Friday, 31 December 2010

Latest News

After a short break with my Mum in London, we missed Christmas at Taizé and we missed catching the events at the crib as they unfolded, but here is the latest news. Taizé Crib Just before we left, a chicken and her chicks had arrived in the stall along with a dog, but as predicted Jesus was not there yet. We zipped up the hill yesterday to check out what had been going on and he had arrived and, all wrapped in swaddling clothes, there he lay in the manger. Some more angels had also made it and were hanging from the rafters. The shepherds had not got to the Nativity Scene yet and the wise men are also on their way, so there is still more to look forward to.

Things will be very quiet for the next few days as almost everyone will be in Rotterdam for the European meeting. It is a strange feeling that Taizé has gone to the place I lived in for so long. I wonder how many of the European kids will be staying in my village, perhaps not that Photo from the NRCmany as although the village is a very religious one - at least 5 churches and almost everyone goes to one of them – most of them are staunch Calvinists and Taizé’s open and ecumenical approach to Christianity might be a step too far for them. I always used to think that they were a bit like the Amish with their black clothes and black hats on Sundays, blanking anyone not dressed like them. They don’t have television and they refuse to have their children vaccinated, they follow Calvin’s words literally when he said that God has predestined their fate and have sadly been touched by the polio outbreaks in 1956, 1978 and 1992.

In any case between 25 and 30 thousand youngsters arrived in Rotterdam on the 29th December for 5 days of communal prayer along with the majority of the monks who live in Taizé and a large number of the permanents who will have been working their socks off along with local church groups to get things to go right. They are using the Ahoy which at 30,000 mˆ2 is 6 ½ times as big as the Church of Reconciliation, this is some event to organise.

When they come back to Taizé, the action will restart on the Nativity Scene culminating with the Wise men arriving I assume on the 5th. Even though I missed the action at Christmas itself, my trip home did clear up one or two problems I had in my mind about Nativity Scenes.
St Giles IckenhamSt Giles Nativity Scene
At the end of the carol service on Christmas Eve, I saw the Nativity Scene in St Giles, my childhood church, and there it was including the premature baby Jesus. Whilst looking, I overheard one of the church wardens talking about the scene to someone else and to my relief this is (relatively) recent addition to the Christmas celebrations it is only for the last 25 years that they have had a crib in the church, so I am not going senile after all, there wasn’t one when I was a kid, so there was nothing for me to remember about it after all!

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Where has all the turkey gone?

Turkey MonumentReading the paper the other day I was saddened to see that the Turkey Faire in Marcigny (a town in the Brionnais) would not to take place this year. For the first time in 30 years there was to be no Turkey or Gastronomic Faire in the town. The town has lived off the turkey business for generations, there is even a turkey monument at the entrance to the town and the Turkey Faire was big business. Traditionally about 50 or so farmers have sold their birds live to the public. Over the years this developed further to include many other local producers and so the Gastronomic Faire was founded.

Last year however the decline had begun and whilst there was a regional products faire the turkeys were in short supply, but this year there was no faire at all. A sad sign of the times. People want oven-ready cheap food as far from the food chain as possible, but don’t worry about or think about the flavour. Even in these rural parts, buying and preparing a live bird for the table is a step too far for many.

Christmas Lunch It has been noted that local butchers have stopped buying live birds as well and are now buying their turkeys from abattoirs who are supplied by mass production units, the free-range farm-grown turkey is in decline and the Turkey Capital of France is about to lose its crown. Maybe if they gave the turkeys an AOC that would increase their popularity as has been the case in the Bresse with their chickens. In any case, something dramatic has to be done or a local “industry” will be lost for future generations.

The Mayor is hopeful that the faire will be held next year and hopefully by cancelling this year’s faire it will be an awakening to the locals that something is being lost and they will return in large number.

So when you settle down to your turkey today, leave a thought for those turkey producers around here and make a mental note to buy a Marcigny Turkey next year.

Merry Christmas!

La Tuilerie Website

Monday, 20 December 2010

Crib Update

Things have been moving very fast up at Taizé. It is just over a week since my last visit and so much has happened while I was not paying attention (blame it on the snow I say!).

Mary and Joseph have arrived in Bethlehem and are settling into the stable, the shepherds are in their field looking after their sheep and the wise men now are heading in this direction.

