Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas comes but once a year

La Tuilerie Website

 Christmas again, I can tell that because it has snowed leaving the countryside white all around, but more importantly, the Decorations are out. I use the capital letter deliberately to show my respect for this wondrousness of this festive tradition. The Chazelle Decorations are to be admired and bewondered for their truly magnificent decorativity. The tree stands proudly next to the council notice board in the middle of the village and next to the tree is a wooden box about 6 foot high resembling an upright coffin. Inside this box is a Father Christmas half sitting, half standing next to a little nativity scene – rather mixed messages there but who cares, we need to cover all angles. So that is Chazelle Decorated for another year.

Many houses round here glitter and flicker with the most amazing array lights and Decorations and exude an excess of true tastelessness, from dancing reindeer to Father Christmases dangling from ropes looking like they have been hung from the gallows, but the huge inflatable Father Christmas I have seen on someone’s balcony really takes the prize!

 Cormatin on the other hand has beautifully hand-made wooden models each year. Monsieur G makes these models himself and they are of amazing quality. Each year the collection grows and I must say I look forward to seeing the new models each year. Last year he came up with a model of the Château which lights up at night and is a very good copy indeed.

 This year’s new addition is a nativity scene, complete with Mary, Joseph and the baby of course, but also the three wise men and the shepherds, not to mention the animals, a cat, a cow, a donkey, a camel, two sheep and a ram and reindeer both with beautifully shaped horns/antlers. They are not full size, but not far off.

So my vote goes to Monsieur G, keep up the good work and I for one am waiting to see what he comes up with next year.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

A Nation in Mourning

La Tuilerie Website

Friday evening the first 20 minutes of the 30 minute news were dedicated to Johnny Hallyday. Saturday evening the first 10 minutes were dedicated to Johnny Hallyday. The whole of the front page of the local newspaper on Saturday was dedicated to Johnny Hallyday. Sunday evening the first 5 minutes of the news were dedicated to Johnny Hallyday.

A number of questions may arise from my faithful readers, who is Johnny Hallyday? and what has happened that elicits so much attention from this great nation?

 Johnny Hallyday is a national icon, in a country where religion and state are strictly separated, he is a god for the masses. He first started making pop/rock records in 1959 and is still on tour today (albeit on his 3rd final tour). His face appears on the posters of the gossip magazines every week, quite a feat for just one individual. The ins and outs of his many marriages, his latest child, his latest divorce and any other titbit is chewed over and regurgitated. However, one has to have some respect for someone with a career spanning 4 decades and still making records that attract an audience of all ages, not just the aging baby boomers and the born-too-laters.

But the current hype and exposure is unprecedented, so what has happened? Johnny was admitted into hospital in Los Angeles with a post operational infection. His French medical team have flown to Los Angeles, the whole of his extended family and many stars in the French music business have flown to be with him, even one of his ex-wives has arrived. This must be truly serious! We are however, reassured by the reporter in the hospital that all his vitals are fine, all his organs are fine, the infection is under control and everyone expects him to make a full recovery. Tuesday evening on the news it was reported that the president, Nicholas Sarkosy, has been in touch with the family and Johnny is going to be all right, the nation can now rest easy. Storm in a teacup? Who knows, but the media has given up its reporting of him and we are back to trivial items, like the climate conference in Copenhagen and the search for a mass murder.

For a few days the French media was in a frenzy. We are just left as bemused observers, wondering what on earth will happen if he dies?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Rotten Wine

 A few years ago the Vignerons de Buxy (our local wine merchant in St Gengoux le National) decided to experiment by making “Rotten” wine. The wine is however not rotten, just the grapes. This type of wine (commonly called late harvest wine) is made from grapes that have been allowed to rot on the vine. It sounds disgusting, but apparently it is a well known way of making an exquisitely sweet dessert wine.

By leaving the grapes on the vine two processes take place. Firstly the grapes develop a higher sugar content as they dry on the vines and secondly a fungus (botrytis cinerea) develops on the grapes which alters the acidity of the grapes further strengthening the sweetness. The grapes need to be picked very carefully by hand and processed immediately. The wine is prepared and then has to be aged before being drunk.

This year’s harvest has just been completed and because of the weather we have had, 2009 is expected to be the best year yet for Buxy late harvest wine, but we’ll have to wait until 2011 for that one. This year we will have to be content with the 2007 vintage which is just about to go on sale.

La Tuilerie Website

Monday, 7 December 2009


Our own Website

 Friday evening, one week ago, and we were making paper roses in the village hall. Stacks of crêpe paper were put on the table along with little piles of wire and the lesson began. Fold and turn, fold and turn, go slowly to create a loose flower vaguely resembling a rose, too tight and you end up with a tulip! When the flower is done, you wind one of the little bits of wire around the base to secure, leaving a tail of wire for something or other. This is an annual occurrence and of course the old hands had brought their pliers, we just ended up with very painful fingers. 360 roses were created by the stalwarts of Cormatin that evening. It was however, a mystery to us what the roses were for, something about selling a real rose and getting a paper rose or visa-versa in any case I wouldn’t be too happy to spend 1 Euro on one of the paper roses we had just made…

Yesterday morning we turned up as instructed outside the church at 08.00 to erect stalls to be used to sell cakes, books, DVDs, Christmas flower decorations, mulled wine, waffles and of course roses. All in aid of the Téléthon, a nation-wide televised fund raising event for so called “orphan” sicknesses, ie illnesses that are rare and receive very little or no state funding, which surprisingly enough affect 1 in 20 of the population.  We buzzed off homewards at 10.00, still none the wiser about the paper rose issue, instructed to return to help out after lunch. We popped in to get a newspaper so that we could sit down in the warmth at home, with our feet up, for a couple of hours. Whilst performing this usually simple transaction, we were confronted by the lady in the newsagent and told in no uncertain terms that we should buy some tickets off her for 5 Euros 50 each and go back to the Téléthon and collect two portions of “Petit Salé” - absolutely delicious she was having hers for lunch. Back to collect our food parcels and eventually we made it home.

As an aside the “Petit Salé” did indeed turn out to be delicious, mixed pork meats (two types of sausage, thick cut streaky bacon, slice of roast pork) on a bed of deliciously flavoured lentils. I’ll have to get the recipe and post it one day.

On our return after lunch, I was ushered behind the mulled wine stall where I spent the next few hours burning my hands ladling this boiling liquid into plastic cups, no wonder they talked us into this!

