Saturday, 15 February 2014

Village Politics

For or against mulled wine?
Don’t worry, I am not going to bore you with local gossip about who has fallen out with whom. I am not going to go into why we no longer have a village gallette des rois at Epiphany - suffice to say not everyone agrees you can drink mulled wine it and it certainly can’t be eaten in the open air.... I am not even going to go into why we no longer have a proper village party at the end of the summer.... No I am talking about REAL politics. The type you go to a polling station for to put your cross on a ballot paper. Election fever is gripping our small community, even uniting the mulled wine and anti-mulled wine factions and creating two new groups, the “for” and the “against” our current mayor. In March (the 23rd to be precise) we will be going to the polls to elect a new town council.

Who's on the ballot paper?
Elections in France work differently to any system I have seen before. As a commune of over 500 people (only just mind you) we have to have 15 town councillors. But you can’t just get your name on the ballot paper by registering and letting the masses say if they want you as an individual or not – definitely not - you have to be part of a “list”. So the current mayor has set up his list of 15 people and on polling day, we will be asked if we accept the list or not. That means that if someone wants to stand against him, they have to come up with a different list of 15 people who want to run the council. In a community the size of ours, trying to find 30 people who want to run for council is a tall order, in fact finding 15 is difficult enough, after all this is a thankless task and only the ultimately elected mayor and his/her deputy will get a small monthly payment - the rest do it for free.

So you can imagine that election day tends to be a bit boring, you go to the polls and you generally vote for the only group available. There is however, another little French twist to add a bit of spice to the occasion. Even if there is just one list, you can always scrub off the names you don’t like and replace them with someone you would prefer and if enough people do that, coming up with the same set of scrubbees and additions, the finally elected 15 could in theory be changed.

Well this year big moves are afoot. It looks like there may be a second list. Furtive meetings are being held in front rooms all around the commune, telephones are buzzing, swapping names of those in the pro- and anti-mayor camps and it looks like we may actually have a real election. The mayor’s list has been published and I don’t know when the others have to go public with their list, but they are running close to the wire I think, so we are all on tenterhooks.

Our future council members?

I hope we do have a real election, it will silence the whingers and moaners from both camps and give us a council that is seen to have the majority vote, so that they can get on and do their work rather than fighting off criticism. So good luck to all the candidates and may the best man (or woman) win. You never know, next year we may even have mulled wine.

For information on holiday accommodation near this hotbed of politics click here.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Burgundian Wave

After last week’s blog, I have had a number of questions about the caption to the photo of Cees. What is the Burgundian wave and why did you take a photo of Cees not quite doing it?

Well the Burgundian wave (Ban bourguignon in French) is done as a sign of appreciation during most, if not all, events round here. For example “let’s do a Burgundian wave for the organisers” - everyone stands up and we do it. “Let’s do a Burgundian wave for the caterers” - so we all stand up and do it again. “Let’s do the Burgundian wave for… well who the heck cares let’s do it anyway” - so we all stand up and do it yet again. It is probably one of the silliest things I have been talked into joining in with in my life, but it is great fun.

So what is it? First a bit of history. Legend has it that it originated in a café called Le Marais in Dijon in about 1900 and whilst it fell out of fashion during the war, it re-emerged with greater strength all around the region in about 1945. It is described as a song/action which consists of 5 notes, 2 onomatopoeias and 9 hand claps. It involves raising your hands to either side of your head and wiggling them back and forth whilst singing the song to a cute little tune, then you have to clap nine time in groups of three claps, wave again, clap again and at the end of our the local version, you raise your right hand and shout “hoy”.

I managed to find a website which actually gives the lyrics, so you can study these and learn them to join in with the video.

La la la la lalalalalère
Lalala Lalala lalala lalalala
La la la la lalalalalère
Lalala Lalala lalala

So altogether now….. just click and join in the fun…

Back to Cees’ photo last week. Cees is not a great one for things like this and so he manages to get away with not joining in most times, but last Sunday he did. I just missed him wiggling his hands, he’d already moved on to the clap, but it was an event worth recording for posterity. I hope you agree.

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Sunny Day at Last.

St Vincent parade in Malay
Sunday lived up to its name this week and actually brought us some sun, which made the St Vincent parade all the more pleasurable. It wasn’t too cold to go and watch and was as colourful as ever. The whole of the village of Malay was cut off for the parade, so we ended up parking on the main road and walking the last kilometre or so to the main square. Malay has only 220 inhabitants, so the parade was small, but very vocal as they all sang “Proud to be a Burgundian” as they walked from the town hall to the church.

We headed home to change for lunch, forfeiting our chance to go to mass - the hunters’ horns blasting during the service don’t do your eardrums any good!

Looks like shadow to me..
When we got home I realised that whilst it was lovely to see the sun after months of grey cloud and rain, it was in fact 2nd February – Groundhog day. Groundhogs aren’t native to this part of the world and so we have always relied on our trusty cat to tell us the weather for the coming months. And oh dear, it looks like there’s a shadow on this photo, let’s hope Fifi didn’t notice it.

Off we went to lunch - programmed to start at 13.15. The lunch is always late, but if we had known we’d start at 15.00, I think we might have had a snack before we left. It was well worth the wait though.

Pâté en croûte volaille, foie gras – divine
Cassolette d’escargots aux champignons des bois – I’m told was superb, I have never plucked up the courage to try snails, I’m not sure if I might be allergic or not, so I just watched as mouths around me drooled.
Trou Bourgignon – blackcurrant sorbet with the local fire water poured over it – burns a nice hole in all the food that’s already gone down, making way for the main course.
Filet of goose, with Maxime potatoes and Provencal tomatoes – my first taste of goose and I was not disappointed, lots of complaints from my neighbour about the colour (it shouldn’t have been so dark apparently) but no complaints on the taste and definitely no complaints from me.
Plate of cheeses - brie, goats’ cheese and St Agur – truly yummy
Tiny desserts – chocolate mousse on a feather light sponge base, a mini mille feuilles and a little cherry tart – what can I say?

Cees almost caught doing the Burgundian wave
Now it wouldn’t be a celebration of the patron saint of viticulturists if there wasn’t a stunning array of wine. Sadly just tasters for me as I was driving. Yet again, we started with OK wine and moved up to superb, not a concept we understand. By the second glass I am not sure many people can tell the difference. I was one of the few I think who really appreciated the Domaine de l'Echauguette with the cheese, I wish I could have had some more of that one. Crément and coffee finished it all off.

We were invited to the home of some friends for pancakes, as the 2nd February is also Candlemas - pancake day in France. How anybody could have squeezed another crumb into their mouths after that lunch I do not know, so we politely declined the offer and waddled to our car just as the dancing started at about 19.00.

Another successful Burgundian lunch, I’m looking forward to next year already.

For information on gites to rent not far from Malay in Burgundy click here.
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