Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Secrets of the Taizé Pottery

Taizé pottery
I love Taizé pottery, the simplicity of the designs and the beautiful colours of their glazes. I have one of their oil lamps and I drink my wine out of a pottery beaker I was given, which is in my favourite of their glazes “Bleu”.

Last weekend, Taizé held an open weekend to show their workshops to the public. We were there straight after the Sunday morning service, champing at the bit to see all the inner workings of the brothers’ studios.

How to make a bowl, Taizé style
So how do you make pottery? Well you get hold of some clay and you model it, you dry it to make “biscuit”, then you glaze it, then you fire it and you have a plate a bowl or a cup depending what you wanted to make in the first place. Simple right? Well I was really surprised at the lengths they go to, to make their pottery. They don’t start with a lump of clay at all, they start with earth, they mix it with various other types of earth and water to make the clay.

Dip the bowl in a glaze
Depending on what they are making, they then chomp it up into bits and using various machines (the one in the photo is one of the more manual ones, they did have slightly more automated ones) they turn out plates, bowls saucers, cups, beakers, depending on the day’s production order.

These are dried then dipped in the day’s glaze and the fired in one of the two kilns.

The glazes are mixed by hand in small quantities made from various ashes, iron oxide, cobalt oxide but one of the prettiest is Omnia, which is made up of leftovers!

Half a jug - cut open so we could see how it worked
The real surprise for me was the jugs and other small delicate items. How do you make a jug? I assumed it would be thrown on a wheel and made that way, but no, the jugs are moulded. Very running clay (ie liquid) is poured into a mould until it is full, left to stand for 20 minutes and the runny stuff is poured back into the liquid clay vat. The mould is made of plaster and so absorbs water fast, so there is a layer of clay that is “stuck” to the mould. Once that dries, a perfect jug emerges. Now isn’t that clever!

Next time I’m in the shops, I will certainly look at their offerings with different eyes.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

How do you prove who you are, when you are not who they think you are?

Just call me Rose
When we registered to vote in French local elections about 10 years ago, I didn’t put in too much thought about the consequences of my actions. The French (and the Dutch for that matter) have an obsession with only using maiden names for women. They do not realise that a woman in England can legally and forever change her name and that, that maiden name no longer exists, has no legal value and is non-traceable.

When I was young and first registering in The Netherlands I entered into endless arguments with officials about my name and at the end of the day, they did understand, not everyone addressed me by the name Nixon, but enough to keep me happy and all important official paperwork was in that name. When I arrived in France I was a lot older and more chilled out and took the approach, I couldn’t care less what you call me, I’ll answer to it anyway. It did not occur to me that I might have actually created a rod for my own back by not being argumentative.

For the first time, voters in small communes (less than 1000 people) were having to show identification when they went to place their votes. After waiting with excitement for polling day to arrive, it dawned on me yesterday, how do you show identification for a name that is not legally yours? So this morning when preparing for our election visit, out came the Big Folder, the one with all our paperwork, births, deaths, marriages and my cycling proficiency certificates and I proceeded to construct a legal paper trail to show that I was in fact not who they thought I was, but I am in fact, me.

Wrong Nixon
Armed with all this stuff and two passports with the name Nixon in them, off I went to vote. Our non-French national voting cards caused a bit of confusion, but they were stamped by the Mayor himself, so they were accepted and then on to attempt the vote itself. I popped into the voting booth and put the list I wanted to win in my blue envelop and then went to be crossed off the list to enable me to put my envelope into the ballot box.

Deep breath. Kiss, kiss from the Mayor who then went to the foreigners’ list. I took out my passport and started with “It’s a bit complicated”, to be met with “Oh don’t bother with that, I know who you are. Is that you?” pointing to a name he had never heard me use before. I agreed it was me and signed with the name Nixon and the deed was done. Oh how I love our little town.

On leaving the town hall we went to buy this morning’s paper and in it we found, that at the last minute the requirement for identification had been scrapped for small communes, because in small rural towns many old people don’t have any identification papers anyway. So despite all my worries, I was off the hook this time.

The next election will probably be next week, when we get to have the final fight for power in our little part of the world. But I think I am going to have to have that difficult discussion with the Town Hall one day soon and get my name changed to Nixon. I don’t want any more sleepless nights like last night!

Sunday, 9 March 2014


Lovely bunch of daffodils, BTW he didn't pick
them, he only posed for me!
It’s that time of year again when wild daffodils spring up in the forests and people turn out in their hundreds to pick them. I can’t bring myself to do it, it is so against everything I was brought up to do, to respect nature and not to pick wild flowers, it is even illegal in England, so quite why it can be done here, I don’t know. But it is done and people in their hundreds come to pick flowers in their thousands and the social clubs for miles around vie for a good place near a parking area on the edge of a forest to sell drinks and food to the punters.

Keep those waffles coming ladies
Friends of ours were manning just such a stall today, so off we went to watch the event from close up.

After eating a gauffre (French waffle) and drinking a glass of wine, we went on our way and being such a lovely day we decided to go for a drive.

At the Tourist Office annual general meeting a week or so ago, we heard what had been done this year with the tourist tax which we collect every year from people who stay in the gîtes or on the campsite. The Merovingien cemetery at Curtil-sous-Burnand, one of this year’s beneficiaries, was not far from where we were looking at the daffodils, so our little expedition was to see how some of that tax money had been spent.

Curtil-sous-Burnand Merovingian graves
The signage at the Merovingien cemetery has been updated and I was very impressed with what they have done. The new signs clearly show how the cemetery is laid out in relation to the hill you are on and the road you have driven on to get there and there is also some very interesting information about that time period and what the archaeologists found when they dug up the site. So well done to all of you who have contributed with this tax and well done to our local group of town councils for upgrading this site.

For information on holiday accommodation near Curtil-sous-Burnand click here.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Getting old ? Me ?

A third of our delivery, being supervised by Fifi
I still have a good head of dark hair, I have kept my youthful good looks (not too many wrinkles) and when I do a Facebook test it says I am only 19 years old, so it has come as a bit of a shock to me to realise that I am not as young as I once was. So what has happened? I hear you say. Well this last week has happened actually and two events that have dented my faith in my everlasting youth.

Firstly the annual load of wood arrived. It took us seven hours to shift all the logs into their stack and I have an aching back, shoulders, hands, knees etc etc etc to prove it. About halfway through Cees decided we should get gas central heating, but we both agreed it wouldn’t be so much fun!

My first selfy
So there we were, wheel barrow in hand shifting the best part of ten tonnes of logs that will take us through another year. As the picture shows, not all the residents of La Tuilerie were helping, one of them decided that as she is not allowed into the house to enjoy the log fire, she would just loll around and supervise, even that got too exhausting after a while.

In focus this time - mastering new technology!
The second event was a new telephone. I have been dreading the day that I would be dragged into the 21st century and get a phone that does more than just make calls, this one takes photos too, sends smses and connects to the internet. Wow.... I used to love gadgets, but I am beginning to dread them. It took me the best part of a day to get to be able to telephone my Dutch mobile (the sole reason for getting this contraption) and the only SMS I could send was HI as it has pre-programmed things that I can’t fathom. I took my first selfy and isn’t it very, ummm, out of focus, I even had to put my glasses on to find the photo button. And as for internet access, I have given up.

So all in all a week to realise that I am getting older than I was, I can’t shift wood all day without consequences and as for mobile phones let’s not go there………

For information about holiday accommodation near a big wood pile click here.
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