Thursday, 2 October 2014

Dirty Deeds?

Cluny cinema provides us with at least one outing a month, if not more. It has a great selection of interesting films, not your usual Hollywood pap, but lots of English films and the more arty American films. We have also seen less popular, but nonetheless very interesting, French films and even a Tibetan film once.

In February every year they dedicate a week to Chinese films and they have a smattering of other interesting films from around the globe, most often in the original version (ie not dubbed which I despise) with French subtitles. In short we look forward to our monthly email from the cinema. Well actually we look forward to our monthly letter from one person, Anne Krief, the mythical woman who sends out the emails. We had no idea who she was, or even if she existed, until quite recently, but her mails were awaited with eager anticipation, along with the weekly updates to remind us of the films we might just have forgotten about.

Comfortable cinema
Anne has worked for the cinema as a volunteer for the best part of 10 years I think. She chooses and organises the delivery of the films and makes sure that we, the viewing public, have an interesting selection of good films to see. At the beginning of September, after all those years of doing this work for nothing, she was offered a contract to be paid part-time for the work. Finally a small reward for all her years of dedication, or was it a poisoned chalice?

housed in the histroic St Hugues stables
Last night we received an email from her which saddened me immensely and made me very cross. Her contract to work for the cinema was being cancelled after the one month trial period. So as from 1st October she no longer works for the cinema for free or paid. This all smacks of nasty work to me, how can someone who works for free, for so long and provides an excellent service to the likes of us, someone we appreciate and admire for their efforts, suddenly be no longer required after one month of being paid?

All I can say is beware of Greeks bearing gifts, or should I say Algerians. Enough said. We will miss Anne very much.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

As You Like It

One of the best albums ever made - but is it suitable for mass?
I have had a pet theory for a while - that the priests round here seem to make things up as they go along during a service. Being an English Anglican - where things are well organised - you get a book when you enter the church and you just follow the instructions. Sometimes there is an either/or option and depending on the church you go to, they may take a course you are not used to, but, if you remain on the ball, you can follow things.

The church services I have been since we moved to France (excluding Taizé which is extremely well organised) you get given what could loosely be called an order-of-service sheet when you enter. This piece of paper serves to give you the songs to be sung (I refuse to call many of the offerings put before me, hymns) and a rough guide as to what might or might not happen. Then it appears that the priest does and says what the heck he likes. The songs are not necessarily sung in the order given on the sheet and as to the instructions, well forget it. The one Protestant church service I went to, I failed to spot the God link at all. Don’t get me wrong I am a great fan of Pink Floyd and Shine On You Crazy Diamond is my all time favourite, but how that fits into a religious service is slightly lost on me.

Whilst I have shared my theory with our church-going French neighbours, I have tended to get blank looks, as though it is obviously me that doesn’t get it. Well this is France and things are different, so I suppose it is just me and I certainly don’t get it. But now I know I am right and I have the proof!

We spent a few days in Provence and we visited the Basilica of St Maxime la Sainte Baume, reputedly the last resting place of Saint Mary-Magdalene. The church itself was not that spectacular and I am not a great fan of looking at caskets full of bones no matter who they reputedly belong to, but there was a notice in the church that I just have to share with you.

Proof !
Rather freely translated it welcomes visiting priests to the church to pray and to say mass if they like. However there is a condition, that they stick to the words given in “the book”. Ah ha, so there is a book, there are proper words and priests must be commonly making it up as they go along otherwise there would be no need to politely remind them to do things according to the liturgy or to not to do them at all.

