Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter in Taizé

The Easter Sunday service in Taizé is absolutely the biggest of the year, the number of people in the church is overwhelming. On a very full summer’s Sunday morning, there can be 12,000 people in the church, but this Sunday there were significantly more than that. I sat as usual near the emergency exits, but as all the aisles were full of people and the exits were blocked with people and wheelchairs, I didn’t fancy anyone’s chances if something had happened. The brothers must have put in place some sort of emergency plan as the church was constantly being patrolled by Red Cross first aiders in uniform with bags of equipment and there were a number of ambulances waiting outside, thankfully I don’t think they were called into action.

With so many people, the usually slick system did start to show signs of strain, even though I was ¾ hour early for the service I had to queue up at the door to get in and a girl was handing out the reading and extra song sheets, but she forgot to give out the normal song books (or they had run out), she also forgot to give out candles, but I spotted those and took one myself. It might have been easier if she hadn’t been there at all, but she meant well I suppose. Being so early I didn’t have to walk around too long before I found a square inch on the floor that I could worm myself into and wait until things began.

The start of the service saw the Easter candle being lit up by the altar, then it was carried around the church by two monks with the children and some other monks following and lighting the candles of the congregation as they went. I find the lighting of candles a very powerful symbol even if it was a mite dangerous in these over squashed conditions. I don’t know if they have changed their candle supplier, if these were special Easter candles or if my memory is not what it used to be, but the candles burned for much more than the six and a half minutes I mentioned in my Saturday night blog – this needs further investigation I think (wearing a watch might help for one thing.. ) In any case I figured out how the candle went out, but I will keep that secret for a future blog!

After a number of songs (fortunately, having no song book, I knew them all) the services moved into the usual Sunday Eucharist ending with the distribution of the wine and bread and this was where the biggest breakdown in the system took place. No monks came to the front left section of the church which wasn’t noticed for quite some time, so whilst the much larger front right of the church had all been given communion, we had not even started and it was only when some of the older monks were returning from the back that they noticed our lack of communion and they dived in to our rescue. So the distribution of communion took four or five songs instead of the usual two, but hey no one was in a hurry anyway.

We were then greeted in French with “The Lord is Risen” and as we all replied “He is risen indeed” and the bells started to ring out. The monks then continued to read out “The Lord is Risen” in a multitude of languages and the replies came from all the corners of the church, sometimes just one or two voices, sometimes large groups. It was obvious that there was a very large Germans contingent, but what some of the smaller groups lacked in numbers, they made up for in volume!

I finally made it back just before 12 o’clock - nearly 3 hours after having left home, but it was a most enjoyable and uplifting morning.

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Missing Markets and New Monuments.

As many of my blogs have gone on about markets, my trusty readers will know by now that I love visiting markets, but what I love even more than a normal market is an animal market. The smells and sounds take me back to my summer holidays in South Wales as a child at the cattle market in Camarthen with my maternal grand father. So when we heard that there was a cattle market in Charolles, still in the old style, we just had to go. It took some finding out which day it was on, but eventually we found reference to it being on the second Wednesday of the months January, February, March and April. We had missed the January and February days and I was in the UK in March, so this week was our last chance for the year. Off we went. On entering Charolles, a suspect building was sited just opposite La Maison du Charolais (a “museum” dedicated to this wonderful breed of cattle) but as there was not a farmer or cattle truck in sight, we dismissed it as the wrong location. We asked an elderly couple a little further along the road and they sent us back to aforementioned empty market building. Not one of the people wandering around the building knew anything about a cattle market and although the poster on the wall (dating from several years ago) said the market stated at 10.00 there was nothing there at all.

We went into La Maison du Charolais to find out the truth. The truth is that the market shut down years ago. Being so close to the market in St Christophe en Brionnais one of these markets had to go and it was Charolles. Ah well, it was a nice trip on a sunny day and it was almost time for lunch so we went in search of a restaurant. We knew of one in
Beaubery so that’s where we headed. The fondly remembered restaurant had turned into a café but we had a little stroll around the town any way. The main car park has a spectacular view over the countryside and as the sky had not yet turned hazy we could see literally for miles and miles. We had work in Beaubery a few years ago and had driven through the town on many occasions noticing that there was a monument to the Résistance. As the job entailed trailing a trailer, heading up to the monument was never an option, but today it was possible and as we had all the time in the world that is exactly what we did. What an impressive sight, a huge cross of Lorraine, the symbol of the Résistance dominates a summit way above the town so the views from up there are even more amazing than from the town itself. The names of the local Résistance fighters killed during the war are listed on the memorial along with the words: Croire, Lutter, Vaincre. Believe, struggle, succeed.

