Sunday, 18 April 2010

Les Conscrits

Every year since we have lived here, we have seen a large banner across the street in March in Cluny, announcing that the “conscrits” of a particular year have their reunion on a certain date. The only thing we could think of was some sort of reunion for people who have done their national service. As I have never done it and Cees would rather forget his, it was never something we were particularly interested in.Me in my tophat Then one day in December last year there was a little notice popped into our letterbox announcing a pre-meeting to prepare for this event in Cormatin for the conscrits of year zero. This intrigued us. So we started asking questions and it appeared that it had nothing to do with conscription, it was just a party for everyone who was born in a year ending on the same number as the current year. So in 2010 it was the zeros and guess what, my birth year ends on a zero (yes I’m thirty again this year!).

So off I went into the snow in January to the first meeting to discuss our party. We were joining up with Ameugny, Taizé and Malay and all their little hamlets and basically it turned out that we were having a lunch to which we could invite friends and family as well. Sounds fun, I thought. No one on the organising committee realised of course that I had no idea what this was all about, so at each meeting a new little twist to the story was revealed, first it was marching up the main street, then it was hats and rosettes, then it was a six course lunch, then it was a cabaret act, then it was music till dawn, then it was onion soup before you went home and to be honest it all sounded rather complicated. To cut a long story short, My Day was yesterday.

At the allotted hour I arrived at Cormatin Chateau car park ready to set off. Everyone was issued with top-hats and rosettes in a colour according to their age, each age-group linked arms with the others in the same colour and off we went in age order, the ten year-olds at the front and the 90 year-olds at the back. The wave of Amity A car in front of us played suitably jolly music to walk to and a car at the back carried a couple of 80 and 90 year-olds who felt they couldn’t make the walk up and down the main street. The traffic was stopped by guys in fluorescent jackets as we did the traditional wave-walk up the street. Each line of people zigzaged across the road right to left, then left to right, creating a “wave of amity” as we flowed up towards the road to Chapaize where we stopped for breath and to let the traffic through. We then turned round and walked back up to the church and the war memorial where a wreath was laid, then on up to Salle St Roch for kir and nibbles, all the time making sure your hat and rosette stayed in place.

After photos, we went for lunch, by which time it was 2 o’clock. The six course meal rolled on, quite superb food was laid on by the restaurant at La Place.Menu I’d warned them of my fish allergy earlier in the week and they coped extremely well, getting me a very similar looking dish at the same time as the other 70 odd guests were fed, very unlike many restaurants who make you feel two inches high for daring to be allergic to anything and making sure everyone notices you have something different. In-between courses there was dancing and then the cabaret act arrived to entertain us. The cheese course (which come before dessert in France) arrived at 6 o’clock and as we had gîte guests arriving, we had to skip dessert and coffee. So who knows what time the coffee arrived! One person we bumped into today said she had left “early” at 3.30 in the morning, maybe the youngsters managed dawn and their onion soup, I don’t know!

So what was it all about? We were right with our original assessment that it was something to do with conscription, albeit very vaguely. Young men were conscripted at the age of 20 and the evening before they went into the army they had a huge party and then marched out of town en-masse arms linked. This tradition seems to have started not so far from here in Rhône, possibly Lyon, but most probably Villefrance. As conscription disappeared, the party was not forgotten, it has been extended to include young women as well as men and to include not only the 20 year-olds but also everyone who’s age is a multiple of ten years. Apart from laying the wreath at the war memorial, its military origins are long forgotten.

I must say it was one of the silliest things I have done in a long time, but it was fun to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to my next 0th birthday, I think I’ll wear blue that time!

La Tuilerie Website

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...