So bravo to St Maxime la Sainte Baume for sticking to your guns and demanding that things are done properly. Sadly there was no mass said the day we were there so I couldn’t experience a French service along official lines. Next time we are near there, I will make sure I go on a Sunday.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Away for a couple of days and look what happens

Much loved logo of our favourite supermarket
We went off to Provence for a short break (don’t worry I’ll bore you with the details in a later blog) and we have come back to a very unwelcome surprise. They have changed our supermarket. I don't mean just reorganised it a bit, I mean totally changed it. The Intermarché we have loved and been loyal to for the last nine years is no more and Carrefour have invaded its hallowed space. No warning, no thought for the trauma it could inflict upon returning holidaymakers who just want to buy some oranges, milk and eggs for their first breakfast at home – oh no, they couldn’t care less.

It had been a difficult journey home in horrendous weather conditions and arriving, as we did, when the Friday afternoon rush started in the supermarket, with staff and shoppers alike looking bemused at what was going on, probably wasn’t maybe the best of times to be trying out the place

Temporary banner proclaiming the change - nice trolley though
We bumped into a friend in the supermarket who was equally lost, in fact she had returned from her holiday on Wednesday to find the shop totally shut and today she, like us, was struggling to find the simplest of things. The poor woman at the till, was battling with the new computer system trying to find the price for our oranges, or even to find the right button to get the fruit price-list. Did the staff know in advance I wonder? Or was it just as much of a surprise to them as it was to us?

Carrefour is not my favourite supermarket, they are expensive and the quality is not always what it should be, so the Tuilerie jury is out on this one. I hate to change my habits, but I can feel a change of supermarket coming on. Even though I detest the Atac car park, the aisles are far too narrow and the floor looks like it hasn't been changed since the place was built in the sixties, they have always had much nicer cheese and their grattons are the best in the region, so they will possibly be getting my custom from now on, I'll give the new shop one last chance then.....

Sunday, 7 September 2014

La Renetrée

Look no wobble
After three weeks of family staying with us and with closing the campsite for the season, we have all too quickly arrived at La Rentrée – return to school. When the kids go back to school for the autumn term, it is a big “thing” in France. You see “rentrée” everywhere, it is as if the country is reawakening itself after the soporific summer months. Strangely enough the rentrée this year has seen a return to some summer weather - sunny and hot - after a miserable and cold August. The hottest day so far this year was Saturday, when the local clubs and associations were having their annual membership drive in Cluny and we were called into action to do some Tai Chi demos.

What better way to spend a Saturday than gentle exercise on a sunny grass verge with the towers of Cluny in the background.
Tai Chi on a sunny lawn

Moments before impact
Unfortunately it was hot and I mean HOT, so we retreated further into the shade of a tree. That however, brought certain hazards with it. Even with my somewhat diminished height, twirling your stick under a tree means that it will eventually bump into some branches and if that doesn’t put you off your stride, I don’t know what will. The second stick demo and I made sure I was in the sun!

It was the first public set of demos we had done as a group and I thought we coped very well, the 24 of Beijing went well, no one fell over or even wobbled on the leg kicks and apart from my argument with the tree and Christophe’s fan flying off into the blue yonder at an inappropriate moment, we did rather well and at least the audience applauded, which made it all worth while.

Maybe next year
So it is back to school for us all, this time next year maybe I will be able to join in the fan demo as well – we’ll see.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Stolen goods or just recycled?

Please put your reclable stuff in the crates provided!
We are fanatical recyclers. It helps if you have to pay for all the rubbish that is not recycled of course, but I have always been a recycler. Ask the poor people I have shared houses with in the past, about the stacks of old newspapers and boxes full of bottles and cans if you don’t believe me. I even used to recycle the aluminium cans from work many years ago, you could get 1p a can from the scrap man. It was a pity I didn’t realise that half of the cans sold in those days were steel, which meant I had to spend a whole afternoon checking which ones stuck to the fridge doorpost (did you know there is a magnet in the fridge doorpost?) to split the recyclable aluminium from the non-recyclable (in those days) steel cans.

So it is no surprise that we provide the people who stay in our gîtes and on the campsite with recycling boxes. Most (but not all) people use them and we then make sure that the waste is sorted and gets to the right place. Often there are interesting magazines or useful jam pots put into these boxes and then I truly re-cycle them by using again.

