Sunday, 23 August 2015

Theatre in Cormatin

New theatre show for Cormatin?
We used to have a theatre festival in Cormatin “Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin” which took place every year in the chateau grounds in July and August. Sadly the theatre company went bankrupt and whilst they have been saved from complete collapse, they are no longer allowed by their financial monitors to take on such large projects. Sadly that is the end of that.

Every year in January, we receive the “Bulletin de Cormatin” a little booklet issued by the town hall telling us of the most important events coming up in the village that year and we were really excited to read that a theatre festival was planned! This came a as a real surprise to the committee of “Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin” who knew nothing about it. It took a little while to get to the bottom of this mystery, but it transpired that a Le Monde journalist who has a (holiday) home in Cormatin was involved in the organisation of the festival. Why? When? How? Where? All still a mystery.

Things move slowly in our little community and even if rumours do move fast, we don’t get the hot off the press gossip as we are too far from the hustle and bustle of Cormatin city life. Details of the plans for the festival came slowly in our direction.

Finally in about June, when were sure the theatre festival had died a quiet death, we heard what was being organised. There were indeed to be theatre performances, but very small ones in people’s “homes”. There were many who thought this was a daft idea and lots of talk of “no one will want to host one of those”, “who’s going to go anyway” and as none of our contacts showed the least bit of interest we thought that that was the end of that.

Out of the blue, one of our neighbours asked if we would like to go to a performance in their house! I was thrilled to bits. We were to see one of these performances after all. On top of that it was free, all we had to do was take along some food and drink to share as a snack after the show.

The weather has been stunning this summer, but as the day of the show approached it appeared that it was going to rain, I did wonder if it would be called off. The evening before the show, we were sitting outside and we heard some operatic singing coming from Chazelle and applause. On no…. had we got the date wrong? A quick check confirmed the date. Maybe they had brought the performance forward one day and forgotten to tell us, or left a message on a mobile phone that is never switched on. All phones checked - no message.

What would you do?

The play was in the middle of the audience
The next day, I hovered over the phone wanting to phone the neighbour concerned, and yet not wanting to do it. Should we just turn up with food and drink that evening? After a lot of pondering, we plucked up the courage to go round and ask. We were greeted by our neighbour arranging chairs in his courtyard and a cheery “you’re 8 hours too early”. Phew. I clumsily explained why we were there and was told that another house in the village had had a performance the night before and we beat a hasty retreat to go and start on some samosas, my contribution for the evening.

The audience hanging on every word
The evening was a great success. It turned out that the writer(s), the director, the technicians and the actors were all in training and as part of their course they had to organise an event of this nature. They did it with gusto and imagination and it all went very well indeed, everyone there enjoyed themselves immensely. The evening ended with sampling the culinary offerings of the audience and chatting with the youngsters.

Who knows maybe there will be a repeat performance next year, it would be fun if there were.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

In search of Radical Nuns.

Map of Taizé
Sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn’t it? But it’s true, last week I went searching for radical nuns.

These last few weeks, Taizé has been very busy leading up to the major remembrance of Frère Roger’s death, 10 years ago. There has been a week of “reflection on the relevance of a religious or monastic vocation” and this last week has been a “gathering for a new solidarity”. I happen to know one of the speakers, Sister Simone, who is based in Washington DC. I wanted to hear her story; I wanted to hear how she and her organisation had been branded as “radicals” and almost called traitors of the Catholic church.

I went up to Taizé on Sunday to find out more about the week’s programme ands when and where she would be talking. It was heaving with people and the queue for the information centre was out the door and around the block. I left pretty quickly and checked out their website. It appeared that she was talking on Tuesday and Thursday and her talk was called “A nun on a bus”. Intriguing, but no more details than that.

On Monday I went back to see if more information was available and then I saw that “today’s workshops” were posted on the walls at strategic points, so all I had to do was to go back Tuesday morning. Her talk could be at 10.00 or 15.00 so I arrived well in time on Tuesday morning and found the lists for “today’s workshops” posted at strategic points telling me what the talks had been yesterday, not super useful but it was at least a start.

A Taizé kampong
Then I spotted a couple of people who seemed to have got their hands on a copy of “today’s workshop” for today! I asked the two Dutch ladies concerned if I could see their paper and they kindly explained that it was in English, if that wasn’t a problem for me, I could have it. I reassured them that I could read English and they gave it to me. And I could at last see that Sister Simone was to talk in tent/room T at 15.00.

I was off to a good start, all I had to do was to find tent/room T and I had plenty of time to do it. It wouldn’t be difficult because I was standing next to room S at the time, T couldn’t be far away. Well life isn’t that simple is it? Next to room S were rooms L, M and N. Moving towards the bell tower and I came across tents P and R. At that point I decided a visit to the information centre was in order, otherwise I would miss the talk altogether, after all it had taken me an hour to get this far and I only had 5 hours left.

The map on the wall of the information centre kindly told me where the church and car park were, but no T, not even an S for that matter. So off to Morada (the other information point) to ask. It was heaving with people. Finally I found a map on the wall there that showed where T was. Not too far from F (logical) at the far end of the site where the adult and family area is.

So off I went to find T. I took a wrong turn and ended up in one of Taizé’s kampong areas which in itself was worth the visit, but no T not even an F.