Above the stall are the words of Zachariah’s prophecy just after the birth of his own son John (the Baptist) “The dawn from on high has come to visit us, to give light to those who sit in darkness, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

We popped up on Sunday morning and we saw that an angel had arrived and the shepherds had turned and were walking towards Bethlehem. There was even a real donkey in a pen outside the church which everyone enjoyed petting, but I think he was just there for the day

There is real building of expectation in the scene and even though we all know what will happen, I have to keep going back just to make sure. Bravo to the lads and lasses who thought this idea up !

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snowed In.

Peruvian hatLast Saturday when we were at the market in Cluny, Cees commented that he would like one of those Peruvian hat things that seem to be all the rage this year to keep his ears warm in the freezing weather. So I bought some wool and when we were snowed in at the beginning of the week, I set about making one. Not happy with my first creation (too fitted, no silly pointy bit at the back, where are the tassels?) I found a different pattern and managed to make a suitably plonkerish version of the “real thing”. And doesn’t he look lovely in it? Thus confirming him, I think, as a dedicated follower of fashion.

And everyone, who knows me, knows what a fashion addict I am too, so when I received my copy of “The Weekly Stitch” (an email newsletter from Lion Brand about crochet and knitting) a couple of weeks ago and they said:
“The Cowl: A Winter Favorite
We have been watching the cowl take off on the runways as this season’s favorite accessory. They are versatile, practical and fashionable.”
I knew I had to make one, but first I had to look up what a cowl was. Wikipedia says:
“The cowl (from the Latin, cuculla meaning "hood and rope") is a hood worn by members of religious orders. ….. Developed in the Middle Ages, they became the formal garment for those in monastic life. They were worn to give warmth to people who often spent long hours in unheated and drafty churches.”
Ummm, interesting sounds more like something I should be selling to those chaps up on Taizé’s hill rather than a fashion accessory. On to the Lion Brand site itself and things were much clearer a cowl is a
“face-framing neck warmer”
oh I see, a scarf with no end, why didn’t Wiki say that? So I download a couple of patterns and away I went. Cowl no. 1 was almost completed when we were snowed in, in Paris. I say almost, not because of a lack of time, but because of a lack of yarn. At the end of my last ball of yarn, I was short by 9 stitches! Some serious thinking had to be done. This week snowed in again and I had an inspired thought as to how to finish the cowl with not enough yarn and finished it off, I also had time for cowl no. 2 which went much smoother because there was in fact enough wool and as I had done the pattern before I didn’t have to keep looking at the instructions with every new row.


So here are photos of the lovely Mrs Nixon modelling these wonderful creations which are now winging their way to England as a Christmas presents.

With already 13 snow days under our belts this winter when we normally would have had less than 5 and we should not have even been snowed in even once, it looks like it’s going to be a long crochet season this year.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas Crib Hunt.

After last week’s blog, the whole of this Nativity Scene thing has got me thinking and looking. I cannot ever remember noticing a Nativity Scene in a church when I was in the UK let alone looking at it closely, but that is more than 20 years ago and maybe my memory has just failed me. St DenisIn the Netherlands Nativity Scenes are strictly for Catholics only and I lived in staunch Protestant country, so I saw none there either. My friend Deacon Dale reliably informs me that his church only has one cow in the stall at the moment and that the rest of the crowd will arrive during the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. As I never went to midnight mass in the UK, that also does not help in jogging my memory. My only option is to check out as many Nativity Scenes as possible in the coming weeks.

This last week we were in Paris to celebrate Saint Nicholas with Cees’ children, an ideal opportunity to search out Nativity Scenes in the French capital. Notre Dame de ParisWe were staying in an apartment in Montmartre near the Sacre Coeur. In the Nativity Scene there everyone was there except Jesus, I think that even the wise men had made it which is a little illogical. They were all gathered around an empty manger lined with straw. We couldn’t take a photo because there was a big bouncer stopping people and when one Italian actually had the audacity to take a photo of the scene, she was pulled to one side forced to show all the photos she had taken and made to delete them on the spot ! So I can’t be 100% sure about the wise men. On to the Cathedral Basilica St Denis just north of Paris and this time everyone except the wise men and Jesus was there, which is more what I would have expected.

Our last Nativity Scene in Paris was in the Notre Dame and after queuing for about 20 minutes in the snow we finally got in and what a Nativity Scene it was too. Everyone was there except Jesus and the wise men, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the sheep, the donkeys, the cows and the angels had all made it. Cormatin near TaizéThe manger in the centre was lined with straw and then with white fur - yes these Parisians know how to look after their babies !