But just the other day we found something which might have been stolen. So what do you do? Do you go to the police? Do you contact the owner and return the goods (we knew where it had come from), do you turn a blind eye because this is after all a rubbish bin and are we our campers’ keepers? Or lastly do you assume that the person who put the item in the bin had in fact bought it and after use, decided to throw it away?

Hanging out to dry

I’ll clarify things a little. The afore-mentioned item was in fact soaking wet, it had either been left out in the rain or dropped in a puddle, but even so it was worth saving. Cees brought it indoors and asked if I wanted it.

Having never owned one of these things, the answer was yes of course, so he carefully removed the centre staples and I peeled it apart sheet by sheet and set it out to dry. After a few hours on my wash rack all was dry and reconstructed and now I am the owner of a Taizé song book.

There still rests the tricky question of whether I will be arrested for handling stolen goods or not... so please don’t tell anyone.

For information on holiday accommodation near the shop in Taizé where you can buy a Taizé song book click here.

Sunday, 10 August 2014


A "real" key
I love keys, I always have. Even before I was old enough to have a my own key to the front door, I had a collection of keys. Over the years I have owned many keys, some opened locks that I also owned, but some were just keys, another little piece of engineering to add to the long chain that my collection had become. For whatever reason, that huge collection has gone missing. Maybe one day I will find it at the bottom of a long unopened box and I will be able to finger those lovely keys again, remembering some of the locks they belonged to or some of the people who gave them to me.

Even though that collection is no longer around. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love keys and every time I have the pleasure of having a new one in my hand, I still wonder at what might have happened to it during it’s long or short life. Modern keys are real masters of security engineering, but to be honest, give me a big, old-fashioned key any day.

Funnily enough, I’ve never been interested in locks. As an engineer maybe I should have been more interested in how a keys turns the relevant part of a lock to magically open the door, but it has always been the keys for me. Just like the story of the Secret Garden really starts when Mary Lennox finds the lost key which opens up her life and shows her new horizons, I am more interested in the thought of what that key will reveal, than the lock itself.

A "normal" bunch of church keys
Round here locks still have “real” keys, great big chunky metal things that have lived a long life and been well used, particularly church keys which we have had a lot to do with in recent weeks. We are currently trying to see inside all of the locked Romanesque churches we have come across. A visit to a church therefore now starts with a visit to the Mairie to ask if they know where to get hold of the key. That in itself can be a journey of discovery.

Sometimes we are set away, sometimes we are told who has the key, sometimes we are given a telephone number to make an appointment and sometimes we are actually given the key. Mostly we are looked at as though we are bonkers and sometimes the look suggests that we should be certified. The other day was such a moment. The look was between, “don’t mess up my day” and “I’m going to phone the men in white coats”. But the lady concerned did eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, telephone a mystery person to try and ascertain where the key might be. The hushed conversation ended with, “so I just give them our key then?” Obviously the response was in the affirmative and the already irritated secretary went off to search for the required church key.

Which one opens the door?
Normally when we receive a church key, it is one large church key and one or samller keys, but this day’s haul was impressive. The receptionist returned with a fist-full of keys, dumped them on the counter and said “it should be one of them”. So off we went with the bundle to try and get into the church. We were lucky and we got in at the 4th attempt, but we might have been there all afternoon! Was the church worth the visit? To be honest I can’t remember, that church will always be remembered just as the one with the huge bunch of keys.

For information on holiday accommodation near some beautiful Romanesque churches of which some are locked with beautiful keys click here.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A visit to the Post Office

Anyone who ever went to the Post Office in Cormatin when it was a “real” Post Office will shudder at the thought of ever going there again, but nowadays Frédérique runs the show and she is wonderful. She smiles, she is helpful, she is efficient and to be honest she is more than any citizen of Cormatin could have ever dreamed of when that dreadful Post Office lady tyrannized our village.

