Saturday, 22 November 2014


Autumn has arrived
Autumn is well and truly upon us, finally all the leaves are falling and we have been bathed in fog for weeks. Today however, the sun has come out at last, to match my mood, you see yesterday I received a phone call I have been waiting for, for months.

Just as a glimmer of hope started to peak through the fog, I received the news that my Christmas present had arrived! Since last Christmas I have been searching for something to spend my Christmas money on and I finally found just what I wanted late in September. I have been searching all year, but the models available were too small or too big or not the right shape or, or, or, the list goes on, but at the end of September a leaflet dropped into our letterbox with just the thing I wanted. We rushed straight round to the shop in question to view what they had, only to find that, even though they were supposed to be on offer that week, there were none in the shop. One could be ordered for me and it would be in next week “normalement”.

Christmas present still wrapped
Anyone who has ever had dealings with the French and their “normalement” will know what that means. Next week came and went as did the following week. I chased them up after a month and they said, “oh do you still want one, we thought as the order had taken so long you might not be interested anymore” . Why not ask in future - I mumbled under my breath as I assured them I was very interested. It will be in next week “normalement”.

Two weeks ago I phoned again and was told that it would be in mid-November. “Normallement?” I asked, yes normalement. I went in to the shop on the 14th and was told that it would arrive mid-November (they know me and my order by now without having to look up the paperwork) I suggested that it was now mid-November what with it being the 14th and all, to which they agreed with a look of surprise, but still no item to be collected. So you can imagine my excitement when I received “The Call”. I was in the car and round to the shop before they could say “normalement”.

We paid at the till with the crisp notes that had been in my Christmas envelop since last year and were told to collect my present at the big gate. Along came a forklift truck with a pallet and more than 100kg of Christmas present. We looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. Firstly, we hadn’t realised it would be that big and secondly, even if this burly chap could get it in the car, how the heck would we get it out at the other end? Never mind, we’re intelligent enough creatures, we will find a way.

Using our combined engineering skill base, we did manage to get it out of the car without either of us slipping a disk and there we had it - 100kg of log splitter, in a box, in our vide.

In action..
Now what? Open the top of the box to read the instructions. The first instruction is how to get it out of the box, which should have been done before putting it upright. How do you find that out, without the instructions which you can’t access until it is upright? We ad-libbed. The assembly went smoothly until I had two pieces left over which did not appear anywhere in the instructions - fortunately their website shed some light those and within a jiffy it was ready to roll.

So now to try it out, I dusted off my steel toe-capped boots and found my face protector and heavy gloves and set to. Dah dah, I managed to split a log and here’s the photo to prove it.

Now I have a couple more logs to sort out….

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Wine tasting in the Beaujolais?

Vineyards in summer
I have been told off by a number of friends for never having been wine tasting in the Beaujolais. We have been into the vineyards a number of times and have seen numerous villages and some lovely sites, but have never tasted a drop in situ.

On 1st November we headed off yet again into the Beaujolais because there was an exhibition of jazz paintings - no I didn’t know what that would mean either. The reason being that Cees is a jazz fan and the icing on the cake was that the exhibition was in an ex-Romanesque church, what better combination could he dream of? For me the bigger reason was that this ex-church had been turned into a wine cellar. Ah ha, at last a drop of Beaujolais!

Door firmly shut
We arrived at the cellar in Julienas after lunch (because everything round here shuts for lunch) only to find the door firmly locked. The poster on the door (that I was too annoyed at to take a photograph of) said clearly that the exhibition started on 1st November and ran every day except Tuesdays until the 30th December. It wasn’t a Tuesday, but it was a bank holiday, which obviously they had forgotten when they made the poster and sent round all their advertising material. It was very clear that they had no intention of opening, much to the disappointment of a number of other people who were standing there shaking all the doors to this ex-church, turned wine cellar and exhibition room. At about an hour’s drive away I was not impressed at this bad organisation and I would have happily given it a miss, but Cees talked me into going on another day, not a Tuesday, not a bank holiday, this Saturday morning.

Non-jazz wall painting
Low and behold (and to my relief and surprise) the door of the ex-church was open and in we went. The huddle of old men around the bar didn’t even grunt a reply to my “Bonjour!” - obviously they don’t use words like that round there. And there they were, the paintings. Let’s put this in perspective, by the time we had driven home, we would have driven a total of four hours to see these things (2 trips of 1 hour back and 1 hour forth) and if I had known beforehand, I wouldn’t have driven into Cormatin for them. We did our bit however and stood and looked at them, but they weren't worth a photo.

Quick exit
The whole ambiance was unwelcoming, despite the cheerful painting on the wall, so we said “au revoir” to the huddle of old men and left. They grunted something back, so they obviously spoke some form of French.

To get a photo of the offending poster for this blog, I have been looking on the internet and can’t find one, but I did find the website for the cellar in question and I found out that you have to pay to have a tasting. Thank goodness I hadn’t asked for one while I was there or I would have been more than a tad upset. Obviously they are not confident enough in their product, to allow you to taste it for free.