Back home and a trip to Taizé showed no further activity in the stall, still no animals or shepherds and Mary and Joseph were still on their way to Bethlehem. On to Cormatin and there the wise men had arrived, but still no baby Jesus and in Cluny there was a full accompaniment even the baby was there - truly a mixed bag.

So far, I think one can deduce that those who actually know the story, make sure that the appropriate persons are present at the appropriate times - but I am still on the case.

Our accommodation near Taizé is detailed on La Tuilerie Website.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Nativity Scene

For the first time ever The Taizé Community has built a Nativity Scene. The whole thing is at the road end of the Church of Reconciliation. The stable fits neatly under the roof but when I saw it, I was rather disappointed to see the stable empty. Quite unusual for a Nativity Scene - no nativity…. I stood looking for a few minutes and then I spotted them, Joseph with staff in hand leading a donkey with a very pregnant Mary on top. Logical really, Jesus isn’t due for a few weeks yet. I have never found it odd that the baby Jesus was in the stable for the whole of advent, but obviously the builders of this Nativity Scene had found it odd and had put some thought into their rendition of a Nativity Scene.

To quote from Taizé’s website “It is a sign of the Season of Advent, into which Christians have just entered. The liturgy also underlines this time of waiting.. ” and this novel approach to what is usually seen as just a bit of extra festive “tinsel”, makes us think about the whole story and about the waiting. The quotation from Luke 2 on the wall reads “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register.” Reading that and seeing Mary on her donkey did get me thinking.

The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is about 130 km as the crow flies, how long would that journey have taken them? Cees and I have been know to do quite a bit of walking and when in form we can clock up to a maximum of 25 km a day so if we were fit and in tip-top condition it would take us about 6 days on the flat. But we are talking about desert here and we are talking about an old man who is leading a donkey with his heavily pregnant wife on it. We should also not forget that to get to Bethlehem, they would have had to travel across Samaria which was hostile bandit country in those days. Some people even suggest that they would not have taken the shortest route but a longer safer route via modern day Jordan. So whilst the bible gives no figures (as far as I can see) it would have been a very long journey more than a couple of weeks, which might explain why they arrived so late in Bethlehem and missed out on all the available rooms.

In any case I will be following events as they unfurl between “Nazareth” and “Bethlehem” and let you know.

Our gites are not very near Bethlehem, but they are near Taizé and they have availability! La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Winter's Here

Well winter has arrived and, as with every year, it comes as a surprise to me. Although we had our first frosts in October as usual, the weather has been very mild the last few weeks, I went to the market in Cluny in my shorts last week, but yesterday we awoke to a fine layer of snow and I had to admit defeat and put long trousers on. The girls who run the Dutch cheese stall in Cluny market even commented on the fact that I wasn’t wearing shorts! After lunch in Cluny (Café du Centre for a change) we came home and Cees went off to his painting classes in Cormatin. I have taken to going for a walk on Saturday afternoons while he is out and today I decided to go up the hill to Taizé and I was treated to a lovely view of La Tuilerie with a light sprinkling of snow. I walked into the shop in Taizé to look at the pottery, browse through the books and cards and warm up a bit before the walk home though the woods. It is lovely circuit, mostly on footpaths, hardly walking on any roads at all and I even bumped into Frère Alois in the woods obviously doing the same walk but in the other direction.

Finally before Cees came back I had to do my chores for the day, drain the water down out of the gîtes. As we don’t rent them out in the winter, we don’t heat them and so there is always the risk of burst pipes. I emptied the water from the campsite a few weeks ago and now with the temperature at –4 degrees last night and no sign of warmer weather in the next week, it is better to be safe than sorry. I even switched the TV on for a few minutes before Cees came back, very unlike me, but after the disaster with the transfer to digital TV, I keep feeling that I need to check that everything is still working. It is so nice to be able to watch the quiz again in the evenings and our favourite documentary “Les Racines et Les Ailes”. Fortunately we have discovered that we can get reception through the single glazed windows in the kitchen, so we don’t have to have the living room (double glazed) windows open to get a signal (a bit chilly to say the least) and even though it looks a bit weird to have the huge new aerial in the kitchen, it isn’t really in the way now that Cees has built a very smart new wooden structure to support it! We will have to come up with a more permanent solution at some stage, but that can wait.

More details about our gites and campsite are on La Tuilerie Website.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Dinner With the Mayor – Conspiracy Theory?