Our day was starting to have the theme “views”, so after a superb lunch in another restaurant just outside Beaubery centre, we went to Suin, a place we have heard about but never got round to visiting. Now if you are looking for a 360 degree view, this is it. It was quite mesmerising being that high up and yet still on the ground, it was almost as if you were looking down into the valley from an aeroplane. There is a little non-descript church just below the summit but on the summit itself there is a viewing platform and a very pretty Madonna. This is the place people come to fly in their hang gliders, it was too windy on Wednesday sadly as it must be a real sight when there are people literally just walking off the edge and catching a thermal.

Even though we didn’t see the market, we enjoyed some unexpected sites on our day out.

For details of our holiday accommodation see La Tuilerie Website

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lake Geneva in Cormatin and a Souq in Chalon

Big excitement in Cormatin this Monday evening as a fountain the size of the one in lake Geneva was spotted on the road to Chapaize next to the old well. Soon a whole lake rapidly getting to the size of Lake Geneva was forming. As it was a warm evening and bedroom windows were open, everyone came out to look and of course discuss the happening. “Ooh look at all that water”, “gosh the water main must have sprung a leak”, “hey we could all collect some free for our gardens”, “I hope my house doesn’t flood” etc etc etc, but not much action. Eventually it was decided that something should be done, well who would you ring if you saw a 5 meter fountain where a road should be? No not someone useful like the water company silly, this is France, it was the Mayor that was telephoned out of bed so that he could have the honour of letting the water company know there was “a bit of a leak”. Sadly I missed the event myself, but I was entertained to all the details by the twins who live next door to, but fortunately up-hill from, the great event.

With the barbeque weather we are having at the moment, my spice cupboard is running a bit low and as most spices are very expensive in the shops around here (basically because it is only the really adventurous that cook food outside of the standard French repertoire) we are always on the lookout for new places to buy - the UK and The Netherlands are a long way to go just for some coriander! So yesterday morning we headed off for
Chalon-sur-Saône where we had heard there was an Arab market “out near the stadium”. Not really expecting too much, we planned the trip to coincide with lunch time so that we could go to the new Indian restaurant we have found.

The market was amazing. There was hardly a European face to be seen and not much French being spoken. It was like being dropped into a market in Marrakech. Arabic music blasting out of the music stalls and with all number of head scarves and long Arab dresses, I felt decidedly underdressed in my shorts and tee-shirt ! The market was big and diverse, in fact it took us nearly an hour just to walk round all the stalls. I found a fantastic spice stall and stocked up at bargain basement prices, for instance I managed to buy 500g of ginger powder for the same price I had paid in Cluny market for only 50g just a couple of weeks ago - having said that when you add the cost of petrol and the price of a lunch, it wasn’t so cheap after all, but it was a great morning out.

Click here for the website about our gites.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Summer has Officially Arrived

I declare summer open. Our first gite guests arrived yesterday, the streets of Cluny were drenched in sunlight and there were loads of foreign tourists, the brusque man on the vegetable stall in the market gave me a smile (first ever!), we ate our Saturday lunchtime kebab at Le Bosphore on their freshly installed summer terrace, it was 26 degrees in the shade while I was mowing the grass, Fifi did nothing all day except move from one shady sleeping place to another and we had our first barbecue of 2011 last night.

It was lovely to sit in the garden, nice and warm and not wrapped up in our winter woollies, sipping wine whilst eating chicken saté fresh from the barbecue, accompanied by crocking frogs and chirping birds. Paradise in the sun!

La Tuilerie Website

Friday, 1 April 2011

Frère Roger’s Murderess is Murdered?

On 16th August 2005 Frère Roger, the founder of the Taizé community, was stabbed to death in the Church of Reconciliation by a mentally unstable Romanian woman, during evening prayer. Such a violent death for such a gentle, peaceful man was, and still is, shocking and the news sent ripples across the Christian world.

When I saw the news today I was shocked to learn that Luminiţa Solcan, the lady in question, hangs between life and death having been stabbed by her roommate in the mental hospital ( in Dijon) that she has been confined to since that fateful day.

Some would say that Ms Solcan deserves what she has received, comments on newspaper sites that have run the story go along the lines that she deserved it, that you reap what you sow. But whilst those people are saying “an eye for an eye” I would agree more with Mahatma Gandhi when he said "An-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye ... ends in making everybody blind". She should be brought to justice, she should be made to accept what she has done no matter her mental state and that she should apologise and ask for forgiveness, she shouldn’t be stabbed to death.

What will be in the minds of the brothers of Taizé as they hear this news, will she be in their prayers at the moment? Will they be able to repeat the prayer spoken by Brother Alois at Frère Roger’s funeral: “God of goodness, we confide to your forgiveness Luminiţa Solcan, who in an act of illness put an end to the life of our Brother Roger. With Christ on the cross we say: Father, forgive her, she does not know what she has done.” I hope so.

The photo is from the Taizé website. Copyright © Ateliers et Presses de Taizé, 71250 Taizé, France.

La Tuilerie Website
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