So wine tasting in the Beaujolais was not a great success and we won’t be trying it again and we also won’t be trying this year’s over-hyped Beaujolais Nouveau when it comes out on Thursday, although I must give it to them, they certainly know how to maximise their financial return.

Henri Lafarge - he'll make you welcome!
I am so glad that our local wine producers are confident enough in their product to know that it will sell without hype and without charging their customers to taste. We are very lucky to live where we do, very close to some of the best wine producers around, Henri Lafarge, Peter Gierszewski and Christophe Perrin - why not have a tasting when you visit the area, free of charge and you won’t be disappointed. They know that anyone who comes in to taste can not possibly leave without a couple of cases of their nectar, it is far too good.

Saturday, 8 November 2014


Cows everywhere
This Saturday, ie the Saturday nearest to the 11th of November, Cluny becomes one great big party zone. It is the feast of Saint Martin. Quite why there are a lot of cows involved is a mystery to me, but there are.

This year we decided to visit a different cow before heading into Cluny. We have found an electronic cow, or mechanical cow, I am not sure quite how I should describe it, but in any case, it is a brilliant invention.

Electronic cow
A few weeks ago, we spotted a machine outside a supermarket in Prissé (not far from Macon) which dispenses milk. Not just any milk, but local, fresh, non-pasteurised, non-sterilised milk - real milk straight from the cow. Being a huge milk drinker and being very particular about the type of milk he drinks, Cees was very excited and so we decided to take a bottle and try it out. Here is the video to prove it. The sound effects were a delightful bonus…

Just what you need on a cold winter's evening
According to our aficionado, the milk is absolutely delicious, not tampered with, the way mother nature intended us to have it. Me, I am more excited about the price, at 1 Euro a litre it is by far the cheapest milk for miles around. A win/win in our household!

Following all that excitement we headed back to Cluny where the town was one great big chaotic party. All the tourists are gone, the holiday season is over and the party is just for the locals. The weather usually turns on about the 15th of November, so everyone comes out to celebrate what is normally the last weekend before the winter sets in. At least I know now where to get some good milk to make that late night cocoa to keep me warm in the months to come.

For information on holiday accommodation near a real milk machine click here.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

My very own saint.

This is not Saint George despite the dragon
As most people probably know, every saint has his or her own domain and responsibilities. For instance good old George looks after us English as well as those from Barcelona, not to mention 20 other countries, 22 other cities, as well as of the Scouting Movement and a wide range of professions, organizations, and disease sufferers including leprosy, plague, herpes and syphilis.

But apart from being English, I don’t feel a particular link to him. In fact when I started visiting local churches, it surprised me to find out that the chap I had been identifying as St George all this time, was in fact Saint Michael.

Sain Curé
I can now admit that the only saint that I recognised correctly when we started visiting catholic churches, was Joan of Arc, the rest I have had to learn over time. For instance the weird looking priest whose head leans forward a bit like Scrooge is the Saint Curé d’Ars who is the patron saint of priests and who comes from a small town not far from here, the monk dressed in brown with a small child on his shoulder is Saint Anthony patron the saint who helps you find lost items, not to be confused with the Saint Anthony with the pig who it seems you take your pig to, to be blessed or so I was told the other day by someone showing us around his church.

In the sculptures or images, each saint is depicted in the same way every time, with the same features, so that you can easily identify him or her. I have slowly learned their names, some but not all have plaques, sometimes there are helpful old ladies in the churches to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, sometimes I can find the name by looking in the handy brochures left in the church or sometimes they take a lot of research on the internet when I get home. There are however a small cluster of saints who remain in my photo collection as still unnamed.

Who is he?
Let’s go back to my faux-pas with George to show how this works. He is usually depicted killing a dragon. Inside churches he is normally without a horse, but outside he tends to be sitting on a horse. In my ignorance I assumed that all dragon killers were George, but that is not the case, it appears that Michael killed a dragon or two as well, hence my confusion. So how do you tell the difference? If there is a horse, then it is obviously George, but without one you have to look further. I’ll put you out of your misery - Michael is the one with wings because not only is he a saint but he is an angel as well.

It certainly makes visiting churches an interesting puzzle at times. Now when I enter a church, I scan the saints for unknown ones, I photograph them for my collection and then try and find out who they are. Surprisingly even after all these years, we still run across a saint I do not know the name of. My latest unknown saint is this chappy. When I Googled “saint with watering can and shovel” I ended up with pictures of garden gnomes, which made me smile, but did not send me in the right direction as it could have done - I was stumped actually.

Google option
Then I thought to ask Cees the name of the church and all was revealed, the church was Saint Fiacre. When I looked him up it appears that he is normally pictured holding a shovel. Problem solved. So what is he responsible for? Well he is the patron saint of “those who grow vegetables and medicinal plants, and of gardening in general” (a Wikipedia quote) a saint after my own heart.

So when I am next out tending my garden, I will be thinking of my very own patron saint and I must say I prefer the idea of him looking over me than that of a dragon killer who I can’t always identify.

For information on our holiday accommodation surrounded by a lovely garden click here.

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