Last night we had dinner with the Mayor, well you are either on the A-List or not as I always say. OK to be fair we actually had dinner with Jean-François and his wife Monique and he happens to live almost next door (well as next door as anyone does around here) and just happens to be the Mayor of our enormous metropolis Cormatin, which in the census this year counted more than 500 inhabitants - yes it is a BIG town.

Along with a couple of other neighbours we were treated to an exquisite meal. After some delicious chorizo and cheese puff-pastry nibbles with Kir Royale we were ushered to the table and an amuse-bouche of warm creamed pumpkin topped with small pieces of foie gras. moreslThe entrée was snails (caught and processed by Monique herself) and for the non-snail eaters (eg me as I don’t dare to eat them because of my shell fish allergy) there was a wild boar pâté made by Monique of course and the boar had been shot in the local woods by Jean-François himself. The main course was chicken in a light creamy morel sauce served with rice portioned into ramekins and presented as a little perfectly formed cylinder on the plate. The chicken certainly came from a shop, but whether the morels came from the forest opposite us, is a little bit of a mystery, I must admit we got rather lost in the discussion about the origins of the morels. Whilst their origin may be in doubt, their excellent taste was not. This was followed by the last of the “fresh” goats’ cheese of the season from the lady in La Bergerie and the meal was capped off with homemade lemon sorbet on top of warmed pineapple cubes lightly flavoured with cinnamon placed beautifully next to a small glass of mousse au chocolat and some almond wafer biscuits. Each course was served with the appropriate wine which prompted discussions of flavours and vintages. All I can say is - wow what a meal!

It was fun to have an evening out, discussing local issues, who’s who in Cormatin, amusing past and present stories (Jean-François is a master at story telling) and of course there was the inevitable discussion about the most important event in all our lives since anyone can remember - the transfer to digital TV.

Since my last blog on this topic, Cees and I have been phoning round and visiting anyone we can find who can help us. No one is available until mid-December, the whole change-over has been one huge fiasco. Because no one had had the opportunity to check out their digital receiving equipment prior to cutting off the analogue signal, it would seem that at least 50% of the local population (Cormatin, Cluny, Ameugny, Taizé, Salornay-sur-Guye) have poor reception, partial reception or no reception at all. fransat kitEvery single transmitter in the area was switched over at the same time which is leaving the poor (or soon to be stinkingly rich) aerial installers with more problems than they can possibly deal with. On Saturday morning one chap said: “Why couldn’t they have switched the transmitters off one by one? Then I could have at least made an attempt to keep up with requests for help!” In our tiny village of Chazelle everyone has a problem of one sort or another except one person - the Mayor - he has perfect reception, which is where the conspiracy theory of another friend of ours comes in. No names will be mentioned, but a friend of ours has a thing about Mayors and other persons in positions of authority and it does seem that she might have a point, why out of all the 30 odd houses in our village is he the only one who has perfect reception? Does he have so much power in the locality that those guys at Mont Saint Vincent have redirected our signal to his house? Well no not really, it seems that he is the only one who had the foresight to see the chaos that was on its way and he had a satellite dish fitted a couple of months ago. So should I call that conspiracy theory or strategic planning?

Our gites are in Chazelle, near Cormatin to see more detailsclick here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Morning After

Yesterday morning started hopefully enough our reception equipment worked and at about 10 o’clock we had the tantalising glimpse of a black screen called Fr2 and another one called Fr3, by lunch they had gone and didn’t return all day. By mid-afternoon TF1 had completely lost the plot and was transmitting its afternoon drivel in English but at least the subtitles for the hard of hearing worked in French. Moving down the dial I found another channel transmitting in English (of a sort), it was showing an Australian programme which is a cross between “Changing Rooms” and “Ground Force”.
The French subtitles worked there too and whilst the two Crocodile Dundees were over actingly discussing how to install decking and a pool in two days the subtitles read “Ah oui je t’aime, je t’aime” ummm not a very accurate translation but hey this is France.

All this makes me sound like a telly addict, well I suppose deep down in my heart I am but in reality I only what two programmes 1) a quiz on Fr3 at 6 o’clock and 2) the news on TF1 at 8 o’clock. Well we had to do without Julien Lepers last night, but at least we could see the news. Just before going to bed Cees suggested one last try at tuning the box, to no avail, but at least after transmitting French talk shows all evening I was glad to see that TF1 had reverted to transmitting in English!