Cees however, had time to take photos for posterity and all was revealed about the roses. At last!  I was even allowed a few minutes off from Mulled Wine duty to inspect the wonder myself. A giant Téléthon logo made out of florists’ oasis, was standing beside the stall selling roses. Every time a rose was sold, a paper one was placed in the logo as a measure of sales, with the aim to fill the whole logo by the end of the day. The little boy charged with the onerous duty of placing the paper roses had either misunderstood his task or got bored of standing around in the cold and he had filled the whole logo long before the roses had gone, ah well it made a nice photo.

After listening to the little accordion players who turned up to entertain the faithful, we left late-afternoon, relieved of our duty to dismantle the whole affair because of a previous engagement. Another successful Téléthon day in Cormatin and for us yet another enjoyable day with the people who are slowly becoming our friends.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 29 November 2009

No more horses in Cluny?

La Tuilerie Website

 Cluny and horses go together. Since Napoleon re-established The Haras Nationaux (National Studs) and built one of the establishments on the grounds of the abbey in Cluny, Cluny has been inextricably linked with horses. One of his reasons for building in Cluny was to prevent the re-building of the once powerful abbey, but in reality it transformed Cluny. Cluny was able to leave its faded-glory days behind and became an important horse town.

The Haras Nationaux were created by decree on 4th July 1806. The country was split up into 6 so called “arrondissements” each of which had 1 stud and several depots totalling 36 establishments throughout the country, all involved in producing horses for the military. Of the 36 establishments created by Napoleon, only 12 are left with Cluny being one of the oldest and most established.

The changes over the years have seen the Haras Nationaux move away from their military role and develop and adapt with the times. The core thrusts today concentrate not only on breeding horses, but also on horsemanship, horse racing and horse championships.  Because of that, Cluny has a thriving Hippodrome where flat racing, harness trotting and steeple chasing take place in the many meetings per year and numerous private riding stables and private breeders have sprung up to meet the increasing demand from the public for horses for leisure purposes. The most recent addition has been the Équivallée - a show jumping venue next door to the Haras. The creation of this facility was meant to cement the future of horses in Cluny. The General Council of Saône-et-Loire committed a total of eight million Euros to finance the infrastructure of Équivallée in 2005 and in May 2009, the first phase was completed which included an all-weather ring and a safe and secure area for visiting horses to be stabled. So far just under 2.5 million Euros has been invested and the second phase, which involves building a large stable complex, is expected for 2010. The Équivallée is rapidly becoming one of the most popular show jumping venues in France because of its facilities and location.

 Having said all that, prior to all this investment, in 2003, a new government policy was announced which had the objective of altering the fundamental structure of the Haras. Last spring, the merger between the Haras Nationaux and the École Nationale d’Équitation (the school set up to train the Cadre Noir [the elite of the French cavalry]) was announced and it will become effective on 1 January 2010. The merger will result in the creation of a single public institution for the horse industry and for horse riding in France. To be effective and efficient, this will mean closures around the country. There are currently 22 Haras Nationaux in France and one huge site of the École Nationale d’Équitation, which on its own is as big as, if not bigger than, 3 or 4 of the Haras sites put together. Something will have to give and the threat of closure of the Haras at Cluny is real and raises serious concerns for the area.

But what will become of the public investment in Équivallée if the Haras is closed? This new site has become a good source of jobs for the area and it provides a significant income for the town. The closure of the Haras at Cluny could force the General Council of Saône-et-Loire to re-think its investment plans and that could deal a fatal blow to Équivallée and it will be disastrous for the local horse breeders and for the development of equine tourism in the area.

So will Cluny lose its horses? I don’t know, but if the locals have anything to do with it, the Haras won’t be shut down! Watch this space.

Sunday, 22 November 2009



 It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
By labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
Eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
Where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
That crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
That first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
Which Man deemed old two thousand years ago.
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city half as old as time.

John William Burgon (1845)

 This poem inspired a little girl with long dark ringlets living on a little farm in South Wales, seventy years ago. It fired her imagination and made her want to travel and although she travelled throughout the world she never managed to get to Petra, until last week. And that is how I went there as well. The little girl was my Mum and at the age of seventy nine she finally achieved her dream with me and Cees in tow. We were not disappointed.

Jordan, the land of John the Baptist, the Crusades, the Greek, Roman and Ottoman Empires, Lawrence of Arabia, spice trade routes, rocks and deserts and magic; what a place. An earthquake many thousands of years ago tore the rocks apart to create a canyon (the Siq)  which you walk through to access the ancient city of Petra. The city, carved out of the multi-coloured rock face, reveals itself when you emerge at the end of the long walk through the canyon.

Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city half as old as time.

What more can I say?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Deportee’s Memorial, Cormatin - Bois Dernier

Another wreath laying day has come to France. Armistice Day is a public holiday here and at 11 o’clock in the morning on the 11th of November, the signing of the Armistice, marking the end of the First World War, is remembered. Well over fifty of Cormatin’s residents attended, which is the most we have seen at any of the ceremonies. Maybe Sarkozy launching his debate on national values had an effect on numbers, who knows.

 This year there was a double celebration in Cormatin when the 60th anniversary of the erection of the Deportee’s memorial was also celebrated. To mark the occasion, the memorial has a new inscription and a large flagpole has been placed behind the memorial which will fly the French flag continuously. The inscription reads:

"Nous sommes libres, notre drapeau flotte à nouveau, ils ont fait don de leur vie"

"We are free, our flag flies anew, they gave their lives"

It is quite incredible to think that there are still people around who remember those events and the session in a local bar after the ceremonies always brings up stories of the war when Cormatin (which was in Vichy “free” France) came directly under German occupation, the deportations, the executions, the pain and suffering of the adults but more poignantly the children - now well into their sixties and seventies. Quite a sobering event, even considering the amount of Kir being drunk.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Bells and Bells

La Tuilerie Website

Anyone would think that I am obsessed with bells, but they are fascinating things and I am not the only one who notices the bells around here. One of our neighbours was telling how she could no longer hear the sound of the Taizé bells through her new double glazing. It was suggested by the rest of the company present that as she lived next door to Chazelle church, they would go out in the morning and ring those bells for her instead.

However, at the moment it’s not possible to ring the Chazelle bell. During Madame P’s funeral quite recently the solemn bell ringer was charged with ringing to bell to call the mourners to the mass, imagine his surprise when all of a sudden he was hit on the head by the bell rope that had detached itself from the bell and now had the aforementioned rope wrapped around his neck. In a church that can barely seat eighty people, this happened in full view of the whole congregation and set off giggles rather inappropriate to the occasion.