All that said, we went to the Post Office the other day to buy some stamps, straightforward enough, but not so this time. Frédérique, taking serious advantage of her niceness, wouldn't let us leave until we had bought some tickets for the raffle to help fund the school kids’ day out (or something like that, I didn’t really pay attention) and the prize was... I can’t remember, it seemed like a good cause and well it was for the kids, so we coughed up. Two tickets please.

A few weeks later and I was in the garden on a Friday morning, desperately trying to get the overgrown grass out of the area that had been flooded, hot sweaty and not in a good mood when Cees rushed out shouting “We’ve won!” I assumed he had just received one of those endless emails we get from Nigeria or Ivory Coast, but no, we had won the school kids’ day out raffle. Wow! I never win anything. What have we won? He didn’t know, but we had to collect it the next day at the Post Office. Rather naively I assumed maybe that the local paper were coming to see us presented with our prize, which was why our collection day had to be agreed in advance. Maybe it was a dozen bottles of crément or a holiday in Greece! So off we went Saturday morning, dressed in our best bib and tucker.

The prize
We had either missed the crowds or we were too early, because when we arrived we were the only people in the Post Office. Frédérique came out from behind the security screen to present us with our winnings. Kiss, kiss, congratulations and she handed over the booty. No photo for the paper, no presentation from the mayor, no crowds of well-wishers, just us.

So it was not quite as exciting as we had imagined, but even so, we received two very nice bottles of nectar from Parfums du Terroire in Taizé (cassis and recurrent), a bag of fruit jellies also from Parfums du Terroire, a goats’ cheese (we assume from Bernadette in La Bergerie) and a sweet little candle made by the kids themselves. Not a bad haul for a book of stamps.

It seems that the proceeds have more than met the target and it looks like the kids will enjoy their day out - we certainly enjoyed eating our winnings.

For information on holiday accommodation near some delicious goats’ cheese farms and fruit juice makers click here.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sleeping Barrels

Cutting the ribbon
There are some advantages to being a volunteer for the Office de Tourisme in St Gengoux-le-National, I get invitations to things I wouldn’t otherwise see. The other day was just one example. The president of the OT rang up and asked if I would like to join him to the official opening of the “tonneaux couchant” (literally translated as sleeping barrels) at a prestigious viticulturist near Lugny - a very good white wine and crément area. I jumped at the chance, I thought it would be very interesting to see the new barrels in place, in time for this year’s harvest. and I am not adverse to a couple of glasses of Lugny wine. I tentatively asked if Cees could come, but that was gently rebuffed explaining that it was because I was the head of the committee for holiday accommodation, he was inviting me. Tough luck, Cees will just have to miss out on the wine.

So on a blisteringly hot afternoon we headed off into the countryside for the opening. The president of the OT is himself a viticulturist and produces some very nice bottles too. So the conversation was easy in the car all about how you make wine and why the barrels are horizontal not vertical, how big they are and so on. Many of my questions were (as usual) met with a slightly confused look, a bit like the time I asked him for a good variety of vine to plant in my garden for big leaves, he couldn’t grasp the concept that I wanted to use the leaves in cooking to make dolmades and I was not interested in either eating the grapes or making wine – ah well cultural differences are the spice of life round here.

New barrels?
When we finally arrived, I noticed that they had used the old wooden barrels to make little houses just outside the winery buildings. I thought that was a clever idea, so while we waited for the official opening and tour, I took a few photos. I seem to remember have a confusing conversation about whether it might be a bit smelly inside, but I’m not too sure about that one.

Finally the big-wigs arrived and the ribbon was cut so that we could go through to the winery itself and we all oohed and aahhed at what he had done with the old barrels as we passed them on the way to the wine making area. The wine making area was not very big. Not many people seemed to be interested in that area and what intrigued me was that I couldn’t spot any new horizontal barrels. Now I am confused.

