Saturday, 25 February 2012

Film and TV Awards

With the Césars yesterday and the Oscars tomorrow, film and TV awards are very much in the news, as are we I might add. We are getting very used to being followed by TV cameras after my recent blog and so it was no surprise, when I was collecting tickets at Mâcon station, that the TV cameras were there to register the moment. After I had discovered that I had brought the wrong reference number and retreated in embarrassment from the ticket office, the cameras decided to move on to the platform and film people getting off the train.

As I was being filmed on the platform, watching people getting off a train, a rather handsome, slightly tanned gentleman said “Bonjour” to me and I replied with “Bonjour”. All of this was caught on film, for posterity.

Last night we watched the news and there we were again, not quite shown on the TV. However, Monsieur Jean-Pierre Bel (the chap who was filmed with me on the platform and who just happens to be the president of the Senate) was shown drinking wine in a local wine cooperative, walking round Cluny and then laying a wreath on Madame Mitterrand’s grave. The cameraman must have followed the wrong car because he missed us having lunch in the Chinese in Mâcon and our meeting of the Guitares en Cormatinois last night.

Sadly Monsieur Bel’s real 5 minutes of fame - talking to me on the platform of Mâcon Loché TGV station - was left on the cutting-room floor.

I am putting myself forward for the next film and TV awards, as the most almost on TV person of 2012.

La Tuilerie Website

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Friday Night Reflections in Taizé

With the French half term holidays upon us, Taizé has sprung into life again. The last time so many people have been on the hill, was the half-term holiday in November. In these two half-terms they have special short weeks for the younger school children attending, to give them their first taste of what Taizé has to offer.

It has taken me back in my thoughts, to the very first service I attended at Taizé, way back in 2006. One of the campers wanted to go to a service, but didn’t dare go alone (her husband wasn’t interested) and I also wanted to go, just to see what it was, but also didn’t dare. So the two of us went one Friday evening. I had no idea what was going to happen and of course I didn’t know at the time the significance of this service, it was all so new and strange.

So what is Friday evening about? The service is a normal Taizé evening service, with a little extra at the end. After the service is over, the iconic cross is laid flat on the floor in the brothers’ “garden”, the brothers gather around the cross to pray, then exit as usual. At that moment, gaps are made in the hedge surrounding this area and anyone who wants to, can go up and pray at the cross, next to the cross or laying their head on the cross. For my first Taizé service, I had dressed in a smart skirt, well I was going to church wasn’t I? I hadn’t realised that church wear in Taizé is rather casual and I regretted my decision when this point of the service arrived. Basically you queue up on your knees and effectively crawl towards the cross. I must say it was rather painful on the rough carpet, so for anyone planning to do it, my advice is to wear trousers.

But where does this idea come from? Apparently on Good Friday in Russia, it is a common practice to hold a prayer vigil in front of a cross. At Taizé when there were Russian youngsters present, the brothers noticed that on every Friday night these Russians would gather and pray around the iconic cross. On questioning them, the young people invited the brothers to join them, saying that they were praying for their friends in prison. The practice of praying around the cross was officially adopted into the end of the Friday night service in the mid to late 70s. The cross was originally vertical and people used to walk to the cross. The young people started crawling to the cross in the early 90s, why I am not sure and why the cross is now horizontal is also a mystery, but it certainly makes the whole thing a unique experience.

So with the introduction of Prayers Around the Cross, a Good Friday had been introduced into every week. What was more logical then, than to introduce an Easter into every week? Hence the birth of the Saturday night candle service. Both of these services are special in their own way and I can well imagine that they give a very special and reflective ending to a week in Taizé.

La Tuilerie Website

Thursday, 16 February 2012

We were on TV….

…and it is all to do with the snow.

OK I’ll explain. As I have written numerous boring times, we are creatures of habit. We do our shopping on a Tuesday. We go to Cluny late Tuesday morning, we do our shopping in the supermarket and then we do various other tasks (Post Office, bank etc) in Cluny high street and then we have lunch at the Petite Auberge. Well this week, with the onset of the thaw, it started to snow and it snowed a lot on Tuesday, no trip to Cluny - we are not braving our track and the road into and out of Chazelle in the snow - so we had to go shopping on Wednesday instead - the plot thickens.