This little story brought a lot of laughter to our gathering as well and set Monsieur B off, reminiscing about funerals in Chazelle. He reminded the avid listeners of his own father’s funeral where no one could get up to the church because of the snow leaving his father stranded at the bottom of the hill because the hearse didn’t have snow chains. Everyone in the village had to chip in with digging a path to get his father up to the church. Not exactly what you want to do in your Sunday best. However, Monsieur B saved his best funeral story for last.

It is common here for people who have moved away to return to be buried in their family grave and this was exactly the wish of Monsieur S who had spent the last years of his life near his son in Paris. His funeral was to be in Chazelle and on the appointed day at three o’clock in the afternoon, the priest and mourners arrived. Monsieur S however, was nowhere to be found. By four o’clock the priest was getting restless, saying that something should be done to find Monsieur S. The funeral directors in Paris were called and yes he was on his way, in fact he had left at nine o’clock that morning and even with the Parisian traffic problems, he should have arrived before lunch. Frantic phone calls to the hearse revealed that Monsieur S and his pallbearers were indeed in Chazelle, but they just couldn’t find the funeral. Now considering that Chazelle has only three streets connected in a triangle and consists of about twenty house and a church, this all seemed a bit far fetched, even people who forget to bring their instructions as to how to find us never spend more than about 10 minutes in Chazelle before someone gives them directions.

This story all boils down to the beauty of a satellite navigation systems. All you have to do is type in where you want to go and you get there. Cormatin is easy, there is only one Cormatin in France, but there are a couple of villages called Chazelle and also some called Chazelles. It is a pity that the funeral director didn’t check which Département he need to go to before he set off on that fateful morning, but Chazelles in Département Puy-de-Dôme is not very close to Chazelle in Saône-et-Loire in fact it is about 200km away.

Now the priest and mourners were really getting restless. Let’s have the funeral anyway and maybe Monsieur S will be here in time for the burial. But how do you have a funeral for someone who’s not there? Brilliant idea, a relation in the village had a large portrait of Monsieur S on his wall, we can put that up near the altar, surround it with candles for a bit of extra ambiance and it will be almost as good as the man himself. Off to get the portrait which was duly placed in position and the mass commenced. The priest in full flow waving his incense around bashed into the portrait which went flying smashing the frame and sending some of the candles across the church. Quick repairs to the portrait and the mass ended without further incident but totally without Monsieur S. The burial however, had to wait from him to arrive which he finally did at nine o’clock that night. The priest returned to do the honours, but most of the mourners were long gone.

The moral of the story, don’t mention your double glazing over a glass of wine unless you want to set someone off on a story telling session and think before you use your sat nav. It is a pity Monsieur S’s hearse had not used the instructions of how to get to Chazelle on our website, at least we could have directed them back to the church, if they had overshot.

For instructions as to how to get here click here.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Chicken in Cream

La Tuilerie Website

 Back on to one of my favourite subjects – food. I love trying out all regional dishes. We are just on the edge of the country’s biggest chicken farming area, the Bresse, so chicken is one of the local specialities. The Bresse chicken is the first animal/meat to be awarded its own AOC (in 1957) which means that the farming of these birds is strictly regulated and they can only be reared in the Bresse itself. During the bird flu scare a couple of years ago, all the chickens in the country had to be kept indoors to prevent migrating birds contaminating the human food chain. This caused enormous problems for the Bresse. Part of the AOC rules for Bresse chickens is that they spend a large proportion of their time outside and there are at least 10 m^2 available for each bird. These rules had to be modified temporarily whilst the outdoor ban was on and that caused an uproar around here. This chicken is said to be the finest in the world and commands a suitably high price.

This recipe is chicken in cream. It is very filling and fattening, but very nice. I don’t make this dish with Bresse chicken although maybe I should try it!

Bon appétit!

Click for my recipe for Boeuf Bourgingnon

1 chicken portioned or 2kg of chicken bits
1 onion (chopped)
100g button mushrooms (sliced thinly)
4 whole cloves of garlic
1 litre cream
100g butter
2/3 bottle of white wine (dry)
1 bay leaf
1 bunch of thyme
Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, fry in the butter on a medium heat until light brown. Add the onions, mushroom, garlic and herbs and cook for a further 5 - 10 mins. Add the whilte wine, stir to release any residues from the bottom of the pan, reduce to half, then add the cream, cover and simmer for 30 mins. I fish the garlic cloves and herbs out, put the chicken surrounded by the onion and mushroom directly on the plates, then quickly "whizz" the sauce (check for seasoning) then pour over the chicken to serve.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Cheese Tower

 In Cluny there is a tower called the Tour de Fromage, the Cheese Tower. A fascinating name for a brick structure. You have to pay to climb up the tower and see the marvellous view over the town, so imagine our excitement when the local paper announced free entry on Sunday 3rd October. We discussed when to go to avoid the crowds and decided that about eleven o’clock would be the best time. So there we were in front of the doors of the Tourist Information Office which give access to the tower and to our dismay the doors were locked. How is this possible? A big notice on the doors explained all “We are sorry that due to circumstance not of our making, an error appeared in the Journal de Saône et Loire [the aforementioned local paper]. The free visit to the Cheese Tower was on Saturday 3rd October not Sunday 3rd October as published, we apologise for any inconvenience”. Having been in Cluny on Saturday and not visited the Cheese Tower because it was free the next day I was rather fromaged off to say the least.

Never mind, there is always the chance to try out a different restaurant in Cluny, a bit early, but if we walk to the Bio-restaurant near the station that some friends had recommended, we will work up an appetite and be there at lunch time. Not our day, that was closed too. Ah well back to Casse Croute as per usual for the best chips in town.

Well the Cheese Tower now had to be visited as a matter of principle. So back we were in Cluny today our 2 Euros entrance fee in hand and we climbed the stairs and we climbed and we climbed it is a LONG way up. The view was worth the walk, the top of the tower gives a spectacular panoramic view over Cluny and the surrounding hills. A clever “gadget” (which they also have a couple of in the Abbey by the way) superimposes the ancient Abbey church on a live camera view of the market below. You really think that the abbey is there and wow did that building dominate the town!

After admiring the view for a bit we started down the stairs which are very steep indeed. Not something to be done by two people who have a fear of heights and won’t go above three rungs on a ladder. When we finally got to the bottom after having to stop a number of times to let the less wimpish to overtake us. Both of us arrived at the bottom with trembling hands and wobbly legs. Off to the kebab shop to recover.

