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.

Saturday 31 December 2011

Just a little something for the weekend....from Rue 89.

For the French speakers among you....General de Gaulle gives his New Year message...from the Other Side........where not even Sarkozy can have him put in detention for 'outrage' to a serving President.

Source...Rue 89, to whom many thanks and awaiting the royalty bill in the new year.


'Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky;
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells across the snow:
The year is going, let him go:
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more:
Ring out the feud of rich and poor
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand years of war,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Tennyson.... 'In Memoriam'

But it won't happen unless we all put our hands to the bell rope.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

If You Go Down to the Sales Today...

SalesImage by Nils Geylen via Flickr
In the U.K., you had just recovered from Christmas when The Sales were upon you and if you were of the tendency that has had its eye on a particular cashmere jersey for three months but baulked at the price tag, then you would sharpen up your elbows and head for the shops.

In France, of course, these things are better regulated....well,  the French shopkeepers think they are.
You can't just have sales when you feel like it, that would be unfair competition for those who didn't feel like it, so you all have to have sales at the same time - though there are shops which get round this by frequently 'liquidating' their stock ahead of remodelling the store...i.e., moving a cash desk.

It's not worth nipping out between Christmas and New Year in search of bargains in the supermarkets either.
Those chocolates will not be reduced by fifty per cent until the last member of the family has returned to work after the break and the womens' magazines are full of post holiday diets.....
While as for the turkeys, it is amazing how a bird with a sell by date of 31/12 and present on the shelves at closing time on 30/12 can have metamorphosed into full price turkey portions with a sell by date of 07/01 by opening time on the next day instead of whole bird marked down to half price.
Just who was it who was supposed to be 'a nation of shopkeepers'?

Having moved to Costa Rica and experienced supermarket shopping here there are two things I could recommend to Mssrs. Leclerc et al. for their French operations....

Armed guards on the car park who also note any damage to your car and stick a note on the windscreen as to circumstances thereof.

This would put a stop to the wild side swiping and bumper crushing so typical of French supermarket carparks, though I'm not sure that I wouldn't prefer the perpetrators to be shot rather than just identified....
Especially when they try to claim on your insurance on the lines of Old Harry's marine insurance claim...
'Stationary end of pier slot machine flying no signals carried away my jibboom...'

It would also empty the car park of 'gens de voyage' threatening to smear your car windows with filthy rags while attempting to sell you overpriced baskets made in China.

Car parks that are designed for people with large cars and larger ideas of space when it comes to parking them......

A far cry from my local French supermarkets which always seemed to be arranged in a herringbone fashion with the one way systems deliberately arranged so as to make turning into the spaces provided as difficult as possible and extricating your car an exercise in gymnastics when the two bright sparks who have parked on either side of you while you are shopping decide to huddle close to you in case of a German invasion.

I have entered my car via the hatchback more than once.....and, thanks to the brainwashing administered by my schoolmistresses, have done so by sitting on the tailgate and wriggling forward backwards, if you see what I mean, to avoid awarding passersby an unseemly view of my backside - something we were always solemnly warned  to avoid.
We used to speculate about these shibboleths as schoolgirls...but, ours not to reason why, ours just to get a slipped disc obeying the rules.

Had suggestion Two been adopted in the north of France we might not have had the incident of the 'doigt d'honneur'....the raised finger which is the French equivalent of the 'V' sign.

Two drivers, one male one female, were competing for a car parking space....and from my experience it isn't just the shortage of places which is the problem, but the awkwardness of design that makes manoevring such a nightmare.
Both became incensed and high words were exchanged.
Finally the woman managed to park and the man drove off, but not before giving her the finger.
Typical car park rage.....

But not a typical outcome.
The woman was a deputy maire in the town in which the car park was situated. After doing her shopping she complained to the police who, instead of uttering soothing words, shot off to arrest the man.
He was an immigrant. From his name one would imagine that he did not have the typical Nordic colouring.

He found himself held at the police station for forty eight hours.....the police could not do this on their own initiative, they needed the permission of the public prosecutor....the 'procureur'.

The charges? 'Outrage' to a representative of the wit, a deputy of the many classes of person so protected...everything from a gendarme to the President.

The man said he did not know she was a deputy maire....the woman admitted that nothing he said indicated that he knew...the man admitted making the storm in a teacup.