On Wednesday the Petite Auberge is closed, we could have chosen the Bosfore kebab shop but we didn’t, we went to Café du Centre (Chez Sisi) instead - don’t worry I will get to the point in a minute. We sat down, ordered our lunch and one of the owners came in with two men and they started talking - I know it is getting a bit too exciting isn’t it? Then a woman came in with a camera, a big TV camera with France 3 written on the side and she started filming. So there I was eating my quiche Lorraine and chips and being filmed !

Last night we watched the local news and yes there we were, well there you could imagine we were, after all that filming and interviewing, there was a 2 second clip of the outside of the Café du Centre and we were inside at the time.

Now, isn’t that a brilliant claim to fame?

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Freezing Churches and Big Lunches

After Fifi’s proclamation last week that spring is nigh, the temperatures have plummeted and we are freezing cold here. Night time lows of –14 and daytime highs of –5.

Last weekend was the local celebration of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers. The parade was due to kick off at 10.00, but by 09.30 our thermometer was still at –14 and even though the wind had calmed down from the day before, it was not a temperature we wanted to be out in for too long. We decided to wait a while. At 10.15 we thought we would set off for the church, where the parade was due to end and a mass was to be held, rather than following the whole procession. I went prepared - two tee-shirts, one fleece, pyjama trousers under my normal trousers, two pairs of socks and a ski jacket. After 10 minutes outside the church, I wimped out and went in, ostensibly to save us a pew (very thoughtful of me) but Cees, being made of sterner stuff, waited outside the church to take photos as the whole concoction arrived.

The service was as strange as I remember last year’s, not like a CofE service where you are given full instructions about what is supposed to be going on. Round here you are just given a few hints on a piece of paper, as to what might possibly happen, no prayer book, no hymnal and I have now decided (after being to a few masses) that basically you have to be psychic to fill in the gaps. It was not helped by the fact that the priest didn’t bother to follow the order of service we had been given anyway. The singing bits were very short, fortunately, as they were all in a very uncomfortable key for me and to be honest they lacked a followable tune. Give me a gusty version of anything in the English Hymnal or a simple gentle Taizé song any day. The “pièce de résistance” in the service, is the opening and closing where the hunting horns play a loud, long and very rousing tune, to welcome us into and guide us out of, the church. Knowing that this would happen, I positioned us well away from them so that we could enjoy them this year, without damaging our hearing !

After the church had truly frozen our bones, we skipped the glass of wine in the village hall and went home to warm up and change out of our excessive amount of clothing, ready for lunch. We arrived on time for lunch. I know, I can’t help it, I am incurably “on time” and I really can’t cope with arriving late, even after all these years here. Lunch was due to be served at 13.30 and so we arrived at 13.00 to make sure we would get a place next to our friends and as you can guess, there was no one there. There were so few cars in the car park, we genuinely thought we had the wrong venue and started to panic a bit. But no, the hall was decked out for about 200 diners, just no diners in sight yet. By about 14.00 most had arrived and our aperitif was served at 14.30.

I did ask what was in the aperitif verrines (little glass cups), but the waitress didn’t know however, she assured me there was no fish. One had tuna in and the other was crab, fortunately my next-door neighbour has good taste buds and she stopped me eating either of them. The starter was pâté en croute de chevreuil, not bad, a bit too much croute (pastry crust) and not enough pâté de chevreuil (venison pâté) for me, but tasty enough. The next course was a ramekin of frogs legs with mussels in cream. A strange combination to say the least and very tricky to eat, if the messy attempts of my fellow diners was anything to go by. I had a sort of chickeny thing which defies description. After that, the meal really picked up, it was time for the Trou Bourgingnon. This is sorbet ice with the local firewater (Marc) poured over it, to drill a hole (trou) in your stomach to make room for the main course - very nice indeed.

The main course was veal in a Gaston Gérard sauce and potatoes “macaire”, both of which I had never heard of before. It turns out that Gaston Gérard is an ex-mayor of Dijon and like another famous mayor of that town (Kir) he has a recipe named after him. What else would the sauce be but Aligoté (local white wine), mustard and cream and it was truly delicious. The potatoes also turned out to be quite exquisite, but I have failed to find a recipe that vaguely resembles what we were given, which is a great pity. The potatoes we received were like potatoes dauphinoise with pieces of chestnut crumbled between the layers - truly divine. All of this was followed by cheese and then panna cotta as dessert and, as you would expect, every course had it own matching wine.

