Saturday, 26 November 2011

Farewell to a Daughter of Cluny.

Today Cluny, along with hundreds of representatives from around the Socialist world, paid tribute to one of her greatest daughters. Danielle Mitterrand was laid to rest in Cluny cemetery this afternoon. Danielle spent her formative years in Cluny where she actively fought in the Résistance, alongside her parents and it was at her parental home that she met the young François Mitterrand, marrying him a couple of years later.

When we heard that the funeral was going to be in Cluny and that it was amazingly open to the public, we just had to go. Large chunks of town were blocked off to traffic from 6 o’clock last night and so we parked at the Intermarché at the top of town and walked down into the town centre past Mrs Mitterrand’s family home.

The funeral itself was held in the open air in the grounds of the ENSAM with the students forming a guard of honour along the long path from the entry to the back of the cloister. I was surprised at how few politicians came to pay their respects, I had expected Sarko or at the very least his wife to turn up, but Mitterrand was the wrong colour politics I suppose. There was talk that several ex-First Ladies would be there, but sadly not one was to be seen. Martine Aubry and François Holland turned up which was to expected and we managed to get a couple of snaps of them, not the best photos in the world, but when Hollande gets elected president next year I can at least say I have seen him in the flesh.

The service concentrated on Mrs Mitterrand’s achievements with France Libertés an organisation she set up 25 years ago. Her support the Kurds seems to have been her biggest achievements which explained the very large Kurdish presence and the singing of a beautiful Kurdish song written especially for the occasion.

After the coffin was carried back down the long path to the gates of the ENSAM, the hearse took over and made its way up the hill to the cemetery with everyone following on foot. At the cemetery only the invited were allowed in for the short service. Halfway up the hill I stopped and took a photo forwards and backwards of the crowds, I am sure the news will tell us how many walked behind the coffin, I have no idea how many were there, but it was a sea of people as far as the eye could see.

A great send-off for a great lady.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

New Red Chairs

We are big fans of Cluny Cinema, they show some really good films. They tend to show the sort of films you can’t see in run of the mill cinemas, films in original language with French sub-titles, which we find much more preferable to films dubbed into French and some old films that no one shows any more.

This summer the cinema came up for a face-lift and lovely new red chairs were installed, so this week when we went to see the 1950s film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, we took along a camera to make some photos and aren’t they really special and worthy of a blog? We arrived especially early to take this photo (5 mins before the film started), so you can see just how popular the film was. Eventually the audience totalled 8 paying viewers and 3 staff, which was a pity as it was rather good !

All regular Cluny cinema goers will know that there was a difference in the chairs in the two sections. The bottom section chairs used to be bigger and a lot more comfortable than the top section chairs. On one occasion when we actually went to a sell-out film (Le Grand Meaulnes) we had to sit in the top section and I can tell you the chairs were horrible. Ever since then we have arrived well in time, just in case. Having said that, our taste in films doesn’t seem to coincide with the rest of the population around here and it has never been necessary since. But following the renovations you don’t have to worry about the top section chairs any more because they are the same as the bottom section, lovely and big, seemingly comfortable and of course red !

We were rather surprised to see the top section cordoned off since the new chairs had been installed, but in never crossed our minds to even question why. But then we received email from Cluny cinema a couple of weeks ago explaining that there was a little (or big?) problem with these chairs and that they would be replaced soon.

So on our visit this week I decided to try and sit on one of the top chairs, to check them out before they disappeared. The seat was lovely and soft and big enough for my bottom, but I agree, the lack of leg room was a little disconcerting. Let’s hope they manage to find a happy medium with the next lot !

La Tuilerie Website

Monday, 14 November 2011

How to Make Your Own Booze

No this is not a DIY blog about building your own still and making puchine at home, I can get my friend Richard to tell you to do that if you like, he had a cracking business going when we were at university, but I digress. No, this blog is about how to make your own booze legally.