He was brought to court and the procureur sought a sentence of five months in the jug...on the grounds that elected representatives and functionaries of the state were entitled to protection at all times, even if not in pursuance of their duties.

A dangerous doctrine.
Wives of councillors who give them a curtain lecture on the virtues of correct positioning of the loo seat risk being bundled off to the cells in their negliges....
A landowner who finds the maire illegally fishing in his lake and gives him the verbal one two might find himself wrapped in his own lines and carted away....
Carla Bruni, upbraiding the President for not getting up for the night feeds, might find herself following Marie Antoinette to la handy for the Palais de Justice...

Clearly, the judge....another whose name does not bring up associations of blond hair and blue eyes...was aware of the dangers.

He fined the man 38 Euros.
For insults...not 'outrage'.

And they worry that Le Pen might gain power.....

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Monday 26 December 2011

Spanish practices.....

Which may explain some of the problems of the clubmed countries in stimulating their economies.....

Thursday 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas

My favourite French soothing after a surfeit of commercial muzak in the supermarkets....I hope you enjoy it.

I have given the words below...please forgive the background as I had to copy and paste to keep the accents! 

Quelle est cette odeur agréable,
bergers, qui ravit tous nos sens?
S'exhale t'il rien de semblable
au milieu des fleurs du printemps?
Quelle est cette odeur agréable
bergers, qui ravit tous nos sens?

Mais quelle éclatante lumière
Dans la nuit vient frapper nos yeux
L'astre de jour, dans sa carrière,
Fu-til jamais si radieux!
Mais quelle éclatante lumière
Dans la nuit vient frapper nos yeux

Voici beaucoup d'autres merveilles!
Grand Dieu! qu'entends-je dans les airs?
Quelles voix! Jamais nos oreilles
N'ont entendu pareils concerts.
Voici beaucoup d'autres merveilles!
Grand Dieu! qu'entends-je dans les airs? 

Ne craignez rien, peuple fidèle
Écoutez l'Ange du Seigneur;
Il vous annonce une merveille
Qui va vous combler de bonheur.
Ne craignez rein, peuple fidèle
Écoutez l'Ange du Seigneur.

A Bethléem, dans une crêche
Il vient de vous naitre-un Sauveur
allons, que rien ne vous empêche
D'adorer votre redémpteur
A Bethléem, dans une crêche,
Il vient de vous naître-un Sauveur.

Dieu tout puissant, gloire éternelle
vous soit rendue jus-qu'aux cieux.
Que la paix soit universelle
que la grace abonde en tous lieux.
Dieu tout puissant, gloire éternelle
vous soit rendue jus-qu'aux cieux

Monday 19 December 2011

And meanwhile, as Merkozy fiddles....

English: Old petrol pump Old petrol pump outsi...                     Image via Wikipedia
The gendarmerie van pulls up in the farmyard. Its sole occupant gets out and heads for the barn.

Hoy! Victor! You there?

In the tractor shed...I'm overhauling the muckspreader. Well, you're a stranger these days....what fine breeze blows you in my direction? Here....let's drink to it.

Well, I'm on duty..

So who's going to breathalyse you?

Yes...well, go on then. What've you got that Albert's?

Yes, a good drop, make the most of it, he's got esca in the vines and he'll be pulling a lot out this winter...
Anyway, what's it all about? I see you're on your own...

Yes, I wanted a quiet word...

If it's about young Laurent's speeding ticket then all I can say is that one of those Parisians with holiday homes round here must have copied his numberplate...
How the hell could my muckspreader be doing 170 kilometres on the periphique at three in the morning!

No, no...that'll get sorted out. But the muckspreader is involved, in a way...there've been complaints.

Complaints? What about? If that's those English again complaining about me not ploughing in Bernard's duck manure for him for over a week ...when we had that hot spell a way back...they can just forget it. They're living in the country, not the middle of London.

No...but you know you're supposed...

I know what I'm supposed to do, but I was organising the Algerian veterans do what with Jean-Antoine being ill...and anyway, it's Bernard's responsibility to get it ploughed in in twenty four hours, not mine...I was just giving him a hand.
So what's it about if it's not the manure?

Well, it is the seem to be collecting a lot of it.