PS. I don’t know why it is called the Cheese Tower, in all the excitement I forgot to ask.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Taizé Pottery

My Website

The monks in Taizé accept no money, no donations, no inheritance absolutely nothing, not one penny, they earn their own way in life. This attitude is very different to other religious orders who rely on donations, great benefactors, some have land and therefore income or they just expect their parishioners to pay for their services.

I had never really though about it before, but take today’s ministers of all denominations, they have a salary from their church. They are paid to counsel the parishioners, to run the church and its services. The monks of Taizé are counsellors to the young who need help, they guide bible study sessions, they assist in study groups and they run the services three times a day, but they still expect no income from that side of their lives - they do other work for a living. They have a press where they publish books, cards, posters, they make lovely enamelled dove-shaped Taizé crosses as well as other pendants and they make pottery.

The pottery is stunning in its simplicity which give it a style and beauty all of its own. You can buy a whole dinner service or you can buy the pieces which are “stand-alone”. Most notably the candle holders and the oil lamps. It all sound a bit twee and amateurish, but the quality and style of the pieces are a match to and are, one could argue, better than many of the other artisans in the area. Their aim is to “produce objects for daily use with prices everyone can afford” a goal they certainly achieve. Most of their pieces are “stoneware” with some objects cast using a porcelain paste, the lamps are made this way.

Stoneware glazes are formed by the fusion of mixtures of various minerals at high temperatures. Some are coloured by adding pigments such as iron oxides that produce ivory, green, black and brown glazes, cobalt or copper for blue and violet, titanium for orange-yellow. The glazes sometimes include vegetable ash composed of the minerals the plants drew from the ground.

Frère Daniel started the pottery workshop in the early days of Taizé and together with Frère Lutz, the pottery production has flourished over the years. Most of the work is done in the winter months when there are few visitors and then the workshops become factory-like in their scale of production. In fact some of preparation and initial firing of the pottery is done in conjunction with neighbouring potters as the demand for the pottery becomes too great for the monks to keep up with. The shop in Taizé is bursting with pottery in the days leading up to Easter, but by October, it is looking distinctively empty.

Some of the monks work in the pottery workshops all year round and when full production is not going on, they have the time to be more creative in their output In particular, this autumn, Frère Daniel is exhibiting his more creative works called “Metamorphoses” in Paris at the Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes. Click here for details of the exhibition which runs until the end of October.

Earlier this year Frère Lutz exhibited his pottery alongside the collages and aquarelles of Frère Stephen in Mâcon at the Galerie Mary-Ann. For more details of work in exhibitions check-out the Taizé website click here, they are usually announced on this page, but if nothing is there go to the books, CDs, DVDs.

But I like the simple stoneware dinner services, cups, bowls, plates and the lamps. For many people who stay in our gites, these are essential souvenirs to take home and something to use all year round. They make beautiful gifts for family and friends or in my case just as a treat for myself.

La Tuilerie Website

Monday, 12 October 2009

Aching Feet

In Cormatin we have a few big events in the year. “Guitares en Cormatinois” a series of concerts in the local churches generally around the theme of guitars, “Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin” a theatrical and musical events based in the Château, then we have the 14th July brocante and the bingo evening in the winter, but the biggest event of the year is the Randonnée de Cormatin which attracts a large number of people every year to follow the walks that have been laid out.

 Each one of these events has its own committee and sturdy group of followers that are needed to organise the event and make it a success. We volunteered to help out with the randonnée and were taken up on that challenge this weekend. So at seven thirty Saturday morning, before the sun was up, we were at St Roch hall, the gathering place for the organisers. Fresh brioche arrived from the baker and small strong coffees were served to fortify us for our task. There were five different walks, 7, 13, 20 & 30 km and each walk had its own colour. To complete the walk you follow the arrows on the ground and as long as you stay alert, you end up back where you started. Some randonnées are marked out better than others, on some we have been horribly lost, but the Cormatin walk is always done well. We had a big responsibility on our shoulders as we were split up into teams, armed with cans of different coloured spray paint and we were driven to our respective starting points. We had ten kilometres to mark-up with yellow and orange paint. So on this damp morning, there we were, spraying the roads of the villages around Cormatin with arrows to show the right way to go and crosses to show where not to go, all done for the walkers who might or might not turn up on what was predicted to be a very wet Sunday.

A lunch was prepared for the workers and was served at twelve in St Roch hall. Lunch is not a meal to be rushed, it is not just a sandwich and a beer, oh no, we are in France, this is a serious meal. We decided to leave the car at home and walk into Cormatin for the lunch, as we suspected that a few glasses of wine might be consumed. What a meal. The proceedings started with white wine aperitif and nibbles, lots of chat about the morning’s activities and what the weather for the rest of the weekend might be.  For starters, the mayor’s wife had made a delicious salad of chicory leaves with walnuts, ham and cheese cut up into small blocks all covered in a delicious vinaigrette sauce (maybe I’ll be able to get the recipe for the vinaigrette if it is not a family secret). When I saw that Cees was tempted into taking a second helping, I whispered that this was just the starter and not to take too much, he whispered back that I shouldn’t be silly as this was all we were getting. That’s men for you! His eyes popped out of his head when a huge casserole full of venison was placed on the table. The deer had been shot the previous weekend by none other than the mayor himself and donated generously to the randonnée workers for this lunch. It turns out later that the mayor doesn’t eat game, so he was grateful for some enthusiastic consumers. This casserole, not much more complicated than venison cooked for hours in red wine with some herbs, onion and garlic, was absolutely amazing, served very simply with boiled potatoes. Lunch them continued with cheese and finally pears poached in red wine with brioche. All of this liberally washed down with the local brew. The meal started at twelve o’clock and us ladies were finishing the washing-up at three while the men were finishing their coffees. Food is not something to be rushed, it is to be discussed and above all, enjoyed in the company of others. It is a time to swap gossip, get the latest news and to hear stories and what stories! As the wine flowed the stories got better, the ones about the mayor shooting an eighty four kilo wild boar and the funeral with the missing body will have to wait for another blog..

We got home at four o’clock, very merry and very full and just sat in the garden thinking we would never have to eat or drink again.

