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!
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.
Well the long hot summer has turned into a beautiful autumn.
The blackberries that looked very small and unappetising after the lack of rain in the summer have ripened beautifully with the help of a few showers and everyone is busy making blackberry jam or, for the more daring, blackberry jelly!
The apples, peach and fig trees are also full of fruit. As you stroll around the village people offer you a share of their bounty. Like last night, when I came back from closing up the chickens I was carrying 2 kilos of peaches kindly given to me by a neighbour.
The walnuts, ready earlier than I have ever known are starting to fall and soon every house will have its “cageot” of walnuts propped up again the walls drying, proof again of how the village retains its links to the seasons.
Something that gets me in to all sorts of interesting situations, is “Can I help you” After spending most of my working life in food service it has become almost a reflex, it’s out of my mouth before I know it and usually with a sincerity that I’m pretty sure I never intended!
It’s what got me committed to door opening duty in the church. Every day , under the eagle eye of Alice who lives opposite, I open the big church door say good morning to God and Alice (who also has an all seeing eye!) and smile at the fact that in a village of 250 French, catholic souls, the only person they could find to take on the responsibility of “The Key” is a Welsh protestant!
Every year for 10 years the 4th/last (that’s another story!) Sunday in August, we put on a “vide grenier”, our equivalent of a car boot sale. It is our big event that pretty much sponsors what we do for the rest of the year.
A lot of effort is put into: publicity, paperwork (authorisations etc.) marking out the stands, no parking areas, parking areas.
As you can see, we were very lucky as the lovely summer weather held out throughout the preparations.
On the day we meet up on the square at 5.30 ready to man barriers, guide stand holders, prepare the essential coffee, and the restaurant opens ready to do the inevitable “Tripoux” breakfast (accompanied by large amounts of red wine).
Unfortunately at 6am the heavens opened, by 10am the river that runs under the square seemed to have re-established itself above ground. By lunch time when my other half arrived, he seemed to be a bit worried that I was at risk from trench foot.
A few stout souls hung about till 4. But the usual 70 stalls was reduced to 15. I think it would be fair to say that for the first time in 10 years the event was nearly literally a wash out.
The clearing up took a while, (in fact I still have quite a few parking signs in the car) but you will be pleased to know that when my co-president and me sat down at the end when everyone had gone I looked up at the newly azure blue sky and complained it was too hot!
As a small post script here’s a few pictures from last year
The village of Bournazel celebrates its traditional fête in the week leading up to the second Sunday in August. Everything culminates in a 600 person meal on the Sunday night followed by fireworks and a disco.
It all starts with the flags
Put up with the usual respect for health and safety!
On Wednesday a night walk attracts 100 plus and on Thursday night a “night market “. An opportunity to eat really local. Producers of “aligot”, organic vegetables, pork and veal, and ice cream, provide an opportunity to taste their products whilst sitting under the plane trees.
Friday is Paella at the local restaurant and Saturday “apéro concert”.
The weather in May here usually seems designed to enable us to make the most of the ridiculous number of bank holidays (4 this year, a mere 2 next year!) but this year despite having had barbecues in April, May has hardly been full of opportunities for al fresco dining. What’s more it has been even more capricious than usual. Given where we are, at the crossroads of several geographical features and weather fronts, we are pretty used to sudden variations, but this month has been spectacular that way: the most extreme being a daytime high of 32 turning into a night time low 24 hours later of 4!
Despite, or maybe because of, that I have never seen such an incredible display of spring blossom or so much noise from baby birds, nature seems to have really thrived on the mild winter and changeable spring climate. The eves of every house have swallows nests, the trees droop under the weight of acacia flowers, the night is alive with the sound of baby owls. May is often a lovely month here and in the UK. but this year has been really special, now if only the rain would stop so I could go out and enjoy it!