And if I am? Not illegal, is it? I'm a farmer. Farmers always have manure.

Yes, of course.....but there have been complaints that you're not keeping it in an approved don't have it drained and whatnot in accordance with EU regulations.... it's all in your barns.....piles of it.

You'd think people would have something better to do...what business is it of theirs?

I don't suppose anyone would have been interested but after young Laurent drove the muckspreader through Ste. Conasse last week with the spreader attachment still going, it caused a bit of ill feeling...

With all this rubbish going on about the euro you'd think they had other things to worry about!
I'm sorry if Mme. d'Enculade got her car covered in it, but that's life in the country!

From what I hear it was lucky the cold snap had started...if people had had their windows open you'd have had a delegation round your ears in a flash and a fair few claims for compensation.
Still, let's stick to the point.
Do you or do you not have a slurry facility in line with EU  regulations?

Yes, you know I have...your son's girlfriend works for old Machin who installed it.

So why is all that muck stored in your barns?
I hope you've not been buying one round here has a permit to sell manure..

No, people without 'a slurry facility in line with EU regulations' have been giving it me......for my project.

And what might that be?

Well, with all this crisis and whatnot, we're supposed only to buy things made in France...but there isn't much made here anymore so that's a bit difficult...look at my muckspreader...made in Italy!

I don't know who you think would be buying manure in those quantities Victor...but you'll still need a permit to sell it...even if you stick a tricolour on it.

I tell you, I'm not buying or selling manure!
I was wondering what to do to make a few bob extra....on the small scale, you understand...and then it came to me!
People are getting paid God knows what to make those windmill things...which is why the electricity bills will be going up what about something much more efficient....
Biogas! Made in France!

From the manure?

Yes, to start with...but you can use anything organic. Next year, the supermarkets are going to have to recycle all the stuff they chuck out in their bins and my idea is to get this up and running and go for a contract with The Mutant over in Les Deux Biscouilles.....
They pay me to take it away and I make the gas and sell it!
Win win!

But manure's not the same thing as supermarket waste.....oh no! Don't tell me that's you!

What's me?

The dustmen are complaining that someone took all their food waste bins from here, St. Ragondin and Ste. Conasse this week.....

Well, yes...I wanted to see how it would work so I got young Laurent to nip round the night before the collection and pick them all up...a sort of dry run for The Mutant contract.
Don't worry, I've got all the bins hosed out and he'll take them back as soon as he gets back from the dump...

Where, I suppose, he is dumping all the containers and wrappers....

What do you think we are! We're not fly tipping. This is professional.

And I suppose he'spaying the professional rate at the dump?

No, or course not...we're farmers.....

Isn't it a bit messy, this food recycling?

I should say so...Laurent had to take a shower and put his clothes in the wash by the time he'd finished...but it won't be so bad with the supermarket packs, they won't have been opened and squashed up with other stuff.
I was thinking that I could hire a couple of English pensioners to do the dirty work....they're all on their uppers with the pound the way it is...

Was,Victor, was. The way the euro is going the English will be the only ones with any money round here...apart from the politicians, that is.

Well, all the more reason to diversify...the biogas. It's a way of showing your patriotism...not just national but local....environmentally friendly...
It's win win!

So where are you making this stuff? The food waste gas, I mean?

I've fixed up the old root clamp...few valves and'll be a few days before it gets started properly, but I've already got the manure the slurry facility in line with EU regulations. That's going well. I'll soon be able to sell it off.

But how are you going to sell it? You can't lay pipelines all over the commune?

No, I'd thought of using that old pump  I used to use for the tractors......people can bring their cubis and fill them up at the pump....just like getting your wine in bulk...

Victor, you can't just start up like this. Where are your permits? Have you contacted the Fire Brigade for an inspection? Gas is dangerous stuff!

Typical! No wonder France is in a mess!
You get an idea to make a few bob and help the environment - just like these firms flogging windmills - and the next thing you know it's permits and inspections and all to be paid before before you see a penny...and when you do make a penny you've got the taxman hanging on one of your balls and the social security on the other...all useless mouths!

And don't go on to me about safety...I've worked it all out and there's nothing to worry about.

