Monday, 28 November 2016

Les Oiseaux Rares

For the third year running “Les Oiseaux Rares” the group of artists and artistic tradesmen and women from Cormatin, have opened their “nests” to the public and have been giving demos and exhibiting their wares. The last weekend in November has become a popular fixed date on the Cormatin calendar.

This year as always, the standard has been very high. Each artisan invites someone from outside their group to display their items as well and it makes touring the studios very interesting. I could have spent a fortune in each location.

As every year, a soup bowl was on sale which entitled you to free soup at each “nest”, the soup was less obviously available this year compared to other years and so we only partook of Pascale’s (the silk painter) soup, but we did go to see her both days. The bowls are made by Pierre (the town’s potter) and as usual, they are lovely items to have in your cupboard, I am only sorry we missed the first year, so our collections is not complete.

This year the church was opened up for the two days and the display of Patrick’s paintings, Silvyane’s wire sculpture (both from our very own Chazelle) and someone else’s pottery - sorry I didn’t find out whom. The beautiful items on display did not feel at all out of place in that building.

For those hungry punters, a mobile burger van had been invited to provide food for the two days. We decided to support this initiative and so we ordered and paid for our burgers and chips and then we were told to come back in 20 minutes!! Excuse me? A snack bar that takes 20 minutes to make two burgers and chips when there are no other customers? If we hadn’t already paid, we would have walked away. Fortunately we hadn’t finished our tour of the nests and so we went off to see some of the other artisans during our wait.

When we got back after 20 minutes we still had to hang around for another 10 minutes before our “food” was available. The chips were the most horrible things I have ever had the misfortune to be served, they were overcooked, brown and soggy, now being English I like my chips soggy, but floppy, squishy and falling apart go way beyond my taste. The burger was edible, I must admit I didn’t spot the bacon that was supposed to be in it, but Cees assured me that it was there. Summing up the burger wagon - a serious disappointment on an otherwise super, successful weekend.

I am happy to say that loads of people visited our little corner of Burgundy this weekend, despite the weather and the artisans involved did good trade and the village was once again put on the map. I can’t wait for next year, I think we’ll be eating at one of the restaurants in town.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Parcel Delivery

One big parcel
The other day we had popped out for a few minutes and when we came back we found a note from La Poste telling us that we have a parcel waiting to be delivered. I hadn’t ordered anything, had Cees? It is not our birthdays and still too early for Christmas – a bit of a mystery. Cees was convinced that I had ordered something and forgotten about it, I know I am a bit forgetful, but a parcel??

There is a brilliant system here by which you can go on-line and reschedule your delivery date (next day possible) or have it dropped off at a post office or other accredited shop - newsagent, garage you name it they are all on the list, if I did nothing the parcel would go to Cormatin post office and I could collect it any time after 11.00am the next day. As the next day was Saturday and the post office closes at 11.30, I decided to have the mystery parcel delivered here the next day.

Address "corrected" by Mme La Poste
On a Saturday Madame La Poste comes before 11.00m but at 11.00 there was still no parcel, so at 11.00 I went off to the post office to make sure it had not been delivered there – no, no parcel there either. I then set off on a tour of the villages around here which I know are on her round trying to find her, as we had to go out. After travelling more than 15km I decided to give up and head for home, the parcel would have to wait until after the weekend. What did I nearly bump into as I rounded the last corner on my way home, Madame La Poste’s little yellow van!

She greeted me with a cheery “what a coincidence I have a parcel for you”. I explained that I was driving around the countryside looking for her which caused some amusement. She opened the back of her van to show a huge parcel. “Funny thing though”, she continued, “they put the wrong address on it.”

As I have said before, addresses can be a little vague around in this neck of the woods, everyone who lives in Cormatin has the address Cormatin, no road name or number, just Cormatin, so the postman or woman has to know where everyone lives. We are supposed to have our name on the letterbox, but not everyone complies with that rule and even though we have now been given “proper” addresses with road names and numbers, no one uses them, so even with the modern world encroaching on our little bit of rurality, the postwoman still has to know her stuff.

An added facilitation to post delivery is of course the post code. In the UK and in The Netherlands this postcode will narrow the address down to about 5 houses. Here the postcode narrows it down to about 10 villages.

So with that little bit of background in mind, let’s get back to my parcel. This parcel was indeed addressed to Madame La Tuilerie de Chazelle with our postcode, but there was a road, house number and village name, which were not ours, in fact the house in question is about 10 km from La Tuilerie and not even on our postlady’s round. But at that moment, the mystery was solved.

With its rightful owner
Having a small business, I receive all sorts of offers from suppliers, from paperclips to cars and other useful or semi-useful items. Not so long ago I received an offer for coffee pods. Not using the things, I passed it on to some friends who do buy them. They actually read the offer properly and it wasn’t for cheap pods at all, it was a free coffee pod machine with your next order of pods! As their machine is a few years old and a new one costs in the region of 80 Euros, this was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

So they placed an order in the company name La Tuilerie de Chazelle, with their address but they just happen to have the same post code as us. As I mentioned earlier, Madame La Poste knows darn well where La Tuilerie de Chazelle is, so instead of delivering it to the “wrong” address in a village about 10 km away, she decided to deliver it to its rightful owner ME. What a woman, what a service and what proactivity.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Nuts, nuts and more nuts.

Walnuts to keep us going through the winter
The first full autumn we were in France, a friend and I spent an hour or so collecting walnuts. There had been high winds during the night and she had seen that masses of walnuts had been shaken out of the large tree in her village. Between the two of us we collected 25 kilos. It was only when my back started to tell me enough was enough, that I convinced her we should stop. Offering to drive her home with her share, she promptly told me that she didn’t want any! What was I going to do with that many walnuts??

Well times have changed and now every year I go scavenging. We have grown used to having walnuts available all year round – for free. We put walnuts in salad, I make walnut tart, we eat walnuts in all sorts of yummy dishes or we just nibble at walnuts straight from the shell.

Misty morning
I returned the following year to the 25 kilos tree only to find that it was gone, it had made way for a car park. But over the years our own trees have started to produce and I have found some great spots in nearby villages where I can get my annual autumnal fix.

This year it has been a different story, I have searched everywhere. The trees in our garden yielded a total of 6 nuts (we have 6 trees but all the nuts came from just one of them) and my usual trees only yielded a few more. So this year, instead of 25 kilos we got about 25 nuts.

Chainsaw art
Having said that, the hazelnut trees in the garden have yielded a bumper crop, instead of the usual zero nuts we have a box full of them, they are a bit on the small side, but yummy none the less. Definitely no where near 25 kilos, so this was going to be a lean nut year - that was until we visited some friends in the Vendée.

As we parked our car at their house, we immediately spotted a huge quantity of walnuts on the ground and we joked with them that we would pinch a few. Their response was, take as many as you like, we have enough. Looking in their store, we saw that they had already harvested about 25 kilos and so we set to.

I do like to be beside the seaside
A big thank you to our friends Steve and Jane, the owners of a glamping site (if you don’t know what that is check out this link) who allow people who stay with them to learn a few self-sufficiency skills. Not only did we have some lovely totally home grown meals (including one of Flopsy’s offspring reared in one of their rabbit runs) we managed a trip the seaside (something truly lacking in Burgundy) we saw some fantastic Romanesque churches (what is a trip out without one?) and we came home with enough walnuts to keep us going for another year.

Winter can now begin.

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