Sunday and we had to do the walk of course. The previous day’s kilometres had taken their toll on our untrained muscles, but never-the-less we had said we would do the twenty kilometres and so, to preserve our honour, we had to.  We arrived at the refreshments post at the half-way point and were greeted with baguettes and ham or sausage, cheese and chocolate and of course wine. That boosted our resolve and off we headed for the second half of the walk. We finally staggered back to St Roch at about two o’clock wishing we had trained better. We were then invited to join the rest of the workers for supper at seven that evening. I must admit I felt a bit guilty about saying yes after the wonderful lunch the previous day and the fact that we hadn’t helped out at all on the Sunday, but why not. The evening was a much simpler affair than Saturday’s lunch, bits of pizza from Pizz’a Marco round the corner, quiche from one of the boulangeries in the high street and left-over bread, ham, cheese and wine from the walk’s refreshment posts. There was lots of chat about the day’s events, despite the dreadful predictions, the weather had been kind, cool and cloudy in the morning and cool but sunny in the afternoon, that brought the locals out and just under 500 had participated in the various walks, all in all not bad. We chatted about the organisation and it looks like we might be on the hit-list for doing more work for the village events. A great way to meet people and get involved, and also a great way to enjoy French food at its best, in the convivial company of our neighbours.

La Tuilerie Website

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Local Crisis

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The N79 between Mâcon and Cluny is a good well maintained road that makes up part of one of the major east-west connections in France, the RCEA (La Route Centre Europe Atlantique). It was announced recently that this section of road is to be turned into a péage (toll road). This will be a blow to people round here who travel to Mâcon for their work, for shopping or like us for the numerous visits to some official office for the business or for the tax office.  The locals are up in arms as you could imagine, graffiti (a thing you rarely see around here) has started to appear on the bridges over the road, the first road-side signs have been put up and emails are flying around between interested parties.

We are on an emailing list for events in Cluny and this mailing list has been high-jacked by one of the groups campaigning against the road. We have received numerous boring mails about our liberties being infringed and our local taxes being diverted to the nation, all culminating in the feeling that the world will come to an end when the toll is imposed. Don’t get me wrong I don’t agree either, but maybe I am a bit more English about it, when a decision has been taken you have to comply, moan if you like but it won’t do any good, but the French have a glorious tradition of endless arguing, a lot of arm waving and going on strike. They do campaigns in style!

One of the campaigners has been digging in the historical archives and has come up with some fascinating information. In one particular document (« Paix et communautés autour de l’abbaye de Cluny, Xe - XVe siècle », Didier Méhu, Presses universitaires de Lyon, 2001) there is mention of a "route sans péage", a non-toll route. In the Middle ages, because the feudal lords had effectively been holding travellers to ransom by imposing large tolls on the roads passing through their land, the monks of Cluny became famous for managing to eliminate those tolls along the route from Paray-le-Monial and Nantua - exactly the same stretch of road that is being threatened once again.
 Our trusty campaigner ends his email with the comment “It is thus that the current debate has been preceded by a long battle, started in the XIIth century, to eliminate tolls on this road. This gives formidable historical legitimacy to those who try to preserve this asset against today's feudal lords: the sharks of capitalism…” With rhetoric like that we are bound to win!

click here to see the original article

Thursday, 1 October 2009

La Chasse

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La chasse (hunting) is an institution in France where the general public is a little closer to the food chain than in either England or The Netherlands.  Every red-blooded male is out with his gun on a Sunday killing anything that moves. Having said that, la chasse is far more regulated these days than it used to be. By the early 80s there were virtually no wild animals (including little birds) left in the whole country, only cities still had sparrows, everywhere else everything had been blown to pieces by the millions of guns in the possession of the French population. Many accidents occurred killing both other hunters but also unsuspecting walkers out for an Sunday afternoon stroll.

Now all hunts have to registered, supervised and all hunters within the hunting group must wear fluorescent jackets. Also to protect the wildlife, only certain animals can be shot and only at certain times of the year. The result, the forests are filling up with wildlife again and we can once again hear the sound of song birds.

Each animal has its own “chasse” dates from 20th September to 28th February for deer, 15th August to 28th February for wild boar, 20th September to 13th December for hare east of Saône, 11th October to 13th December for hare west of the Saône  and for pheasant and other game birds 20th September to 31st December, no hunting when there is snow and the local paper reminded hunters that racing pigeons are not wild animals and are protected by the law! However, the Chasse supplement of the local paper did not mention the dates for the most hunted animal in Burgundy. Fortunately during our picnic at Cluny’s Ouvrez les Portes a couple of weeks ago, we were given those dates as well. From the 1st of July until mid February you can hunt snails!

 On the 20th of September (coincidently my birthday), we had to sort out a chasse of our own. It was a drizzly day but worse than that, the toilet in one of the gites had given up the ghost, the chasse (flushing mechanism) needed replacing and with guests arriving that evening, time was of the essence. After lots of water on the floor, lots of cursing and two tons of silicon we had a leak free chasse, just in time for the new guests.

One toilet fixed only three more to go. The start of the chasse season has now taken on a whole new meaning.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Taizé Silence

La Tuilerie Website

One of the underpinning concepts of Taizé is the use of silence. Each monastic community has a Rule, which is in fact a set of rules by which the community lives. In the Taizé Rule (which is called “The Parable of Community”) Frère Roger wrote that the brothers should "keep inner silence always”. In the world we live in today there is so much noise and distraction from without and within and he saw the use of “external” silence as the means to achieve “inner” silence and it is this inner silence that "makes possible our conversation with God."

There are special houses in Taizé for those who want to spend a whole week in silent contemplation, where no word is spoken even around the meal table. The people choosing this type of week only leave the house for the three services a day where they can sing along with the rest, but in principle not one spoken word will pass their lips while they are in Taizé. In the morning a monk or nun will give an explanation of the Bible reading for the day. This is not a discussion, it is merely to give a basis for the day’s contemplation. This type of week is not for the faint-hearted but it enables these people to come to rest, to give them a different and profound experience and to hopefully find that inner silence Frère Roger believed we should all aspire to.

For those seeking silence in smaller doses, there is the old Romanesque church in the village, around the St Etienne well and most of the time there is a room available so that you can spend your mealtimes in silence. Even if you don’t make use of these possibilities, everyone will experience silence during their time at Taizé because silence is an important part of the three daily services.

The first time I experienced the silence was a very strange feeling. There is no clue that the silence is about to start, the prayers stop, no singing starts and silence falls. If you walk around Taizé during the day, there is always chatter and laughter of the thousands of youngsters who are there, but when the silence falls in the church every one of those people is quiet. That could be up to twelve thousand on a Sunday morning and all you hear is an occasional cough but further there is just an enveloping blanket of silence. It seems to go on for ever and not wearing a watch I had no idea how long it was, but my guess was about 5 minutes. The silence is broken by a lone monk whose task it is the bring the congregation back to singing.