If the worst came to the worst and the tank explodes my bungalow is behind the cattle sheds so I'll be sheltered from the blast....I can claim the sheds and the animals and whatnot on the insurance and the only house in the path of the blast is owned by English.

And anyway, there won't be an accident. Young Laurent has made this sign to hang on the pump.
What do you think? You can't miss it! And it's in two languages!

Defense de fumer
Now smoking.

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Saturday 10 December 2011

Fog in the Channel, continent isolated.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  French Preside...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Well, that's got the Front National vote sewn up ahead of the Presidential elections, hasn't it!
Booted the British out of play!
Who's a clever boy then?

President Sarkozy is triumphant.
He has saved the Euro.
He has used the British to ensure that Chancellor Merkel...the other half of the pantomime horse....can't settle the finances of the Eurozone by a European Union level treaty.
So no referendum, no unpleasantnesses....and no binding agreement to what he has signed up to do.

Cigar for the gentleman!

Whatever one might think of the financial legerdemain practised in the City of London, whose lack of regulation is a major factor in allowing the shenanigans of the likes of MF Global to take place, the City is a vital British interest, so it was easy to trap Cameron into vetoing a treaty.

So where are we now?

The French prime minister announces that there will be no more austerity measures...until he sees where he is after the first financial quarter next year.
Election year, so no surprise there, then.
The French public have enough worries with SNCF changing the train times without receiving further nasty shocks before deciding which head of the political hydra gets their vote.

Private investors don't get a haircut...i.e. banks get off scot free.
So that's secured the consultancy when political life is over, then...

And, best of all, there's no need to do anything about balancing the French books because there's no way the necessary measures will get the required majority, now that the Senate is in the hands of the PS (socialist party). They won't hear of it.

So, Sarkozy is in seventh heaven echoing the prayer of Augustine....
Make me (financially) chaste, but not yet......

If ever....

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Monday 5 December 2011


Česky: Detail fresky Danse Macabre. Hrastovlje...Image via Wikipedia
Watching the Merkozy Dance of Economic Death during this round of the Euro crisis made it clear that European political leaders leave a lot to be desired, running like headless chickens at the behest of 'the market' (which turns out to be a few banks) and attacking the interests of their own people.

Wondering how long it will be before we are trotting along to the Post Office (if not closed by 'austerity' measures) pushing wheelbarrows in which to take home the worthless paper in which our pensions will be paid, I see no one of the stature of Hjalmar Schacht on the horizon, to pull us out of the mess as he did for Germany in the twenties and thirties.
Let no one suggest Dominique Strauss-Kahn.....

Wishing that we hadn't let power fall into the hands of self perpetuating oligarchies who exclude all talent not under their control, I see nowhere in Europe anyone capable of putting life back into the real economies upon which, in the end, we depend.

The myth of the strong man is one to be resisted as a solution...there have been enough Stalins, Hiters, Maos in our lifetime....but there are temptations.....

What we need now is a remake of ....General de Gaulle.
De Gaulle in 1961 at the Köln/Bonn airport.Image via Wikipedia

A man who declared that you could bounce on your chair shouting Europe! Europe! Europe! for all you liked.....but that it meant nothing.
Forget slogans (for which read soundbites) had to see things as they were.

A man who devalued a currency to get an economy back on its feet.....not that my elderly neighbours in France took much notice, they were still thinking in 'old' francs fifty years after the event.
Just as they were still thinking in pounds and gallons two hundred years after the Revolution.

A man who declared that national policies did not depend on the state of the stock market.

A man who made America pay in gold, not in paper dollars, for the purchase of French assets.

A man who saw the morass into which France had staggered in Algeria....and got out.

A man who was honest with public money....if his family came to dinner at the Elysee, he paid what it cost to feed them.

A man with that forgotten virtue...courage. Walking unmoved down the nave of Notre Dame while Vichy sympathisers shot at him and his entourage dived for cover.

A man whose  'Non!'  kept Britain out of Europe....if only the politicians of the time had taken heed!

The General in his pomp was quite something...and for those who remember those years here is a little song about no way could it be described as a Flanders and Swann...when they also were in their pomp.


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Saturday 3 December 2011


Scrapple and EggsImage by cheflovesbeer via Flickr
I made scrapple yesterday, for the first time in years.
We had had for breakfast a new brand of oatmeal for porage which had say the least..not up to sample.

