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.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


My father was a Congregationalist and my mother is a Welsh Baptist and I was brought up going to church in our local parish church which is affiliated to the Church of England, so to me Christianity is one broad group of people each worshiping in their own different way, but ultimately the same. I have never thought about it at all, ecumenicalism is how it is and how it should be, but not everyone thinks the same and times were not always so.

Taizé Romanesque Church When Frère Roger first came to Taizé he worshipped alone in a room that he had dedicated for that purpose. When there were other Christians present they would join him in prayer, but as many of the people he was helping were in fact Jewish, he felt that it was totally inappropriate to make the prayer times communal. When he returned with some friends (later the first brothers) after the war with the purpose of setting up a community, they worshipped together in the original room but as the numbers of brothers and Christian visitors increased so did their need for a larger space. What is more logical than to use the small Romanesque church in Taizé, a holy place that had not been used for services for many years. But the Catholic church had other ideas about that. Despite not actually owning the building (all churches were seized during the Revolution and are now state owned) the Catholic church objected to having Protestants worshiping in their, albeit unused, church. An initial local agreement was swiftly rescinded and the request to use the church then went up through the bishop of Autun all the way to Paris where it ended up with Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli who was at that time the papal nuncio. He was a forward thinking man, he had also helped many Jews and other refugees during the war and maybe it was that common ground that helped convince him or maybe not, but he was the man who gave permission in 1948 for the brothers to have permanent non-rescindable use of the church for their daily prayers.

Taizé CrossAllowing Protestants to use the church was one thing, but allowing Catholics to join them was another. Despite securing an audience with Pope Pius XII, Frère Roger did not manage to get agreement for ecumenical worship out of him. A big step for a pope to take of course. Ten years passed and the pope died and a new one, Pope John XXIII, was elected. This new pope turned out to be none other than the Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli who had granted permission to use the church in Taizé and despite being old in years, he was still very young and forward thinking in his ways and it was he who supported the community of Taizé and led the way forward for allowing Catholics to take part in ecumenical worship. Maybe it was their common experiences during the war that drew these two men together, who knows, but whatever it was, he paved the way for the close links between the Vatican and the brotherhood that still exist today and it led to real reconciliation between differing Christian groups.

So it saddens me when I read about the bitter row going on in the Anglican movement at the moment. Maybe they should “go back to core business” to quote something from my corporate past, maybe they should concentrate on the business of being Christians. What I find so refreshing about the community in Taizé is that they welcome all, they welcome the differences but more importantly they concentrate on the commonality. It all seems so normal to me, but of course this is not the way everyone sees the world. Just maybe one day all Christians in their churches can look and learn and get back to concentrating on what holds them together and not concentrating on the arguments that are splitting them apart.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 12 September 2010

A Squashed Face and White Food.

This weekend, Cluny has been one great big party. The citizens of Europe answered the call and came to the festivities we invited them to one year ago. The streets were heaving on Saturday night and at seven o’clock there was not a single seat to be found in our favourite evening restaurant (Loup Garou) so we settled for our usual Saturday lunchtime haunt (missed that lunchtime because we had to wait for giters and campers to arrive) and we had an assiette kebab. Suitably fed, we headed off into the market square to join in the Cluny-wide street theatre about to begin at nine o’clock. Abbey WallOne of the walls of the ancient abbey church was lit up with the words “Towns like dreams are made up of desires and fears, even if their way of presentation is secret, their rules are absurd and their perspectives are faulty; and everything hides something else.” Very thought provoking and intended to set the scene for the actors to appear and walk around the predetermined route through the streets, gardens and alleyways of Cluny to one of the spots where their little piece of theatre was to be played out, with us amongst the thousands following them eager to discover what secrets were to be revealed.

We were treated to dancing, folk music, recitals and theatre pieces, all intended to reveal the secrets of Cluny’s past, present and future. There were numerous people on top of walls, suspended from ropes or bits of cloth, we tripped over loose cobble stones and fell over low walls, Squashed LadyI got my foot trapped between a branch and a step as we stumbled through someone’s garden (now destroyed by the thousands of feet that traipsed over it in the last couple of days), skirts dangerously brushing against the candles lighting the way and all this without a health and Safety officer in sight to put a stop to the fun! In order to dodge a carelessly steered child’s pushchair, Cees climbed over a pile of ivy on the ground, rather than walking round it like the rest of the crowd and narrowly missed the face of a young lady lying there. I think she can claim the award for the most dangerous job of the weekend!