Today has not dawned any better, still no Fr2 or Fr3, the website says everything is up and running, if you type in our address it says we cannot receive any form of TNT at all and the help-line is not taking calls although they have promised to ring me back - I won’t hold my breath. Looks like no Julien again tonight.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Télévision numérique terrestre (digital TV) has arrived in Burgundy! In wonderful French style all the televsion transmitters in Burgundy were shut down last night en masse and have been starting up one by one today sending digital signals only - analogue died last night. Because of our tricky geographical position with the forest on one side and with hills between us and the rest of the world, there is only one transmitter we can "see", that is Mont Saint Vincent. It was decided, for reasons unknown, that Mont Saint Vincent would be one of the only transmitters in our region not to send out analogue and digital TV simultaneously over the last few months so that we could all tune in and check out our equipment, no Mont Saint Vincent was shut down for analogue last night and no one has been able to tell us whether it would actually send out digital in our direction. So no chance to test out our equipment before TNT Day. My years in industry have taught me that expecting something to work first time is an idiot's approach to technology so we have been counting down to TNT Day for the last 18 months, trying to get more information on how to test the equipment we bought all that time ago, but up until this morning we could do nothing and we just had to wait and see if our equipment was sufficient to receive digital signals, if digital signals would be sent this way.

So are we running for cover or jumping for joy?

Just before 8 o'clock in the morning and we have TV!! Fewer proper channels than before, but at least the aerial and box work and Mont Saint Vincent is transmitting. BTW we had three channels before now we have one and not the one we want!!! We do have lots of pay-for channels that we can't see because the signal is scrambled and at least three shopping channels so that is progress I suppose, let's see what the rest of the day brings...

TNT Day Minus One

We will watch Question Pour Un Champion this evening, hopefully the junior school teacher will win the cagnotte this evening, will this be the last time we will watch? At midnight all the television transmitters in Burgundy will be shut down and go silent for the first time since 29th March 1945 when television transmissions were reinstated after the Germans left France. Is the end of life as we know it?

Sunday, 14 November 2010


It is TNT Day in Burgundy on Tuesday 16th November..

What will happen? Will we all be blown sky high?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Last Wreath Laying of the Year.

November 11th, Armistice Day (the end of World War One), is the last and the most well attended of all the wreath layings in Cormatin’s complicated wreath laying year. As all my blog followers will have noted we attend all five with enthusiasm. Each one is different in character, not only because of the different group of people each one attracts, but because of the inevitable confusion surrounding the organisation.

All went very smoothly this time, the flowers were found, the flag was found, a replacement flag carrier was found (our usual flag carrier had broken his leg), the new CD player was found and Monsieur P had been having lessons in its use. He confidently pressed play and we were treated to the trumpet introduction to a tune that wasn’t the Marseillaise. Monsieur P calmly leant down and restarted the CD and we were able to hear the end of the national anthem. There were whispers of “wrong CD” from the chap standing next to me, but further all went well. This time, contrary to what we should have been doing, it was announced that we were all off the Bois Dernier memorial which is a Second World War memorial, no complaints from anyone, no “what does the Mayor think he is doing?”, no "jamais, jamais, jamais" and above all no irritated mutterings between the Mayor and Monsieur P - all was going according to their plan.

Off we went, Cees on his bike got there long before the rest of us had walked to the car park, had complicated discussions about who was going in which car and eventually we made it to the memorial. Again confidence was shown by Monsieur P who this time played a different and full version of the Marseillaise to which he dutifully sang along (we heard one female voice as well, but couldn’t identify where it was coming from). So not only had he been practising with the CD player, but he had found himself two versions of the national anthem, the long and the short version so that we can have a different one at each monument - Bravo Monsieur P!

Still a bit puzzled about the change of venue when all was revealed. Whilst the Mayor reads out the official government speech at the memorial in Cormatin, Monsieur P always gives a speech at the Bois Dernier memorial. We had the usual thank yous, particularly to the children who came and the school teacher who was there for the first time - it is important that they grow up understanding the meaning behind these days of remembrance and that they realise the sacrifices made for their current way of life. The real reason for the visit to the Bois Dernier memorial was then revealed. We were there to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of de Gaulle, who died on 9th November 1970. He was the leader of the Free French Forces from London during the war and he was the inspiration to the French people and the resistance movement during the German occupation.