We finally finished our lunch with coffee at 19.00 and rolled home, not noticing the cold so much any more.

La Tuilerie Website

Friday, 3 February 2012

Spring is on its way

Yesterday was Candlemas, French pancake day or more commonly known in the English speaking world as Groundhog Day. I didn’t realise that Groundhog Day was taken from Germany to the United States and the original tale was that if a hedgehog can see its shadow on February 2nd then there are 6 more weeks of winter to go. According to the English weather lore:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and will not come again

Yesterday was cloudy, so hooray !

It is a bit difficult to believe that spring is on its way when it was –10 degrees last night and it is not predicted to go above zero until mid next week, but you either believe or you don't.

Sadly we are rather lacking in the hedgehog department (they are all still hibernating) and in the groundhog department (we don't have any), so we have to trust our cat and she could definitely not see her shadow on the 2nd so I believe her. Roll on spring !

La Tuilerie Website

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bingo and Bugnes

This weekend was the annual bingo weekend in Cormatin. The Saturday is the day we play all the “external” cards (a BIG thank you to everyone who contributed by buying cards from us) and Sunday is the day of the real bingo, when more than a hundred people, who travel from near and far, come to play for some very nice prizes. It is a big event financially for our little club and one we needed to be a success as our finances are getting quite precarious.

We have had an unusually warm January this year with no snow and precious little frost (only 7 days as opposed to the usual 25), so imagine our thoughts when we awoke on Sunday morning to see it was snowing. Are the weather gods out to destroy our club ? How many people were going to turn up for the bingo if it was snowing ? The prizes cost about 1,700 Euros, the ladies had spent all Saturday afternoon making 1,000 bugnes (small deep fried doughy things, a speciality of Lyon), so you can just imagine how much money we stood to lose. Memories of the October organised walk ran through my mind. Just to remind you of that dreadful event: the day of the walk was the only rainy day in October and instead of 300 people coming as usual, only 23 turned up, which meant we made a huge loss.

Anyway, we took all the prizes over to the bingo hall in the morning as planned and crossed our fingers as the sky went very dark. Fortunately, in the end, the bingo addicts did turn up, not as many as last year, probably only about 90, but we made a healthy profit over the whole weekend.

Interestingly one of the big success stories was the bugnes that we had made. They sold like hot cakes and by the second pause we had run out. All thousand of them went and people kept coming back for more. They actually contributed 50 of the 750 Euros profit we made during the weekend, not bad for a lump of dough !

Michèle our Bugnes Baroness from Lyon has kindly given me the recipe for me to share with you all. Try them covered in lots of icing sugar, the more the better.

For roughly 300 bugnes.
1 kg flour
8 eggs
150g melted butter
120g castor sugar
4 ½ sachets of baking powder (approx 45 grams)
3 sachets of vanilla sugar (20 – 25 grams)
2 pinches of salt
small glass of rum

Mix all ingredients except the milk together, then add milk, whilst kneading, until the whole mix makes a firm, but flexible homogenous ball. Leave the mix overnight at room temperature, in a bowl covered with a tea towel. You will then have a sticky and difficult to handle blobby mix.

Flour a kitchen surface generously and break off about a quarter of the mix and roll it in the flour until you can handle the mix enough to roll it out. Roll it out until it is about 2 – 3 mm thick. Then using a pastry cutter, cut the pastry into diamonds about 8cm long by about 2 cm wide and roll the cutter down the middle of the diamond to cut a hole in the middle.

Deep fry in hot oil until they are golden brown. If they don’t puff up pretty quickly the oil is too cool and if they go brown quickly the oil is too hot.

Let them drain on kitchen paper and serve covered in icing sugar. They can be kept until the next day after frying if required, but if you do that, make sure they are not stacked too densely otherwise they will go a bit soggy.

Now doesn't that punnet look rather yummy? Enjoy !

La Tuilerie Website
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