter in thickness and try as we might, experiment as we might, the wifi just won’t go though them. Last year’s experiment brought wifi into the bedroom of one of the gites, but no further.

This has troubled me as I know that even the people who love what we have would sometimes like to continue that game of scrabble with their best friend whilst on holiday in the garden, or send an email to their family to say they are safe and well and to tell them what they have been up to and so I have been searching for a solution for some time now.

I'll only give the password if you want it!
As of last week, I have managed to get hold of the kit that gives wifi in the gites - or so my laptop told me. The proof of the pudding will be our guests' experiences.

Our first guests have just left and they say that they have had no problems with the signal!

So as of now, we officially have wifi in the gites. But if you want to remain cut-off from your work, don’t ask for the password and I won’t tell your boss!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

A tale of two pyramids

A Starry Night - Musée d'Orsay
So where have I been for the last few weeks? Well I’ve been in London and then Paris and since I’ve been back we have been so busy that I just haven’t had time to sit down and write about what’s been going on. I won’t bore you with all we saw in Paris as we saw a lot, we walked and walked and visited museums until they were coming out of our ears and even though I have visited Paris every few years for the whole of my adult life, I am still finding new things to see. The adorable flat we rented in Montmartre is ideally suited, not far from restaurants, the Sacre Coeur and a metro station, what more do you want?

Impressive Buddha - Musée Guimet
A trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the Museum D’Orsay, I am such a fan of impressionist and post impressionist art and just love this museum for its collection. Our favourite new thing this year has to be the Museum Guimet which has an impressive collection of Asian artefacts. We will definitely be going back for a second look next time we are in town

Of course we had to check out the pyramid at the Louvre, a strange blot on the classical landscape between the main Louvre building and the Tuilerie gardens. We didn’t visit the museum this time, we just fitted it in in-between Maxime’s and the church St-Germain l’Auxerrois.

Pont Alexandre III
As soon as we returned from Paris, we were off on day out with the Tourist Office to visit some artisans in the area, a couple of B&Bs, have a nice lunch together and to visit the Pyramid of Cormatin!

We have wanted to see what was going on behind the walls around the Pyramid for a number of years and we were not disappointed. The rather intimidating wall and local stories of Horuses with red glowing eyes, the eccentric appearance of the owner and his completely weird website, have led to all manner of things in my imagination.

Grave stones and elephants
Trumpet playing bulls

The reality is as weird as I expected! The owner however is one of the most charming people I have met and he was very welcoming and eager to tell us all about his artistic adventure that eventually led to what he has created. The whole is too much to tell here, but he has been inspired primarily by the great Egyptian builders and artists and their use of the golden ratio in their creations. His interpretation is impressive, but not solely Egyptian in its design, there are gravestones and shop dummies and the weirdest art you could imagine. When he is open to the public later this year, it is worth a visit.

After all that excitement I have been dashing around to get the gites up and running for our first guests of the season who arrived this week and so we are now back into our normal summer mode. Roll on the longer warmer days!

For holiday accommodation near the pyramid of Cormatin click here.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Learning the songs

The bell tower in Taizé
Whilst browsing round the Taizé website the other day, I found a completely new section, well I think it is new, maybe I have just never fully investigated it before.

There has always been a section on how to sing the songs, with the words and sheet music, but I have never noticed that you can listen to each “voice” if you click on the relevant links.

Click on the photo to go to the Taizé website
This is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to really learn how to sing these lovely meditative songs. There are four voices in most songs and I have always sung along to what I heard as the “female” voice. But being an alto, the songs are often a tad too high for me so I generally sing an octave lower. Listening around me, I am not the only one who does that either. In fact, I have always assumed that the alto voice was just that, the soprano with an octave twist every so often, until I started to investigate a few songs on the website.

Take one of my favourites In Manus Tuas. I listened to all the voices and discovered that I have never actually heard either the alto or the tenor before, the only ones I’ve noticed during a service are the soprano and bass, with the tenor voices doing the same octave twist to the bass tune, that I had been doing with the soprano, but in the other direction. I will certainly be paying much more attention next time I am at a service and I will try and listen out for any real alto singers.

A wall sculpture at Taizé, originally on the church

As you can imagine, a whole new world of songs has opened up for me and just in time for the “season” to start as well. I will definitely be brushing up on my alto skills as that voice gives a completely new dimension to the songs and it is a pity that it is not more dominant. It won’t be long now before the place is swarming with young people and the church will be full again, I’ll be much less conscious of my own voice when there are loads of others around, so who knows I might actually sing the right part for a change!

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