I have read many stories of Taizé experiences and the length of the silence seems to cause a lot of discussion. After my original estimate of five minutes, I was perfectly satisfied and never gave it any more thought. But I have been intrigued by others’ experiences and interestingly many believe that the silence is 10 minutes and I read one account where the writer stated that the silence was 20 minutes.

This summer one of our campers was a person who had lived as a volunteer in the community for two years when she was in her twenties. She was returning to show hers kids and her husband the place she had spent so much time. She was telling me of a time when she went to a “Taizé” service near her home town in The Netherlands. Along with the singing there was of course silence. One of the participants was given the responsibility of timing the silence to ensure that it was exactly 7 minutes. The organisers had been to Taizé that summer and had used a stopwatch to time the silence during a service and this information had been brought home with them to ensure that the “rules” were followed correctly. This story amused me intensely as when I took my parents to a service, having warned them that there was a long silence, my Father timed it and agreed that my 5 minute estimate was correct. But it irritated our camper and she never went back for another service at that church and I understand now that she was right, these people had missed the point entirely.

The truth of the matter is that the silence varies in length at every service, the monk responsible for breaking that silence uses his own inner clock to know when to break. Also each individual in the congregation will experience a longer or a shorter silence depending on how restless he or she is inside. Sometimes 2 minutes is too long to be silent and sometimes 20 minutes is not long enough. If you experience the silence as too long, it is because your inner noise is too loud and you are a long way from reaching “inner silence”. So it is not the length of silence that is important, it is the process of silence in itself that matters so that we can all strive to find that “small voice within” which only emerges when we have inner silence and which has, since ancient times, been one of man’s goals no matter what his religion.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


Canon Kir in offical mayoral gear Kir is the local aperitif named after Canon Félix Kir (1876 - 1968) who was not only a priest but an active fighter in the Résistance during the Second World War and later he became the mayor of Dijon. The drink was named after him because he always served it to visitors who attended functions during his time as mayor. Before this time it was known by its original name blanc-cassis.

Kir is 1/3 Crème de Cassis (a local blackcurrent liqueur 20 °) and 2/3 Bourgogne Aligoté a local white wine. Nowadays the proportions are more like 1/4 - 3/4 .

If any other white wine is used, the drink reverts to its original name of blanc-cassis.

A whole family of drinks has grown up around the Kir name.

A Kir Royale is made by replacing the wine with Champagne and a Kir Impérial is created by adding a shot of Marc de Bourgogne (the local firewater) to a Kir Royale although some sources say that a Kir Impérial is Champagne and raspberry liqueur. If the local sparkling wine Crémant is used it becomes a Kir Téméraire, Crémant from the Alsace makes it a Kir Alsace and if any other type of sparkling wine makes it a Kir Pétillant.

A Communard is made using burgundy red wine instead of white and a Cardinal is made by using a strong red wine instead of white most usually a Bordeaux.

There are many other variations on this theme. The white wine can be replaced to create the following:
Kir Normand - made with Normandy cidre and if you add a shot of Calvados and you get a Cidre Royal
Kir Breton - made with Brittany cidre
Tarantino – or a “Kir-beer” – is made with lager or light ale
Kir Savoyard – made with Rousette de savoie, apremont or abymes
Kir Médocain – made with rosé
Canon Kir also created the Double K when Krushchev visited him in Dijon and it is a normal Kir with a shot of vodka in it.

Staying with Bourgogne Aligoté, the type of liqueur can be changed to create:
Kir Mûre using wild backberry liqueur
Kir Peche using peach liqueur.
Kir Lorrain using mirabelle plum liqueur

Changing both elements of the drink and you can get:
Kir Celtique a mix of chouchen (a honey based liqueur similar to mead) and muscadet
Kir Pamplemousse using red grapefruit liqueur and sparkling white wine
And finally the most complicated of all
Hibiscus Royal is made with sparkling wine, peach liqueur, raspberry liqueur, and an edible hibiscus flower.

And who ever said an aperatif was easy?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Cluny - La Lumière du Monde.

La Tuilerie Website

The name Cluny is synonymous with the spiritualism of the Middle Ages. The Cluny order exercised a considerable influence on the religious, intellectual, political and artistic lives in the whole of the western world at that time. Guillaume d’Aquitaine founded the Benedictine abbey in 910. The abbey’s growth in both size and power was very rapid. In the 12th century there were about 460 monks in the abbey and Cluny controlled 2500 other abbeys throughout the west.

The first church built on the site of the abbey was constructed in the Carolinian tradition. The second, built over the first in the 11th century was early Romanesque and the final church, Cluny III - built between 1085 and 1130, was a magnificent Romanesque basilica called the St Peter and St Paul Basilica. The church was 177m long, 32m high, it had 5 naves, 2 transepts, 7 towers of which 5 were bell towers and 301 windows. The complex around the church had 4 cloisters and numerous buildings to house the monks and all the other people necessary to maintain the order. St Peter and St Paul Basilica was the largest church is Christendom at that time and has since only be beaten in size by St Peter's Basilica in Rome, at 184m long, which was completed in 1626 some 500 years after Cluny III was finished. The Basilica and abbey buildings were built to impress and dominate. At the time of its building, Pope Urbain II said to the monks in Cluny “You are the light of the world”. Cluny was invincible and in charge.

However, the Cluny order were becoming too dominant, too important and too rich. There were many forces working against Cluny, most critics were after their power and wealth but others such as St Bernard of Clairvaux condemned the lifestyle of the monks. He in particular felt that the monks’ richness and luxurious lifestyle did not suit the spiritual life they were supposed to be living. It was this way of life that prompted him to found the Cistercian order, which promoted a return to an austere life of physical work, self sufficiency and contemplative spirituality. But it was not until the the 14th century that Cluny’s influence really started to wane and the wars of Religion in the 16th century were the last blow for the church. Between 1793 and 1823 the abbey was sold off literally piece by piece, the stones that once were the great Basilica were used around town and elsewhere in the area as building materials and today all that remains of the Basilica are two towers and a little chapel. The large cloister and some of the other buildings did survive and are now used by the National Stud and the Grande Ecole ENSAM.