Back to the Blés d’Or for Kir and nibbles and talk of how the unknown soldier was chosen and the wagon used to sign the German capitulation. A successful morning. I do wonder though what things will be like when Monsieur P is no longer there to talk the youngsters through real living history, how long will these ceremonies carry on when there is no one left who remembers any of it?

La Tuilerie Website.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

Tuesday is our shopping day in Cluny, certain items in the supermarket have 10% off so we do our shopping on a Tuesday to save money – makes sense. However, we always have other chores to do in town and we end up having lunch in Cluny as well, which is of course more than the money we have saved by shopping on a Tuesday, so one could argue what is the point of shopping on a Tuesday at all..

Anyway, Cees has become a big fan of the “plat du jour” for our Tuesday lunches. The plat du jour changes every day and in the year he has been having it at our favourite restaurant (La Petite Auberge) he has only had a repeat dish on two occasions, quite an impressive feat. Due to holiday closures, we had lunch this Tuesday at Café du Centre and Cees’ plat du jour was rabbit in mustard sauce a real speciality around here. Rabbit is also very popular in The Netherlads, many people eat it for Christmas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the family cat should be kept indoors around that time of year as these creatures have been known to go missing and sold on as rabbits. Seeing the little bones on his plate, Cees commented that now he understood why people could have been fooled into buying a cat. Anyway after shuddering at the thought of Fifi ending up in the pot, Cees went on to enjoy his Lapin à la Moutarde.

On Wednesday morning we woke up to find that Fifi had disappeared, no amount of bell ringing summoned her. The same in the afternoon. Fifi home againAs she has never gone missing before, I went out to search the property in case she was trapped in a drain somewhere, I then searched all the ditches within walking distance of here to see if she had been hit by a car and crawled to the edge of the road, but no Fifi. When Thursday morning dawned and still no Fifi and she hadn’t been back to eat anything during the night, we were convinced that she had in fact been killed by a fox or even shot by a hunter and I thought back to Tuesday's lunch and began to think she may have been taken. Thursday afternoon I switched the light off in her little house and faced up to the prospect of packing up her bed and blocking up the door but decided to leave it one day more, miracles could happen. As I pottered around after dinner putting out the rubbish, almost exactly 48 hours after the last sighting of Fifi, I didn't look down as I opened the front door and who shot in like a rocket straight up the stairs to the bedroom, but our little cat. Fifi was home, fit and well and not a mark on her. Welcome home Fifi and please don't do that again!

Anyway, in celebration of her return, here is the afore-mentioned recipe:

Lapin à la Moutarde

1 rabbit chopped in pieces
75g butter
2 shallots chopped finely
1 glass of white wine
200g cream (double or crème fraiche)
salt and pepper

Cover the rabbit pieces with a good layer of mustard. Put them in a bowl and cover in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Heat the butter in a large pan, add the shallots and fry until the rabbit pieces are brownish. Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper on the rabbit pieces, add the wine and simmer gently for 45 minutes. If the pan goes dry, add a little water.
Remove the rabbit and add the cream, stir well to remove all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and when the cream has boiled for a couple of minutes add 1tbs more of mustard, turn off the heat, mix the mustard well into the sauce and pour this sauce over the rabbit pieces.

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Lost Friends

This week we received the sad news that a friend had passed away. Chris Gulker was a blogger before the word existed and he blogged almost every day since setting up his personal website in 1995. To quote a tribute to him from INMenlo (a hyper-local blog in Silicon Valley):

“Academics have cited as one of the earliest weblogs – “the first to propose a network of bloggers.” Chris Gulker also pioneered two of the most effective means through which blogging emerged as a social medium – the blogroll and link attrition.”

So how else could we have met him and his wife Linda but through our blogs. We went on to meet them in person when they were at Taizé for a month earlier this year and we became friends. Little did we or they know at that time, that their proposed visit to Burgundy this September would not go ahead due to the reappearance of tumours in Chris’ brain. Linda and Chris have been an inspiration to many these last few months with their openness with regard to Chris’ illness and their determination to “live each day” to use their own words. Our thoughts are with Linda as she sets off on a new phase of her life and we look forward to celebrating Chris’ life with her when she comes back to Taizé next spring.

I pinched the photo of Chris from the INMenlo site where is it accredited to Anne Knudsen.