On to the speeches – lots and lots of them, the local MP, the chief man in our département (the Prefect), our Senator, you name it they were all there and they gave a speech. The owner told us how much it had all cost and thanked every man and his dog for helping him and he was convinced that it would increase tourism in the area etc etc etc.

As it all went on, I was beginning to suspect that I was not exactly on the same wavelength as everyone else. And then it dawned on me…. The “tonneaux couchants” were barrels to sleep in and we were at the opening of these brand new wooden barrels imported from Norway. These barrels have never, and will never, see a drop of wine in their lives unless the occupants spill some in a late night binge.

After the speeches were over, I tucked into the very nice wine and yummy snacks in a quiet corner of the courtyard, trying to be inconspicuous and I sincerely hoped that everyone would put the drivel I had been coming out with for the last hour or so, down to me being a foreigner and that they would forgive and forget. As I left I congratulated the owner on his ingenious accommodation that will be an asset to the region, in a vain attempt to make it look like I had known all the time what was going on.
New barrels in situ

For non-barrel accommodation, near some barrels that people and not wine actually sleep in click here.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

July 14th

July the 14th is a national holiday and it is always a busy day. The party tends to start on the evening of the 13th with fireworks and goes on into the next day. This year, our evening of the 13th was marked not by fireworks but by a different and very special event. I actually watched a football match, or more amazingly, Cees actually watched a football match. It wasn’t the most exciting World Cup final ever, but it was worth it for one glorious moment. No, not the goal that Germany scored, even though I wanted them to beat Argentina, it was the shots they showed of Christ the Redeemer seemingly holding on to the setting sun. Absolutely stunning.

July 14th itself started off early, with us doing our shift on the entry of the Cormatin Brocante de Qualité. We were stationed at the new back gate, that lead up from the car park. We sat there doing nothing for the first hour and a half and then the first few people trickled in from the car park. I am glad we didn’t have too many entries because all, bar one nice French couple, felt the need to make a sarcastic remark about how far they had had to walk - all off 100 meters poor loves. I was glad when we were replaced. The final score was a record 1,300 entries but I do hope for our replacements’ sake they didn’t have such a grumpy bunch !

We then went on to the July 14th wreath laying with a twist this year - no music. Monsieur P announced before we started, that he was proposing the we should sing the Marseillaise. A number of people looked a bit panicked, but to his word, when we arrived at the war memorial Monsieur P stood firm and said we would all sing. If we didn’t know the words we should just mouth something! I wasn’t sure if that remark was aimed at the kids or us foreigners.

I started off well:

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !

Then I was on tricky ground and so decided to pretend, I managed to pick it up again at

Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons

The Mayor looked very pleased with all our efforts and said that that must be a first for Cormatin, but I know for a fact that Monsieur P had done it at least one time before, when he was a young teenager. He and his friends were even arrested by the Germans for doing it, so bravo for reintroducing a real version of a very stirring National Anthem. I’ll definitely have to practise before the next session on November 11th.

After a quick lunch we headed off for a day out to see some Romanesque buildings that have been closed on our last attempts to visit them. One of those was the museum of the Priory in Charolles and this time we managed to get in. As we had only gone to see the inside of the building, I was a bit disappointed by what we could actually see until we went into the temporary exhibition of sculptures by René Davoine.

The first sculpture I saw a beautiful young girl and something about it reminded me of the image I had seen the evening before. The second large piece was of Christ also giving off the same vibes. Having been carved in 1932, the similarity could not have been a coincidence. Both were very serene and quite mesmerising and the trip was worth it just for that.

To comeplete our holiday, we had a celebratory BBQ of chicken tikka and freshly picked salade. La vie est belle!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Culinary Trail

On Sunday we went on the culinary walk in Ladoix-Serrigny. It is an annual event and about 3 – 4 thousand people take part each year. There are six food and drink stations, aperitif, starter, fish course, main course, cheese, and dessert. Not only do you receive your meal elements when you arrive at each station, but you have the choice of a number of the excellent wines from the area. In Burgundy, I think this area must have the most Grand Cru and Premier Cru parcels of land, so you can imagine the wine is quite superb.