Next year 2010 it is the 1100th anniversary of the foundation of this once great and influential abbey and this anniversary is being celebrated throughout Europe at various Clunisien sites. The start of the celebrations was “Ouvrez les portes” held last Sunday where the twelve ancient gates of Cluny were reconstructed. Each gate was given a different colour of the rainbow and these coloured segments were radiated out on a map of Europe symbolically showing Cluny as it was in ancient times as "La Lumière du Monde". Each village or town in the area was allocated to a gate according to which coloured segment they fell under. We in Cormatin were assigned the Porte de la Chanaise, which was the white gate, the most important gate, the one that included all the colours of the spectrum. We all had to dress in white and bring a picnic to share with our neighbours based on the theme of white. The street leading into town from the gate was decorated in white and was filled with tables ready for the picnic. There were opening speeches, an aperitif with white snacks during which time we all had to sign a letter to be sent out to the countries in our segment (Belgium, The Netherlands and Norway) inviting them to the closing party next September. Then we all walked through the gate symbolising the opening up of the gates to the city and thus opening the 2010 celebrations. Then on to more important and less symbolic things. Picnic time had arrived and all the Cormatinois sat together at the tables we had brought and we shared vast amounts of white food and white wine. After this enormous picnic, cavaliers arrived at each gate to collect our letters and take them out into the world. Then everyone from all the gates formed a multi-coloured human chain around the city. A helicopter zoomed overhead registering the event for posterity. The day went on with more speeches, music and dancing in the Abbey park, but we were too tired after a long day and we cycled home along the Voie Verte.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

How many people can you get in a two-person gite?

To read details of our gites click here

Sounds a bit like a trick question doesn’t it? But no there do seem to be some individual differences when answering this simple question of arithmetic. You can sit in the peaceful garden and listen to the birds and look at the flowers

Our gites are rented out for two people. This keeps the gites a haven of peace and quiet for all the guests who come here. Having said that, with two gites, nothing stops a family from renting both properties and then of course they can have their family around them and will not disturb the other party. I did think, when we started this enterprise, that this was clear and unambiguous, but apparently not.

We have had many requests for three people in a gite – “don’t worry the third person can sleep on the floor” and in our first year we were talked into agreeing to that on a couple of occasions, against our better judgement, and it just doesn’t work. Three people generate more noise than two and when you have two of everything (sleeping places, pillows, towels, chairs etc etc) the third person always comes up short. So after those experiences, we have had our original thoughts confirmed that a two-person gite should be just that, rented out for a maximum of two people.

We regularly get telephone calls from the French saying that they want to rent one of our gites for six people. They seem most baffled when I explain that they are for a maximum of two people – “don’t worry the rest can sleep on the floor”. And early in the year we had one person who wanted to come alone for two weeks but it then emerged that she was coming with her son and daughter for a couple of nights -“don’t worry they can sleep on the floor” and then the following week her daughter's parents-in-law would come for a few days “don’t worry they can sleep on the floor”. We reminded said person that we have a simple rule – each gite can be rented out for a maximum of two people, above that number both gites need to be rented.

One Monday this year we saw to our surprise an extra unidentified car in the courtyard. Obviously one of our gite guests had visitors, a bit strange that they didn’t tell us when the visitors arrived, but hey they are on holiday. The guests stayed all afternoon and into the evening and then stayed the night. We explained the two-person concept the next day “don’t worry they don’t mind sleeping on the floor”, the extra guests left to find alternative accommodation and the only noises to disturb the peace and quiet went back to being the woodpeckers in the forest and the frogs in the pond.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Boeuf Bourgignon

La Tuilerie Website

Every region has its own food specialities and what is conjured up in your mind when you think of Burgundy? It has to be Boeuf Bourgingnon. This is a dish that is surprising difficult to get hold of around here and if you find it, most are very poor indeed. There is one exception and that is Monique’s version served every so often as the “plat du jour” at La Terasse in Cormatin. She is very precious about her recipe and rightly so, all she will say is that it is cooked for a very long time – not giving away much there Monique!

Anyway, a lot of research and trial and error and I have come up with a version that comes close. You don’t need the extra cocktail onions or in fact the carrot, I sometimes put them in and sometimes don’t, they just add a bit of interest. It is always a favourite with our gite guests.

Bon appétit!

1kg stewing steak chopped
1 med onion chopped fine
1 bottle red wine
20/30 small cocktail onions drained and washed (optional)
Bay leaf
100g butter
100g pork belly chopped finely
1 large carrot
Corn flour

If using them, fry the cocktail onions in 50g butter until brown, remove and set aside.
Add the second 50g of butter and fry the stewing steak, pork belly and onions on high in the same pan until brown.
Pour in the bottle of wine, add the bay leaf, chopped carrot and some salt and pepper, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 hours or put in the oven at about 100 degrees for the same amount of time.
Just before serving, mix a tablespoon of corn flour with some water until smooth, add to the pan with the previously fried cocktail onions. Bring to the boil stirring and serve with mashed potatoes or pasta and a vegetable of your own choice.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


My Website

Taizé BelltowerI live within the sound of the bells of Taizé. When I hear the bells, here in Chazelle it reminds me three times a day what time it is. When the bells stop in the morning at 08.30, I know I should have got up, when they ring in the middle of the day at 12.15 I know I need to get lunch on the table and when they start in the evening at 20.15 and we still haven’t eaten I know I am running behind schedule!

When I heard the bells this morning I started thinking about how strange it was that I seem to have lived near bells almost all my life. As a child in Ickenham our house was within the bells of St Giles church, my first house in Worksop was next to the Priory church, my second next to St Leonards in Hythe, my third across the valley from The All Saints church in Highbrook, in the Netherlands whilst living in Benthuizen, I lived within the sound of a carillon that sounded the hour and now it is the bells of Taizé. I was struck by how all of these bells were very different and all were played differently as well.

How the Taizé bells are operated has been a mystery to me. I have always seen a monk scurrying into the services late after the bells have stopped ringing, I recognised him not only because of his lateness but that he look like a ex-colleague of mine, Rick. I was convinced that he was the “bell-monk” and he was the one that started and stopped the bells, but quite how that worked I had no idea.

Saint Leonard's, Hythe In most English churches the bells are operated by one bell ringer per bell, each person pulling his rope and ringing his own bell on cue to create “rounds”.

Worksop PrioryTo add variation to this process the director of the group will call out a change during the ringing to alter the order of the bells in the round, commonly called “change ringing”. This was the case for both the Worksop Priory and St Leonard’s at Hythe . However, the bells in St Giles were operated by one or other of the choir boys.