A second newly-made friend has left us this week as well, although in happier circumstances. Babette who has run the Cormatin newsagent and tobacconist for the last eleven years, one of the first people around here to be able to pronounce, remember and reproduce Cees’ name and a fellow “conscrit” also with a red hat, has left us to join her husband who moved down to Provence almost two years ago for a new job. There was a huge party last night to say our farewells, the whole town turned up as well as many people from the surrounding villages. Bon Voyage Babette!

A week to make us thankful for the friends we have and a week to make us realise that we should make the most of the time we have with them.

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Strikes and Blockades

The French love a good strike and demonstration and what better cause but the increase of retirement age by two years. Shocking you may say and ordinarily I would agree but what is more shocking is that the state retirement age in France is only 60 and even younger if you are in a hard or stressful profession like a train driver! So sorry to the citizens of my new homeland, but I have no sympathy for this strike especially when it means we are having difficulty getting petrol due to the blockading of all the country’s oil refineries. So our essential trip to Mâcon to get supplies for Cees’ new painting classes and of course a nice lunch at Palais d’Asie was put in danger today by me not wanting to waste a drop of that precious liquid.

Having said that, many people who have stayed in our gîtes have come by public transport, what better way to spend the day than taking the bus to Mâcon and back and enjoying the autumn sun that has just poked its head from behind the clouds? And seeing as we tell everyone how easy it is, we really should try it one day. So off we went to catch the 10.30 bus, hoping that the bus drivers weren’t on strike as well and we were duly met by the bus which arrived spot on time. Up the hill through Ameugny and Taizé where we picked up a couple of escapees heading for a day out in Cluny, into Cluny past the Equivallée and on to the bus station where the bus emptied and re-filled with those wanting to get to Mâcon itself.

The journey takes you along the tourist route to Mâcon, not via the dual carriageway we always take in the car, through the rolling hills of the Mâconnais with magnificent views of the chateau at Berzé-le-Châtel and into Berzé-la-Ville where the chapel des moines is to be found. Superb views of Roche Solutré and into the vineyards of the Pouilly-Fuissé which produce one of the best white wines around here with a price tag to match! And we were even in Mâcon in time to do all our shopping before the shops shut for lunch then of course our favourite Chinese restaurant.

The walk back to the bus stop after lunch helped the lunch to settle before the trip home which was as equally enjoyable as the trip into Mâcon had been that morning. The vines are yellowing fast, but the trees remain surprisingly green for the time of year and with a beautiful blue sky, quite a treat to be out and about at a slower pace than normal, and all that for 1.50 Euro.

So I may not agree with the reason for the blockades, but just this once I will say thank you to the unions for giving us a surprisingly interesting day out. They can stop the blockades now so that we can go to Cluny this weekend for the biggest horseshow ever seen in the town. On second thoughts we’ll take the bus.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 17 October 2010

What Have I Been Doing With my Time?

Two weeks since my last blog, not my usual style, so apologies to all of you out in Blogland! We have been so busy, a case of chickens coming home to roost I think. As many of you will know, we have tried very hard to fit into the local community Near Taizé and have joined all sorts of societies and volunteer groups, some less successful than others (“No sorry you can’t do any voluntary work for us until you have been a member of our organisation for a whole year” – I kid you not) but now suddenly the locals have cottoned on to the fact that they have willing volunteers who are not doing it for fame and fortune and we have been inundated with requests to help, dinners to say thank you for helping and “by the way you can make the dinner for the next meeting”. So that and a visit of Cees’ daughter and partner have kept me away from usual creative outlet.

Cormatin RandonnéWe marked out the local Cormatin Randonée (organised walk) last weekend (Saturday) and the weather was superb and had been for days, sadly the day itself (Sunday) was cold and miserable, the sun just did not want to shine so we froze as we stood waiting for walkers to come by and get their coffee and piece of cake. I just love this picture of Cees and a fellow marker putting their tags on the tarmac - bottoms up! - so I couldn't rsist posting it.

Cees’ daughter and partner have kept me on my toes, insisting they help in the garden, they managed to clear two fallen trees and the brambles that have invaded them Working in the garden since they fell when Cees was in hospital nearly two years ago! Of course I had to keep up, by helping (a bit) and then I got the urge to finish off the path I have been making around my birthday statue. Aches in places I had long forgotten I had muscles! All that and visits to Cluny, the shop in Taizé to look at their lovely pottery, walks following the Ballades Vertes, cycle rides on the Voie Verte and into the surrounding countryside to visit local potters, silk painters and sculptors – a busy week for them.

