Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Day Off

Part of our little business is helping holiday home owners and ex-pats with the problems they encounter in France. From finding plumbers and builders, to helping with the endless bureaucracy that seems to be the French way of life. The last few weeks have been very busy. I have been filling in tax forms for clients, helping sort out the remnants of the damage caused by the incredible freeze we had in February, not to mention trying to catch up on gardening work that has been neglected because of the very wet weather since the beginning of April. On top of that, there is the voluntary work with the Tourist Office, Guitar Festival in Cormatin and the Amicale, the club that runs events to fund the annual old-age pensioners’ meal and the kids’ Christmas party. But everything had to be finished before the end of the month, in time to have the day off on Thursday - Cees’ birthday.

When I was growing up, you got to choose what you wanted to do on your birthday. When I was in full-time employment, I always took a day off work on my birthday and did something special. The Dutch, on the other hand, have a party on their birthday and they work their guts out looking after their guests, something I did once and refused to ever do again, bringing comments from all and sundry, I might add. Since we have been in France, Cees has slowly come round to the idea of celebrating birthdays Nixon-style and it was his birthday on 31st of May, so he got to choose what we were going to do.

He got out the Michelin guidebooks and planned our day. He decided to go to Moulins, about 1 ½ hrs from here. From the guide books he found out that there is an interesting monastery, with a lovely cloister, nearby and an old mining village with something special.

We set off early and arrived in Noyant-d’Allier (the old mining village) at about 10 am. All the roads had names like “Allée des Roses” and “Allée des Jasmines” etc, but even these pretty, colourful names couldn’t brighten up the drab terraced houses in the rather overcast light. When I saw the old mine shaft wheel, standing there, unmoving, the image was complete. It took me back quite a few years, to when I lived in a mining community on the Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire border, during the miners’ strike, and I can tell you, that there is nothing more heart-wrenching, than a stationary pit-wheel.

But we weren’t there to see that. So, we turned our backs on this depressing sight without taking a photo (hence the old postcard image) and we searched the map of the town, to find our real destination. We headed down L’Allée des Roses and, just as the sun came out, there it was, squeezed between the old, derelict railway line and the miserable, miners’ cottages. A pagoda, surrounded by a swarm of Buddhas. This golden chap is the biggest, but there were an uncountable number of other little ones. There was a beautiful Guanyin with a real lace shawl around her shoulders and a very large Buddha, lying in the sunlight.

In 1955, when French nationals were evacuated (or expelled) from Vietnam, Noyant-d’Allier was designated as the town to be used to re-house these evacuees. About 1500 people arrived in this old mining town, to start a new life in mainland France. They brought their customs and religion with them and finally, in 1983, they built the pagoda and have been adding statues ever since.

As we walked around the little park, there were crates of elephants and yet more Buddhas, waiting to be unpacked and placed on the plinths that were being cast that morning. Sadly, I must say that the whole is very messy and looks and feels incredibly out of place, more like a car boot sale than a holy place, but I am glad we went to have a look at this rather bizarre site.

After spending some time in the Asian shop in town, looking for some edible goodies, we left for the monastery at Souvingy.

To be continued…..

La Tuilerie Website

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