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
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