Saturday, 16 August 2014

Stolen goods or just recycled?

Please put your reclable stuff in the crates provided!
We are fanatical recyclers. It helps if you have to pay for all the rubbish that is not recycled of course, but I have always been a recycler. Ask the poor people I have shared houses with in the past, about the stacks of old newspapers and boxes full of bottles and cans if you don’t believe me. I even used to recycle the aluminium cans from work many years ago, you could get 1p a can from the scrap man. It was a pity I didn’t realise that half of the cans sold in those days were steel, which meant I had to spend a whole afternoon checking which ones stuck to the fridge doorpost (did you know there is a magnet in the fridge doorpost?) to split the recyclable aluminium from the non-recyclable (in those days) steel cans.

So it is no surprise that we provide the people who stay in our gîtes and on the campsite with recycling boxes. Most (but not all) people use them and we then make sure that the waste is sorted and gets to the right place. Often there are interesting magazines or useful jam pots put into these boxes and then I truly re-cycle them by using again.

But just the other day we found something which might have been stolen. So what do you do? Do you go to the police? Do you contact the owner and return the goods (we knew where it had come from), do you turn a blind eye because this is after all a rubbish bin and are we our campers’ keepers? Or lastly do you assume that the person who put the item in the bin had in fact bought it and after use, decided to throw it away?

Hanging out to dry

I’ll clarify things a little. The afore-mentioned item was in fact soaking wet, it had either been left out in the rain or dropped in a puddle, but even so it was worth saving. Cees brought it indoors and asked if I wanted it.

Having never owned one of these things, the answer was yes of course, so he carefully removed the centre staples and I peeled it apart sheet by sheet and set it out to dry. After a few hours on my wash rack all was dry and reconstructed and now I am the owner of a Taizé song book.

There still rests the tricky question of whether I will be arrested for handling stolen goods or not... so please don’t tell anyone.

For information on holiday accommodation near the shop in Taizé where you can buy a Taizé song book click here.

Sunday, 10 August 2014


A "real" key
I love keys, I always have. Even before I was old enough to have a my own key to the front door, I had a collection of keys. Over the years I have owned many keys, some opened locks that I also owned, but some were just keys, another little piece of engineering to add to the long chain that my collection had become. For whatever reason, that huge collection has gone missing. Maybe one day I will find it at the bottom of a long unopened box and I will be able to finger those lovely keys again, remembering some of the locks they belonged to or some of the people who gave them to me.

Even though that collection is no longer around. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love keys and every time I have the pleasure of having a new one in my hand, I still wonder at what might have happened to it during it’s long or short life. Modern keys are real masters of security engineering, but to be honest, give me a big, old-fashioned key any day.

Funnily enough, I’ve never been interested in locks. As an engineer maybe I should have been more interested in how a keys turns the relevant part of a lock to magically open the door, but it has always been the keys for me. Just like the story of the Secret Garden really starts when Mary Lennox finds the lost key which opens up her life and shows her new horizons, I am more interested in the thought of what that key will reveal, than the lock itself.

A "normal" bunch of church keys
Round here locks still have “real” keys, great big chunky metal things that have lived a long life and been well used, particularly church keys which we have had a lot to do with in recent weeks. We are currently trying to see inside all of the locked Romanesque churches we have come across. A visit to a church therefore now starts with a visit to the Mairie to ask if they know where to get hold of the key. That in itself can be a journey of discovery.

Sometimes we are set away, sometimes we are told who has the key, sometimes we are given a telephone number to make an appointment and sometimes we are actually given the key. Mostly we are looked at as though we are bonkers and sometimes the look suggests that we should be certified. The other day was such a moment. The look was between, “don’t mess up my day” and “I’m going to phone the men in white coats”. But the lady concerned did eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, telephone a mystery person to try and ascertain where the key might be. The hushed conversation ended with, “so I just give them our key then?” Obviously the response was in the affirmative and the already irritated secretary went off to search for the required church key.

Which one opens the door?
Normally when we receive a church key, it is one large church key and one or samller keys, but this day’s haul was impressive. The receptionist returned with a fist-full of keys, dumped them on the counter and said “it should be one of them”. So off we went with the bundle to try and get into the church. We were lucky and we got in at the 4th attempt, but we might have been there all afternoon! Was the church worth the visit? To be honest I can’t remember, that church will always be remembered just as the one with the huge bunch of keys.

For information on holiday accommodation near some beautiful Romanesque churches of which some are locked with beautiful keys click here.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A visit to the Post Office

Anyone who ever went to the Post Office in Cormatin when it was a “real” Post Office will shudder at the thought of ever going there again, but nowadays Frédérique runs the show and she is wonderful. She smiles, she is helpful, she is efficient and to be honest she is more than any citizen of Cormatin could have ever dreamed of when that dreadful Post Office lady tyrannized our village.

All that said, we went to the Post Office the other day to buy some stamps, straightforward enough, but not so this time. Frédérique, taking serious advantage of her niceness, wouldn't let us leave until we had bought some tickets for the raffle to help fund the school kids’ day out (or something like that, I didn’t really pay attention) and the prize was... I can’t remember, it seemed like a good cause and well it was for the kids, so we coughed up. Two tickets please.

A few weeks later and I was in the garden on a Friday morning, desperately trying to get the overgrown grass out of the area that had been flooded, hot sweaty and not in a good mood when Cees rushed out shouting “We’ve won!” I assumed he had just received one of those endless emails we get from Nigeria or Ivory Coast, but no, we had won the school kids’ day out raffle. Wow! I never win anything. What have we won? He didn’t know, but we had to collect it the next day at the Post Office. Rather naively I assumed maybe that the local paper were coming to see us presented with our prize, which was why our collection day had to be agreed in advance. Maybe it was a dozen bottles of crément or a holiday in Greece! So off we went Saturday morning, dressed in our best bib and tucker.

The prize
We had either missed the crowds or we were too early, because when we arrived we were the only people in the Post Office. Frédérique came out from behind the security screen to present us with our winnings. Kiss, kiss, congratulations and she handed over the booty. No photo for the paper, no presentation from the mayor, no crowds of well-wishers, just us.

So it was not quite as exciting as we had imagined, but even so, we received two very nice bottles of nectar from Parfums du Terroire in Taizé (cassis and recurrent), a bag of fruit jellies also from Parfums du Terroire, a goats’ cheese (we assume from Bernadette in La Bergerie) and a sweet little candle made by the kids themselves. Not a bad haul for a book of stamps.

It seems that the proceeds have more than met the target and it looks like the kids will enjoy their day out - we certainly enjoyed eating our winnings.

For information on holiday accommodation near some delicious goats’ cheese farms and fruit juice makers click here.
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