The grapes were damaged in the last storm we had
In the last week, we have had some spectacular thunderstorms and lots of rain and the weather for Sunday was predicted to be rain all day with more thunderstorms in the afternoon - just what you need when you are walking through the vineyards. Although the total length of the walk is only about 5 kilometres, as you meander through the vines, you are very exposed to the elements and even the feeding stations are only partly covered.

Heading off and the sun comes out
The bus left - in the rain - at 11 o’clock and we arrived - in the rain - in time for our start time of ten to one. As we waited for our hats, wine glasses and cards (which would give us access to the food and wine en-route) it drizzled and I had a sinking feeling about the whole walk.

As we headed off into the vines, the sun peaked out from behind a cloud, then the clouds parted and who would have believed it, we had a glorious day walking though the vines and sampling the wine and food along the way. The weather could not have been better for us, not too hot, a gentle breeze, clear blue sky and sun. It was if it had been laid on to order.

Eating bouef bourgignon in the sun

After the coffee post, we moved to the dancing area and then the heavens opened for those much promised thunderstorms. It poured with rain all the way home and as we gazed out through the dripping windows, we all realised just how lucky we had been.

For information on holiday accommodation where you can find some truly superb wine click here.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

End of Term

The kids doing their form
The summer holidays have arrived and our Tai Chi lessons have stopped for the year. But you can’t stop without a bit of a party can you?

So last Friday we had just that. Everyone brought a plate of something good to eat and we set up a picnic in the playground of an old school in the centre of Cluny, right next to the park.

Fortunately the weather was good and so each group was able to demonstrate what they had been learning over the last year. The Tai Chi Chen style group was so diminished for that evening that only one person was doing the demo, but what a demo it was. She did an amazing job.

Baton form, fan form and five animals
The little ones did a surprisingly complex Chen style form, and they are all only about 8 or 9 years old.

The two groups of Qigong demonstrated the five animals and the eight pieces of brocade and then it was on to the bulk of us, the Tai Chi Yang style groups.
The third years did the KungFu fan dance which is a very impressive form developed for the Bejing Olympics, they then joined us second years for a traditional baton form and then all three years did the 24 Beijing form together.

Sadly there are no photos of the 24 form as the two photographers of the evening (Cees and Nathalie) were both taking part. I am trying to lay my hands on some photos, so if anyone out there has any, send them to me please and I will publish an update. Considering that the three years rarely meet and train together, I think we managed an impressive show.

Watch out when Sabrina gets going
To popular demand, our teacher then did a demonstration of a sword form - dangerous lady our Sabrina!

After working up an appetite, we tucked into the delicacies that everyone had brought with them. The guacamole was to die for, I don’t know who made it, but bravo.

So it is onwards and upwards and we are all looking forward to next year’s challenge whatever that might be.

Anyone interested in starting TaiChi or Qigong in the autumn, just click here for the Spirale d’Or website.

For anyone interested in holiday accommodation where we occasionally practice in the front garden click here.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Artistic Invasion

La Consolation des Tempêtes amongst the flowers
It has always amazed me just how many different types of artists and craftsmen and women there are in this region. Saône-et-Loire has the highest number of registered "artisans d'arts" in the whole of France. There are over 100 just in the small area around here and there are more and more coming all the time.

Over the last couple of weeks we have seen the opening of the Comptoir des Artistes, in Cormatin as well as the the long awaited opening of a new pottery, also in Cormatin High Street. Besides those two, a portrait painter and his pottery illustrating partner have just opened their studio, right here in Chazelle.