Saint Giles', IckenhamAll the bell ropes came down into a box about 2 feet wide and one choir boy would operate the bells by pulling the ropes in the set pattern. I found it fascinating to watch the frantic action of these boys. As this was a tiring job, to complete the full ring prior to a service, two boys were needed, one taking over from the other half way through the ring. During the changeover the two would work together to synchronise the rhythm then one would duck out and return to the vestry.

Another type of bell and belling ringing are carillon bells. These are a set of bells that play full tunes rather than just ringing out.
Highbrook carillonMy first experience of carillon bells was when I lived in Horsted Keynes. All Saints in Highbrook played tunes automatically at mid-day, three in the afternoon and six in the evening. The sound echoed through the valley and were clearly audible from our garden.
Benthuizen carillonIn my house in Benthuizen, The Netherlands, I was within earshot of the carillon mounted on a post outside the old town hall. When the town hall had been shut down and sold off as a private house the carillon had been in a poor state of repair and no longer worked. The new owner had the bells retuned and the whole mechanism overhauled and reinstated the hourly ringing, 24 hours a day. There was soon an uproar in the village as the neighbours started to suffer from sleep deprivation because of the noise! The bells were really deafening from close by, even in my garden (a block away) you could not talk over sound of the bells. Having said that they were beautifully tuned and from a distance they made a pleasant sound. Finally it was agreed that the bells could play a tune on the hour starting at nine in the morning with the last tune at nine in the evening.

Today I decided to get to the bottom of the Taizé bell mystery. The Taizé Belltower The five bells are hung in a very ugly (in my opinion) tower. We had heard that originally under the bells there was a small pond, this was intended to act as a “sound mirror” and reflect the sound increasing its potency, but complaints from the neighbours have meant that the pond was filled in and now wooden planks lie under the bell tower. Each bell is operated independently by an electro-motor connected to the top of the bells by a chain. The motor makes the chain oscillate back and forward, waggling the bell, if you like. Each motor operates at a different frequency, with the motors for the smaller bells moving quicker than that for the largest bell. When the bells are ringing, the “tune” created by the bells constantly changes because of this lack of synchronicity. We lay in wait for the bell monk and he never arrived, the bells just started and stopped most probably and quite boringly on a timer switch.

So now I know the truth about the late monk, he is just late and nothing else!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Les Vendanges

La Tuilerie Website

Yes it’s grape picking time again! Normally the vendanges are strictly regulated by the relevant authority and grape picking starts in mid-August around here. This year it was announced at the beginning of August that viticulturists would, for the first time, be free to decide their own harvesting dates.

Many of the vineyards around here are small estates who sell their grapes to the local cave co-operative in return for a small amount of money or copious amounts of table wine. These are the vineyards that use machines to harvest. These machines are often co-owned and rotate around the fields at harvest time. Most will only take one pass at their vines which means that after harvesting is over there are plenty of grapes to be had free of charge from the vines. The machines only pick ripe bunches and so late developing bunches and bunches too deep in the foliage to be caught, remain on the vines for the birds and other (human) scavengers. If you want to make your own wine, you can certainly do that with free grapes if you have the time and patience to go searching.

The hand-picking is for the better crus, where the quality of grape is more important. Pickers can go up and down the rows of vines a number of times during the two to three week picking period and make sure no decent grape is left.

The first pickers appeared in the vineyards yesterday. This new flexibility in picking times means that the pickers will have more work as they can move between vineyards in the same area and also all vineyards will have enough pickers. It is not badly paid (up to about 200 Euros a day) but picking is really hard work, not for the faint-hearted and not for those with a dodgy back! Apart from the pay, a full-blown meal at lunch time is included and accommodation is often also part of the deal.

At the end of the picking there is a huge party, called "une paulée" round here, where lots of the local brew is consumed and the party can go on for more than twelve hours. Traditionally these parties were for the pickers to round off a few weeks of hard work, but now they have been institutionalised and have been taken over by the wine growing towns. These parties usually called “Fêtes des vendanges” are held in all the towns and villages which live from the wine trade, all have their own particular events and way of celebrating the end of another season. There are very famous large fêtes in the Côte de Nuits area particularly in Nuit St George where the fountains flow with wine. Closer to home Beaune, Pommard, Chardonnay, Peronne, Givry and Buxy all have their share of fun. It is also a welcome boost to the tourist trade just as business is trailing off at the end of the summer.

The last two years have been mediocre years for Burgundy wine as for most of the French wines, but this year there are stories of a very good year. Not that farmers of any nature are optimistic creatures, but there are rumours that this crop could be destined to make some of the best wine ever. Time will tell.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Another cat?

We have yet another cat at La Tuilerie. When we came back from working at a client’s house on Friday 7th August, there was a message on the answering machine announcing that it was my birthday (normally celebrated on 20th September) and that I should ring the caller urgently to arrange collection or delivery of my present. FifiI went round in the car and Cees on the bike to be presented with a beautiful kitten that some friends had found in their village. She was one of the many stray cats that roam the village and beg at summer tables. Our friends asked the neighbour who was feeding her if she had any objection to the little thing being adopted, which she didn't and so when our friends saw her again, they picked her up and put her in their cat cage awaiting collection.

To make sure she stayed here, we kept her in the cage, but after a day it did seem rather cruel, so we bought a harness and lead and took her for walks during the day time and back in the cage at night. Quite unusually for a stray cat she loves being cuddled and played with and she is very tame indeed. Now she is off the lead and roams around all day and shows no intention of leaving, well we hope not. At night she goes back into the cage, she is still very small and we are afraid that she might get lost in the dark.

Fifi 2The latest new step has been to find her a permanent place to sleep, we have decided on the “water room” ie the room where the hot water boiler is, as this is always warm even when it is way below zero outside. So Cees installed a cat flap in the door and we have had fun the last few days tempting her to go through the flap. As long as the flap is slightly open she will go through, but we haven’t managed to get her to open it herself yet. She is still in her cage at night (now in the water room) so she doesn’t need to use the flap just yet, but soon she’ll be completely free to roam day and night and before then she will have to have figured it out.

After a lot of discussion, debate and international phone calls (to Mum in London and my brother and family in Brussels) she has been named Fifi. She even looks your way sometimes if you call her name.

Fifi has been here now for nearly a whole month and she shows no sign of leaving, so we are hoping that we might have a cat at last.

La Tuilerie Website
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