Now I have some time to sit down and reflect and update my blog. I’ll do a better job next week, promise!

The kids stayed in one of our gites, to see details look at our website.

Monday, 4 October 2010

A missed opportunity

Sitting at my desk yesterday afternoon, I heard the bells of Taizé ringing. Nothing new, I hear them three times a day every day except Sundays when it is only twice. But it was quarter past four in the afternoon! Any Taizé goer knows that Nothing happens at that time on a Sunday, Our house photographed from Taizéin fact Sunday is dedicated to welcoming new guests and saying farewell to the guests from the previous week. A quick check on the Taizé website revealed nothing exciting, so what was going on? A mystery.

Last week when we visited a client’s home to check on the house, collect their newly issued house number (worthy of a blog in its own right!) and to empty the letter box, we found a magazine called “Le Lien entre Grosne et Guye” . Obviously some local publication (as the next layer up from our commune is the Communauté de Communes entre Grosne et Guye) and we put the magazine on one side eventually to be read or thrown away. A quick flick through revealed an article about Taizé that I wanted to read at my leisure, so the magazine went on to the “to be dealt with” pile. The date at the top of the page of this article must have stuck deep into my subconscious as in the middle of the night, last night, I suddenly thought that this article might give me some insight into the unusual bell ringing.

When he reads this blog, Cees will happily say “you should have read the article when you spotted it!” and on this occasion I will say, “OK you are right” because the little article actually gave details of an open day at Taizé for all the congregations between the river Grosne and the river Guye, The inside of the Taizé churchculminating with a Catholic Eucharist at four thirty. Four thirty must be the time they allocate to visiting groups as it was mid one Thursday afternoon last summer when the Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting that the Anglicans were allowed to hold their Eucharist.

Yesterday the day in Taizé was themed “hospitality”. Hospitality is one of the key elements of the monastic tradition, chapter 53 in Saint Benedict’s Rule concentrates how the role hospitality plays a key part in the Benedictine order and as anyone who has seen anything of the Taizé order will know, the brothers there are no strangers to hospitality themselves, housing and feeding hundreds of thousands a year.

After the morning service up until lunch was taken up to the study of St Luke chapter 10 which contains amongst other things the parable of the Good Samaritan, but in its totality it concentrates on the meaning of hospitality and the reciprocity of that hospitality. Having now read the article, I am very sorry indeed that I missed the day and the next time this magazine falls into my hands, I will read it from cover to cover to make sure I don’t miss anything like this again. Another lesson learnt!

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 26 September 2010

I found the mustard in Reims!

Me in Reims As you can see from the photo, there I am in a supermarket (Petit Casino in Reims - believe me) and yes there is the mustard!! All those Dutch aficionados will understand of course, but for the rest I will explain. It is complicated so bear with me. When a Dutch person says “he knows where Abraham gets the mustard from” it means that that has reached “a certain age”.

The only vaguely logical explanation I have managed to find is that “to get the mustard” is an old fashioned term for “go out and buy something” or “to run an errand” so someone who knows where to get the mustard is someone who has been around a bit and knows a lot about the world. Apparently when this expression was first coined, Abraham was a very common name, so to use some recent statistics one could say in today’s parlance “he knows where Oliver gets the mustard”. Mumm Courdon Rouge from their websiteHowever, if that had been the case, you would miss out on a specification of the “certain age” factor which comes from a misconstruction of a verse in the Bible (John 8 v 57) where Jesus is mocked by the Jews commenting on his young age and therefore his lack of knowledge and wisdom by saying “You are not even fifty years old – and you have seen Abraham?”.

So for those of you who can add one and one and make anything other than two, you have the imagination to understand this complex Dutch expression. Yes that’s right I had my Birthday with a big B! and where else should you be on such a day other than the capital of the Champagne world and what better way to spend that day than to sample some of bubbly stuff during a tour of the Champagne cellars of one of the world’s most famous Champagne house.

field of mustardWe had a lovely couple of days in Reims, a small city worth a visit. We had some great food and great wine. Our trip was not of course without event, on the way our car managed to break down on the motorway just outside Troyes and we had to towed off to a local garage. While we waited to be towed, we had plenty of time to look around and enjoy the views and the sunshine and look at the local crops. We were stopped almost next to a field full of yellow flowers, what were they? Was it a coincidence that it was almost my birthday? I’m not sure but one thing I do know for certain is that it was a field of mustard….

Home is in Burgundy see our Website.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...