Empty and letterless
Back to the road and the next turn took me to F, just where the map had said it would be, so off in search of T. Finally I found a large letterless tent locked in a field with no access. OK maybe I had to access it through the adult campsite. Back up the road into the campsite and I could see the letterless tent, but still no access. Back down the road and then I read the notice on the locked gate, only open between 11 and 12 and 14 and 19. I went home just hoping that I had indeed found the right venue.

Back to Taizé at 2 o’clock and I walked down to the letterless tent. It looked sadly abandoned. There was however a nice young lady sitting under a tree reading a book, I asked her if this was tent T and she confirmed it was, strange that there were no other people or chairs, it didn’t look like any conference venue I’d ever seen before.

These must be them, it says so on their backs
Then I saw them approaching - the radical nuns on a bus. I just hoped that some other people would find the venue and turn up to listen to what they had to say.

That’s the cliff-hanger folks – you’ll have to wait for another blog to find out what happened next.

For information on holiday accommodation near a letterless tent that is indeed T click here.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

In search of hidden treasures

The path to the chapel with the woods on the background.
We have been known to go to some lengths to find remains of Romanesque churches and chapels but the chapel at Dracy-lès-Couches has proved to be a very difficult one to find.

We have been twice before to try and locate this little chapel, to no avail, mostly because the route to where we thought the chapel should be, was so wet that we just couldn’t go any further.

Is this a wall or just a pile of stone?
With the drought that we are now experiencing, we decided to give it one more go. To be more precise, I decided, I think Cees had given up on the idea of ever finding this one.

The last time we had been to the site, there was a sign up saying chapel 200m, where a path led into a field and a cluster of trees beyond. On this visit, the sign had been removed, but fortunately my memory for places is good enough to know which path we had to take. We walked to where we had last managed to get to which was a cross roads of foot paths in amongst the trees and dense undergrowth. We then we proceeded to walk down each of those paths. All to no avail. This chapel looked like it was going to remain on the never-to-be-found list.

A gravestone - we are on the right track.
A bit disheartened we headed back to the car through the woods when I saw something. It looked like a small wall, it could have been just a pile of stones, but a quick check on the sun’s position in the sky and I could tell this was an east-west pile of stones, perfect as a foundation row for the side of a church. Cees was not convinced and I think he wanted his picnic lunch which was long overdue, due to the amount of walking we had done. He didn’t follow me into the undergrowth.

Finally the apse is in view.
I followed the row of stones towards the east to see if they would curve off and become an apse or not. I had to divert a bit to avoid the undergrowth and then I literally stumbled over a gravestone. I was very excited and called Cees over, and we headed eastwards together, to see if there was an apse or not. Not far from the gravestone and there it was – the apse.

It pays to be persistent and have a good sense of direction. So we can now declare one little Romanesque chapel has been found and it has been marked on Cees’ map.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Landscape photography

First idea - not bad
When I had to make a landscape photo for my photography group challenge, I got on to the internet to find out how the experts say you do it. With landscapes, I am always disappointed with the results. They never turn out right; they never look as good on the photo as in reality.

So what makes a good landscape photo?

Everywhere you look on the internet, there are tips as to how to set out a good, interesting composition and then there is the number one tip on every website, you MUST take a landscape photo in the “golden hour”.

So what is the golden hour?

There are actually two in every day and they are the first and the last hour of sunlight. I have heard of the golden hour before and tried to use it, not too successfully, mostly because I really find getting out of bed that early very difficult. The last hour of the day I have been more successful with, but in general I have avoided this rule as being too restrictive. Rules are there to be broken aren’t they?

Second idea getting there - but still lacking something
But with landscapes apparently, you can’t take a decent photo outside of these hours and so armed with this information and all the other tips I went out to find a photo opportunity - not an easy task.

Eventually Cees suggested a vineyard we know which has a lovely cadole (an old stone building) in it. I took a few photos in the middle of the day to find the best angle and then to my dismay I realised that the evening sun would not work for this shot, this was a morning golden hour job.

The vineyard at dawn
On to the internet again to find a site that could calculate the morning golden hours. Adding driving time and setting up time, I needed to leave the house at 05.30. This is art of course, so you have to suffer for it. The next day promised to be clear, so up I was at 05.30. It was 14 degrees, but even so it felt chilly. I was on site in time and I waited for the sun to appear. I was so excited when the sun hit the copse of trees on the hill behind the cadole and at that moment it had all been worth it. However, no sooner had the sun hit the copse than a cloud came in front of the sun and it was gone. An hour is a long time to wait for the sun to come out again, particularly when it doesn’t. I went home at 07.15 and bought a consolatory croissant from the baker’s shop on the way.

Blast - that's as far as the sun goes at this time of day
Two days later and this time the weather forecast predicted sun all the way through H hour. Sure enough the sun lit up the copse and then slowly but surely slid its way down the hill towards the cadole. But then, what I had feared all along, actually came to pass. There is a blooming big tree between the sun and cadole at that time of day and the golden hour sun never lights up the thing. I left at 07.30, bought a baguette from the baker's shop on my way home and had bacon and eggs on it for breakfast.

I then looked through my mid-day sun photos and saw this lovely thing, against all the rules, this is a well lit and not washed out photo of a vineyard landscape.

Let's break the rules and use the mid-day sun

It will be a while before I get up at that sort of crazy hour again to make lousy photographs.  I have to admit though that the copse looks stunning in the early light, pity about the rest of the photo though. I think I am just not cut out to be a landscape photographer.
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