At the end of the tour after having had all of Cluny’s secrets revealed to us, we once again arrived in the market square where the winning entries in the “Cluny letter” competition were being read out – we hadn’t won, in fact Cees pointed out that we had in fact “lost”, but I prefer to take a more “Olympic Games” view about it all..

After listening to speeches in the Abbey gardens from the Mayor of Cluny amongst others, we sang the European “national” anthem Ode to Joy in French, German, English, Italian and Slovakian, then again in French. The English version included the words “All mankind are brothers plighted” which sounded painful to me and even though our friends reminded us that they had once “plighted their troths” and it wasn’t all that bad after all, I still looked the word up when I got home. Finally a film created by the ENSAM students of how the Abbey church Maior Ecclesia had once been, was shown on a huge screen in the gardens, a superb ending to an excellent evening, well done the Gadzarts.

Sunday saw the culmination of the weekend’s activities and the huge closing picnic. As last year (see here) we all brought food to share and sat with our fellow villagers, in our case dressed in white with white food and we had a very convivial meal together. After watching a display of falconry, we headed off home on our bikes down the Voie Verte back to Cormatin. A superb weekend that we will talk about for a long time to come I think.

La Tuilerie Website

Monday, 6 September 2010

Fingerprinted in Lyon

Fingerprint Lyon, home of Interpol, is where I had to go last week to be fingerprinted. What terrible crime had I committed, that I should be subjected to such treatment? Well it is simple, my passport had expired and I needed a new one. It may be shocking to the Brits, but the Dutch (in accordance with new European legislation so they say) insist on a set of fingerprints to get a new passport. No more “shove the old one in an envelope and a couple of weeks later you get a new one”, no you have to go in person and have your prints taken. I had visions of leaving the Consulate with black fingertips, but it is all much more modern than that, a simple scan was all that was required.

Well if you have to go all the way to Lyon, it pays to make a day of it. Out came the Michelin guide and other information we have and our day was planned. We took the train from Mâcon into Lyon, much more convenient than the car, but a little on the expensive side. When we arrived we bought a one day travel card and we intended to use it to maximum effect, metro, trams, funicular, buses, we used them all moving from one end of Lyon to the other.

Musée Urbaine Tony Garnier Our theme for the day was paintings and our first port of call was the Musée urbain Tony Garnier, reputedly the largest open-air art gallery in the world, dedicated to one of Lyon’s leading architects. The museum is in fact 24 huge paintings drawn on blocks of flats he designed and built in the 1920s and they cover his work in Lyon. The last few paintings are the more interesting in my opinion as they depict various artists views of an ideal city. The one I am showing here is the ideal Mexican city.

The idea of painting on buildings has really caught on in Lyon and the surrounding areas have also taken on this spectacular idea with great gusto. What amazed me was that on all the painted buildings we saw, there was no graffiti, quite unusual for a city the size of Lyon.

La Fresque de Lyonais Another huge painting (twice the size of anything in the Musée urbain Tony Garnier) was entitled La Fresque de Lyonais in the Croix Russe area, it covered the back side of a building seven stories high and seven windows or balconies wide. At each window or on each balcony is a famous Lyonais including St Exupery with Le Petit Prince, the Lumieres brothers (among the earliest film makers in history), André-Marie Ampère of electricity fame and more recent people like Abbé Pierre the founder of Emmaus and Bernard Pivot a journalist and TV interviewer. The photo I have chosen shows some real and painted by-passers in front of the imaginary shop fronts and building entrance.

Roman Theatres Lyon The rest of our day was taken up with visiting the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, worth it for the trip in the funicular railway and the view of the city, but the Basilique itself is a bit over the top. Just round the corner was another gem, the Roman theatres. We’ve seen many in our travels around the UK, France, Spain and Italy, but this was truly exceptional. Then into the old town with the St Jean Cathedral (and ex-Taizé organ) and the traboules, a real must for anyone visiting Lyon is to zigzag through the old town using these secret covered walkways through the buildings leading to some very pretty hidden courtyards. In fact we just generally enjoyed our day in the sun soaking up the atmosphere of a very special city.

We won’t be waiting until our passports run out again to revisit, there is still too much to be seen.

La Tuilerie Website.
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