All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Mean, Green, Humbug! Machine

Christmas lightsImage via Wikipedia

I have to go down to the next village one of these evenings, after dark.

I have to see for myself, since the postlady only passes during the daylight hours and she has not yet sifted her informants for accuracy on what is passing once the lights go on in St. Ragondin, which is on her colleague's round.

It is coming up to Christmas, and the villages round here go to town on decorations...not just the usual Santa Claus abseiling from the chimneys, but lights. Lots of lights. It has become a sort of tourist attraction. The local coach firms have run trips for the last two years while the number of cars running round the place in the run up to Christmas must exceed road usage for the rest of the year. You even see 'foreign' number plates....from neighbouring departments.

Although the comites des fetes of the villages encourage the activity, the whole thing is down to individual initiative, and very individual it can be, too.

From my point of view, it is a wonderful aid to navigation for visitors over the holiday period. Their GPS systems tend to black out when they get to the nearest town...France's equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle...and now, when I get the anxious call from the mobile 'phone, rather than trying to describe roads without signs or signs which cannot be read even in broad daylight because you pass them before they are visible, I can home in visitors by the Christmas lights.

'Right, when you come to the T junction, you turn left at the illuminated windmill with turning sails. Continue until you see the cork shooting from the champagne bottle and turn left again just in front of it. Continue again, keeping Santa's sleigh and the running reindeer on your left until you pass a house with psychedelic icicles on your right and we are the next house on the left....the dark, sinister one with towers and a security light which will blind you as you pull up.'

As long as no one changes their decor this year, I will keep my one hundred per cent record of losing no one.

As you gather, I do not illuminate my house. The president of our comite des fetes came to see me last year, accompanied by Madame Chose...a bit like making sure the warder is present when you interview the criminal lunatic.

Why didn't I illuminate my house? It was the 'big house' of this end of the would set an example...

I explained that to light up this place would involve using half the capacity of the Chinon nuclear power station, require having someone properly insured to crawl on roofs over one metre from the ground to install and disinstall everything, quite apart from buying all the gear in the first place. On grounds of expense, it was unthinkable, and, moreover, it wasn't Green.
She peered at me.

'You're not Green, you're just mean.'

Very true......if only I knew what 'Humbug!' was in French.......still, I'm not noblesse and I don't oblige. No fairy lights.

She had better success with the duckstealer. His windows were festooned with lights, which promptly became invisible when he shut the shutters...I often toyed with the idea of making an evening call just to see what the interior of his kitchen looked like.....but renounced it. There are limits.

Roger the roofer always has a spectacular display, valid by night and day. His roof and walls are festooned with Santa Clauses, like the SAS storming the Iranian embassy. You wonder why there is no smoke coming from the windows. At night, he illuminates the attackers with spotlights from his garden. I hope they have thick curtains in there.

Now, as to what is reputed to be happening in St. Ragondin....

One of the men most keen on these Christmas displays is Christophe, an electrician, who gives up a lot of his time to help people with their illuminations, and invents his own displays too...I think Santa and the running reindeer is one of his.

A couple of years ago he bought a house in the main square of St. Ragondin - in case this gives any false ideas of grandeur, forget them. For main square read only square, and small, at that. He wanted to put a velux window in the roof to convert the attic to an extra bedroom, and planning permission was refused. He explained that he did not see the problem.

A St. Ragondin must be one of the most banal villages in France from an architectural point of view.

B Other houses had velux windows in their roofs facing onto the square while he wanted to put his on the back of the roof, facing out over the fields.

The reply was firm. No more velux windows in old houses.

Christophe, muttering, put up with it.

Until this year, that is.

The man from the planning department who had refused him permission for his velux bought a house on the same square and promptly installed a velux on the side of the roof facing the square. To say that Christophe was annoyed would be to err on the side of understatement, but this is France, and that's how it goes. He turned his attention to Christmas.

He has, rumour has it, installed a giant illuminated Santa Claus on the front of his roof, facing his enemy from the planning department. Not only is it huge and illuminated, but it moves.

What it moves, in fact, is a bent arm with one finger raised...the French equivalent of the 'V' sign.
I must nip down to St. Ragondin some evening....

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  1. Well-thought out revenge can be very sweet...You certainly must nip down to St Ragondin, armed with a camera...

    I used to like it when I could say "my house is next to the one painted lime, green sky blue and mauve". People never had problems finding me.

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  3. I'll try again without slurring my words...

    I have arrived at the stage where I now pour myself a a glass of single malt, sit back, and take in every delightful word in front of me here on this well written blog.

    Wonderful stuff

  4. Ayak, I must go down and will take the apparently takes videos...stop laughing, you know and I know that I'll never master it, but there might be someone techie on the square who can operate it.

    Pueblo girl, I have to try to get this on film before the forces of orthodoxy - Christophe's wife - make him take it down.

    Jimmy Bastard, and people say, why do you still live in France as you moan about it so much...for people like Christophe, that's why.
    And what might your poison of choice be?
    For me..depending on the mood Highland Park or the Laphroiag.

  5. Oh don't talk to me about cameras! I still haven't come to grips with the digital camera my brother gave me when I was over there recently. I can just about take the odd picture (emphasis on the "odd" here) and I have run the disc on my laptop to enable me to upload. But that's where it stops...just cant go any further. I'm hoping my friends who are coming up for Christmas might know how to help me. So I'm not laughing! (Still haven't worked out how to use the dvd player that I've had for over a year...blush)

  6. I thought that Velux windows were one of the very few things you can install in France without permission? If you ask of course they'll turn you down.....

  7. Cogitator, not to my knowledge. I've been refused permission in the past because...verbatim..'someone flying over your house in a helicopter might see it'.

  8. Very funny. I must look out for one of those.

    We have the usual displays of tacky lights outside houses near us; I can almost hear my mother tutting 'it's common dear'

  9. Mark, I don't know what's involved in making these things, but I reckon he could commercialise them....with differing cultural variants.
    Wonder what your mother would make of it....

  10. Brilliant post!

  11. Crumpet,this area has to be seen to be believed...such is the participation I reckon we could be seen from space.....mark you, that is the only way this area will ever be visible, as we exist in a no road sign zone.
    Probably took even the Germans all their time to find this place....

  12. You know what? I can't wait for you to post.

    It's the equivalent of waiting for the weekly comic to arrive when I was a kid.

    The anticipation is immense.

    I love your blog and read it out to Sir Prancelot as we have lunch.

    Merci beaucoup, GG

  13. GG, thank you...I have been a bit sour just lately, so this bit of unconfirmed gossip from the postlady was just what I needed!
    Hope things pick up for you both too.

  14. You guys should check out velux windows at This website gives some really good deals.

  15. you work for them, or have you bought from them?