Comptoir des Artistes, Cormatin
The Comptoir des Artistes is owned by Martine Borzycki a contemporary artist who has opened her doors to our all time favourite sculptor, Monique Dégluaire. I have one of her sculptures - La Consolation des Tempêtes - in my front garden and I just adore the way she creates such peaceful faces on all her pieces. Hopefully being just opposite the Chateau, she will get even more exposure for her fantastic work. The shop is well stocked with a good selection of both Monique and Martine's works but to see Monique's larger works, you still need to visit her home in Bessuge, Chapaize where she has started doing modelling courses for those budding sculptors out there.

New pottery, Cormatin
The pottery in the high street is a very nice addition to our community. We have watched as the window to his studio gradually filled up with interesting things. Tall sculpted vases and dangling bird houses have been appearing, temptingly over the winter months and finally in the last week or so, he opened the doors of his shop next door. It is well worth having a good snuffle through the things on display in his shop.

Famous local artist
We missed the opening of the studio in Chazelle because we went to a concert in Cluny, so sorry Patrick the superb quartet of brass from Paris who opened the Grandes Heures de Cluny festival in the quadrangle of the abbey, won out on that occasion. His studio is open most weekends or by appointment.

But the one artistic event we did not miss, was the exhibition held in la Salle Claude Beun where only the very best artists in town were allowed to show their works.

For holiday accommodation in the middle of an artistic artisan paradise click here.

Friday, 20 June 2014

In the heat of the day

Guitar festival - starts Sunday
It has been really hot the last couple of weeks, making us rather lazy, but it is getting so close to the start of the guitar festival, that today we had no other choice but to finally go out and put flyers through letter boxes.

The concerts this year look as interesting and as varied as usual, starting with a violin and a lute on Sunday. The Italian flute players are returning again to play, we have a Mexican guitar player, a Dutch trio of oboes and guitar and the festival ends with a group of Ukranian Banduras.  Not bad for a small town festival.

Delivering flyers
We got up early this morning, to try and get things done before the sun was too high and we managed four villages before we ran out of flyers and had to put a temporary stop on our work.

One of the last houses we delivered to was the “pyramid” in La Bergerie. This house is notorious for its statues of Horus with blood red eyes that scared one of the neighbours’ children and prompted the building of a horrible concrete wall round the whole property!

Contemporary art
The gate to the property has had a sign saying “Exposition espace d’art contemporain” on it for a couple of years now, but the gate has been firmly shut. When we passed today the gate was open and we were able to snap a picture of the contemporary art they have on display. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about it.

After the second load of flyers arrived this afternoon, we were able to continue and finish Chazelle in time for the first concert this Sunday.

Café Liegeois at Les Blés d'Ors Cormatin
Well after all that work, you deserve a treat don’t you?

For information on holiday accommodation near an excellent guitar festival in Burgundy click here.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

A cat’s life can be tough

Trying to get some shut-eye
I often envy our cat, all she does all day is snooze when the mood takes her, go for a little walk if she fancies, run around chasing things and generally doing things she thinks are fun. She eats when she likes, from the food that is always available and she get cuddles on demand.

But the last couple of weeks I have really felt sorry for her. We have redstarts nesting in our vide.

Safe in their nest
Now what could be yummier for a little cat than fresh chicks from a nest? Fortunately for the chicks, the nests are well out of Fifi’s reach, but this is where my empathy with my poor cat comes in.

Anyone who has had any dealings with redstarts will know what a heck of a noise they make. Tick, tick, tick, tick loudly and endlessly, on and on they go. The noise is to divert your attention away from the chicks, but what these stupid birds don’t realise is that all this constant ticking alerts everyone else to the fact that there is a redstart nest nearby.

Poor little Fifi is being driven potty. She has found the nest but can’t get at them and is constantly reminded of that fact. The blasted zooming backward and forward and loud ticks drive me insane when I am just carrying plants or garden tools in and out of the vide, what it must be like for a little cat who is trying to snooze in her basket and ignore the fact that a nice snack is just out of her reach.

