As I walk around the village and the surrounding countryside, there’s a song that won’t stop playing in my head, “walking back to happiness”. 2016 was a difficult year, I have no intention of boring anyone with the details, but a walk is good therapy.
There are no shortage of good walks round here and they are kept up to scratch by a small but dedicated band of volunteers. The first “atelier” is next weekend and we will be kept busy for the season.
There is a very Aveyronnaise feel to these workshops. They start slowly with a good half hour of chat to “put things in place”. We are then divided into teams which must be carefully balanced so that there are enough women on each team to clear the debris left by the men with the power tools (the women are outnumbered by about 4 to 1). Then all back to someones house for a drink and a debrief. Nothing is ever done around here without plenty of discussion.
The mundane, the run of the mill, the day to day, the common; things that we see,do and hear on a regular basis. It is human nature to treat these things with a lack of respect, but as I sit here with the smell of lilac on the breeze and hear the blackbird singing I don’t think you could say there was much wrong with the mundane.
Spring has made everyday routines that much more enjoyable. On the daily walk to work it seems there are photo opportunities everywhere:
The wisteria and irises.
The lilac and the cherry.
On the hillside the new greens of spring with the white of the plum tree blossom.
Yes I know, shopping , not the most interesting of subjects, but for me , people watcher/nosy bugger, quite a lot of clues to lifestyles and attitudes can be gleaned from shoppers and the shops themselves. I’m not talking clothes etc here, just day to day shopping, and in fact that’s the first difference between where we were in the UK and here; there’s no such thing as just shopping. In the Uk the food shopping is a chore (I am of course generalising here), you arrive at the supermarket clutching your list, head down determined to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Here people arrive, head up, on a mission, convinced of the importance of their duty to provide for the family.
Food shopping is an honourable pastime, an important part of the quality of life. Discussion must be had, the pluses and minuses of each product carefully weighed up.
Another interesting phenomenon is the chair. In lot of local shops (particularly butcher’s and post offices for some reason) there are chairs, you are encouraged to sit, to take you time (in fact in one of the local post offices one of the chairs is taken pretty permanently by an older lady who just likes to watch the coming and going).
Even in supermarkets nobody expects you to pay until everything has been properly packed away, and possibly discussed. the cashier enquiring into your purchases, quality, uses, showing an interest in a new line etc.
So I know I’m not the first to say it, but this these last two months have been incredibly mild. The sun has shone and there has been much talk of the dangers of late sun. The clear skies have meant a succession of the most gorgeous sunsets. The day time temperatures reaching, on a fairly regular basis 20 degrees and certainly often 17. Although just as often falling rapidly at night and we have had a good few night time frosts.
We have made the most of it with plenty of country walks, because, as the local “paysanne” never tire of saying “we will pay later.” The cows and calves and the sheep are still out in the fields when it’s long past the time when they would have been taken indoors to protect them from the extremes of the weather. The catkins (chatons i French, sweet huh?) are hanging like fat hairy caterpillars on the branches and the fat hairy caterpillars (processionary caterpillars) are still marching when they should be sleeping.
The Ransomes is already well above ground, the daisies are out and the gorse is in flower.
I can remember years when by December it was already so cold that the rain froze as it hit the ground turning the ground into sheets of ice and as evening fell you could see the fingers of thick frost creeping across the road from the frozen gulleys. When the waterfalls stood frozen in mid flow. I have never on the other hand known a year when we have been able to celebrate Guy Fawkes night outside coatless, or in the case of my son, in a T-shirt.( but the habits of 14 year old boys are not of course those of the rest of the population!)
I look forward to continuing to make the most of it, but snow can be seen on the higher mountains in the distance and a wind came up today that hinted at the possibility of an approaching chill. We shall see.
The sun has shone on us again this year for the 11th of the 11th. Armistice day is a bank holiday here and we gather every year at the monument aux morts.
The mayor reads a speech sent by the president, the children read a poem prepared at school, the “gerbe” ( a floral tribute) is laid at the monument, the mayor reads out the names on the monument(after each name those gathered reply “mort pour la France”) the last post is followed by a minutes silence and the Marseillaise and we adjourn for a Kir and some fouace ( Sometimes fouace is a cake in the madeira cake style, sometimes it’s more like a brioche, if you get given the choice go for the brioche version every time.)
The whole thing is very respectful and sensitively done, but at the same time, the traditional rather lax approach to timekeeping of the Aveyron can creep in. Last year for example there was a decision that 11.30 was quite early enough , a decision that some (yours truly in particular) ranted against and normal service was returned this year, and I have been asked by people “When are you doing the 11th in Bournazel?” because locally quite a few villages play a bit fast and loose with times and dates!
So having complained about the premature arrival of the frost, the summer has returned to Bournazel. day time temperatures of up to 26 ° C and even the nights have stayed mild. This has been the first year we’ve celebrated Guy Fawkes night with a barbecue, and dressed in t-shirts. The flowers continue to flourish and the lizards are still soaking up the rays.
Walking the “Chemins” of Bournazel, you can still hear crickets and see butterflies; the cows are still out with their calves and the farmers are still out ploughing the fields.
Of course there’s always a reason to complain; there are plenty of wasps and flies still and the grass still needs mowing, a small price to pay I’d say!
Well we’ve all been a bit taken aback by the sudden change in the weather. At the beginning of last week, despite the cold nights, I was still sitting on the terrace in short sleeves during my lunch break, by Thursday the nights were dropping to minus 3 and whilst by mid afternoon things were warming up , the days are too short for the autumn sun to make much of a difference. There’s been a mad rush to gather in the rest of summer’s harvest and tomatoes and courgettes have joined the summer jams and autumn walnuts and apples in the larder.
Personally, whilst I appreciate our sun, I’m quite looking forward to a trip to UK to warm up!
So autumn seems to be getting established. Still plenty of sun and warmth, but there are days now that are a bit gloomy or when the wind blows off the mountains bringing a chill. The mercury can sometimes drop dramatically at night and many a” heated” discussion is had about when the heating will be turned on and whether “juste la chiminée” counts.
Strangely only two weeks ago, I was walking around delivering flyers, thinking how wonderfully summery everything looked. After the dryness of summer some major rain in early September had given the countryside a new lease of life and the greens were fabulous. Those greens have now started nearly overnight turning to the colours or autumn. Better get out and gather my walnuts sharpish!
An extra event in the year’s social calender can be the “repas de quartier”, but it depends in which quartier you live.
These yearly celebrations of your own personal “quartier” of the village have their own characters and traditions. Amazing that in a village of only 300 people we can mange to subdivide on so many different lines, and yet the events themselves are very inclusive. Anyone within the boundaries is invited, no matter their popularity ratings.
So different quartiers have slightly different traditions. The old market square leave it up to one person to get the food and drink in (handy to have the local restaurateur on the team!) and then divide the bill. The menu revolves around a BBQ and the date is usually fixed last minute based on the weather and peoples commitments.
The hamlet of Le Fau has a fixed date in the summer and a firm tradition of who does what. Some quartiers rarely have a repas any more and some never.
Our own celebration is in June or September depending on the organiser’s (guess who!) diary, but always a Friday. We are blessed with a wide range of ages (6 months to mid 80’s!), personalities, and professions and can be up to 40 strong.
Everyone brings something. Some have specialities like Juliette’s “Poule Farcie” and Réné’s “Ratafia” , other’s like a change, and we have now come right up to date with a bit of barbecuing!
The fact that the tradition continues and that people are so willing to take part is another testament to the community spirit that still exists in our little community.