Chuck it. Give it to the chickens.

I was going to do so when I thought of scrapple, that stalwart of the Scottish farmhouse table.

I had defrosted pork for a stew, so it was no problem to cut off a portion and simmer it, then shred the meat, add a finely diced onion and add oatmeal to simmer down with the cooking liquor, meat, salt and pepper.
Once cooled and set, egg and breadcrumbed and fried, it is the perfect accompaniment to a duck egg fried in butter.
Or mashed potatoes..
Or salad if you're feeling arterially encumbered.

Scrapple making coincided with an e mail from Gerard telling me, among other snippets, that his nephew had recently been 'enthroned' at the annual ceremony of the local wine confrerie.
These groups abound in France, promoting  local products whether it be goat cheese

                                             ordinary cheese


                                           or dried beans....

Not to speak of sardines and andouillettes. And when they all get together they look like this...
Not the Knights of the Garter, as you might be led to suppose,but a photograph of one of the assemblies of different confreries which mark the year in rural France.
They all seemed to go for medieval civic dress, just as comites des fetes always go for medieval fairs with people dressed up.
It's a pity that some of them also go in for old medieval practices such as charging a toll to get into the town for the event, which, at Chinon at least, used to lead to people swimming the river from the camp site, their bathing costumes blending nattily with the robes and wimples.

Still, returning to the confreries.
Every year, 'personalities' are enthroned...with usually a few local or national celebrities to leaven the lump of local politicians who need to be enthroned if next year's subsidy for the activities of the confrerie is to be forthcoming.
Gerard's nephew has the tourism brief in the nearby town.......

I don't know what the ceremonies are like in the dried bean confreries...and don't even want to know what they're like for the andouillette brigade....but I know what happens in the wine sector.
Or what used to happen.

The date would be set. 
The officers of the confrerie would decide whom to enthrone. 
The menu for the feast to follow the enthronement would be set, with much thumbing through Rabelais for the appropriate terms in which to describe the food under the guidance of the usual caterer who had the terms backwards by heart.
Other confreries would be invited.

The day would dawn.
Robes and hats would have been cleaned up and brushed down.
The officers would lead a procession of confreries through the town or village, each preceded by its banner, to the site of the ceremonies.
Some would be lucky, having vaulted wine cellars at their disposal...others had to make do with the salle des fetes - the village hall.
Audience seated, the chief officer, his colleagues around him, would welcome those present and then introduce, one by one, the candidates.
It was explained to them that they had to take an oath of fidelity to the confrerie and follow the instructions exactly...otherwise.there would be a forfeit.

The oath, Rabelaisien in character. was made up of double entendres, the hoary chestnuts being greeted with roars of laughter by the audience, after which the candidates, usually red in the face by that time,  proceeded to the next stage of the enthronement.

It was explained to them that, having sworn an oath to defend the wine promoted by the confrerie, they must show that they fully appreciated its qualities.
They must toast the confrerie in a glass of its wine...and no heel taps. 
Down in one.

The candidates lined up and the glasses were brought forward, to more roars from the audience as the candidates saw what awaited them...

A glass like a small bucket on a stand which held a half litre of wine. Down in one. No heel taps.

Generally they would meet the challenge...rumour had it that some of them had been practising. 
To others it came naturally, especially among the ranks of the local politicians...but if there was a splutter, a pause...out came the forfeit.
Another small bucket on a stand with another half litre of wine...

And then it was on to the meal....thirteen courses the norm, each with its accompanying local wine and each announced in the language of Rabelais.
Toasts to the candidates.
Toasts to the visiting confreries.
Toasts returned to the host confrerie.
A toast to the caterer.

Reading the above you will see why these events always took place on a Saturday evening.
You needed the Sunday to replace your brain in your cranium.

Gerard says that times have changed.....and not for the better as far as he is concerned.
In these days of political correctness there's no more Rabelaisien 'do as you will'.....examples have to be set and conformed to.

The oath has been bowdlerised.
The toast is given in an ordinary tasting glass, only half full.
The dinner ends at eleven o'clock.

It seems a far cry from the likes of the old days of the Entonneurs Rabelaisiens de Chinon.....
More like the confrerie of the Solitary Scrappler of San Jose.

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