First, get your fruit and put it in a plastic barrel and seal it allowing the fruit to ferment for several weeks or months. About this time of year your fruit should be well fermented and ready to turn it into alcohol. But doing that yourself is of course illegal so what do you do, well you call your local travelling still owner of course (have you no imagination?) He will tell you where and when he will be in a village near you and you turn up with your fruit and hey presto you leave with a few gallons of eau de vie.

This tradition stems from the fact that viticulturists have to pay their taxes in alcohol, yes alcohol. They used to have to go down to the local tax office with several gallons of booze and their taxes were paid. Now it is a little simpler, they just give the nearest distillery the required number of tonnes of grapes and he sorts things out with the tax office. But of course this is France and so the travelling distillery still comes to town tax man or no tax man. Up until 1960 everyone who owned a vineyard could get the distiller to make up to 1000 degrees of alcohol free of any excise duty, nowadays there are few people left with this privilege, but the distiller still comes and will distil your fruit and you just have to pay him for the effort and pay the tax on the booze he produces.

This is something we have been trying to see for a long time and finally this year we got wind that our local travelling distiller was in a village near us and so off we went. You could smell the fermenting fruit and eau de vie from more than 100 meters away, so we knew were in the right place even before we saw rather inauspicious the sign. Not quite as glamorous as I had imagined, a ramshackle concoction of vessels and pipework cobbled together on the back of a trailer, parked in a muddy farmyard surrounded by old codgers testing the produce, but it was enormous fun to watch.

At the end of each session in a village, the distiller uses his still to boil up vegetables (cabbage, whole potatoes in their skins, carrots, turnips you name it) along with huge chunks of bacon and various other pig parts to make what is called an “Assiette Alambic” this meal is then enjoyed by the villagers on the last evening of the still’s presence in their village. We ate Bray’s version at Le Grange Finot the other day for lunch with enough meat (on my plate alone) to feed an army, along with soup to start, cheese or dessert, ¼ litre wine and coffee all for the princely sum of 12.50 Euros, now that’s what I call a meal Burgundy style.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Saint Martin – Who was he?

The annual Saint Martin fayre took place today in Cluny. The whole town and half the population of Burgundy seems to turn out for this event judging by the crowds. Of course any Saturday in Cluny starts with the game of finding a parking space and as you can imagine it was even more of a nightmare than usual this morning, to add to the chaos the ENSAM had decided to have an open day as well, so it was difficult to find a square inch free let alone room for our car. But being the good girl I have become (since the parking ticket incident this summer) we decided to pay for a parking space. After waiting a while for a paid space to come free we parked and then went to pay. I put my 20 cent coin in the machine and the machine ate it and refused to give me a ticket. Being an engineer and being very au-fait with this type of delicate electronic equipment, I thumped the side of the machine and it gave me a 10 cent coin in return….. Back to the car and we put our pre-printed “the ticket machine is not working” sticker in the window of the car and went to join the fun anyway.

At the top of town there is an old animal market place which is used once in the year to display and trade in horses and some cattle. There were some beautiful carthorses on display when we got there and we enjoyed ourselves wandering around looking at the animals and sampling the local farmers’ produce on display everywhere. The whole main street is turned into one huge market, that combined with the weekly market in the market square and a “vide grenier” (car boot sale) at the other end of town, meant that Cluny was heaving with people.

Anyway, it got me to wondering who Saint Martin was. These things are usually not too difficult to find out, but it does appear that Martin is quite a popular name amongst the saintly community particularly in the month of November. I ruled out all non-November Saint Martins and I was left with, saint Martins for 3rd, 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 18th and 27th November. The most popular of these (ie the ones with Wikipedia articles) were for:

Saint St Martin de Porres 3rd November, patron saint of barbers, mixed-race people and all those seeking interracial harmony (pictured on the left) and

St Martin of Tours 11th patron saint of soldiers (pictured on the right).

So you pays your money and you takes your choice, I haven’t a clue who’s day we were celebrating !
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