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
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