Daddy keeps watch while....
.....Mummy brings home the dinner
So here are some photos of the offenders and the quiet little chicks. Hopefully they will fly the nest soon and our garden will go back to the quiet place it once was where people and cats can snooze undisturbed.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The chateau at Berzé-le-Châtel ravaged by fire.

There is a quite superb mediaeval chateau in Berzé-le-Châtel, you can see if for miles around and it is the last landmark I see as the train nears Mâcon TGV station on my trips back from the UK, the definitive sign that I am almost home. Imagine my horror when I saw in the paper that there had been a huge fire on Thursday night that had completely destroyed the Burgundian style roof.

The fire brigades from as far away as Charolles (40km) and Le Creusot (70km) had attended. Just looking at the photos, that I have taken from Le Jourmal de Sâone-et-Loire website, you can see what a huge fire it was.

The chateau is not open to the public as people live in it, but you can have a guided tour of the grounds, the ramparts and the chapel. To be honest it is one of the most interesting tours I have taken of a chateau, the guide explains the defences of such an imposing construction, how the different walls, moats, gates and twisted internal passages combine to make such an edifice almost impenetrable.

During the weekend, I managed to talk Cees into going to see what was left of the castle. We set off into a thunder storm, which seemed quite appropriate considering the sombre mission. We neared the castle and could just make out its form through the driving rain. We parked and waited for the rain to pass and to our surprise we saw the castle in all its glory! No charred ruin at all.

Maybe the paper had exaggerated the extent of the damage. We headed off round the other side of the hill to see the roofs from a different angle. Still no sign of the damage. It had only been three days since the fire, there was no way that they had managed to repair the roof. So we headed up the hill to the castle entrance and we saw tourists with their umbrellas up touring the ramparts, but no sign of even the remains of a bonfire.

Considerabley confused we headed home and paused for one last photo, which seemed to show that part of the roof had recently been replaced. That must be it, after all it is an historical monument, maybe the National Architect had managed to come out and get someone in quick to construct a temporary (but very good looking) roof over the damage to prevent further deterioration of the building.

On arriving home, all was revealed. We re-read the newspaper article and we now realise that there are two chateaux in Berzé-le-Châtel, the mediaeval one and one that is a wine chateau. And guess what? Yes, you are right, it was the wine chateau that had the fire. No less upsetting for the owners of course, but at least “my” chateau was still in one piece even if I hadn’t believed with my own eyes!

For more information on the beautiful castle in Berzé-le-Châtel clck here or for details of our gites nearby, click here

Friday, 9 May 2014

Famous in Paris

Back in March we had a long weekend in Paris. We have visited so many times, you wouldn’t think that we could see anything new, but this weekend gave us a number of firsts.

The first, first was to be greeted by a sign, when we entered the metro system, announcing that public transport was free for the whole weekend. On the one hand great for our purse, but on the other hand not so good for my asthma, the reason for the free transport was due to very high levels of pollution.

When we arrived at the flat we had rented in Montmartre we went up to the Scare Coeur, just look at that beautiful blue sky – what pollution? Then look the other way over Paris and can you actually see the Eiffel Tower through the smog?

After seeing some tremendous art and just enjoying the wonders of Paris, soaking up the atmosphere, our last morning was to be spent in a TV studio being part of the audience of the only programme we actually watch on TV - “Questions Pour un Champion”.

The outside of the studio was not as glamorous as I had envisaged it in my mind and the studio was a lot smaller than I had expected, but it was exciting none the less.

So why a blog now about a trip to Paris in March? Well yesterday and today the programmes were/are on the TV. At last, time has caught up with us and just to prove that Cees was there, here is a screen shot of yesterday’s quiz. I've added an arrow in case you don't recognise him. Of course I am just off screen, almost on TV yet again… I’ll get there one day!
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