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
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