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
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