Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Russians are coming!

Last week we had encounters with a few people who once, not so long ago, were seen as sworn enemies of the “free” Western world.
The first encounter was during a rather bizarre bicycle accident. We decided to travel by car to Bonnay, in order to visit a guy who makes beautiful wooden miniatures. In stead of taking the main road, we decided to drive along a narrow country road. We had just crossed the Voie Verte at Cormatin, when we saw a female cyclist coming towards us, cycling in the middle of the road. The moment she saw us, something very strange happened. We had already stopped, when we saw her body moving forward over the handle bars, while at the same time the back wheel moved up in the air, and the bicycle landed on top of the woman. Once we got out of the car, it seemed that the woman was laying in a pool of blood. Fortunately things looked graver than they were.
We helped her up, untangled the bicycle and found out that she was a young Russian woman, staying in Taizé. She was sent out by a friend on the (borrowed) bike to get some shopping from Cormatin. Then it became more or less clear what had happened. The woman was carrying a very heavy rucksack, not on her back but in a little basket hanging in front of the handle bars. The basket further contained some bags of fruit and a bottle of wine.
Another bottle of wine she held in her hand whilst cycling. Obviously she was not a very experienced cyclist. When she saw us coming towards her, she panicked, and braked with her free hand. The free hand operated the front brake. This combined with the centre of gravity of her luggage and shopping, made the bicycle topple over, and she went with it. The blood she was bathing in appeared to be the content of two bottles of wine. Once we got her up and standing, she seemed alright, although very shaken. We decided to take her to Cormatin by car, to see at least a pharmacist, and if necessary a doctor. So Sue drove off with our new Russian friend, and I followed them on her bike. At the pharmacy they checked and cleaned her wounds (mainly grazes, also under her cloths) and, although the pharmacist actually wanted her to see a doctor, the woman insisted on leaving for Taizé. So we put the bicycle, luggage and shopping in the boot of the car, and brought her back to Taizé. Some people might think something higher was involved in this accident: the intake of alcohol is frowned upon in Taizé, and those staying their get only very few vouchers which they can spend on alcohol in the Taizé-run café……
Our second encounter with Russians took place the same week. The choir “Les Voix de la Nèva” from Saint Petersburg was performing in the Saint-Philibert abbey church of Tournus.
Those concerts are usually of high standard and hence very popular, reason why we had bought tickets well in advance. The choir was indeed excellent. The five men and five women performed a beautiful concert. Their voices sounded beautiful, not in the least because the acoustics of the abbey church is superb. Before the break they sang a program of Russian-Orthodox church music, and after the break they sang a collection of profane songs. One of the high lights of the last bit of the program was a stunning performance of “Vecherniy zvon”. The English title is “Evening bells”, and interestingly enough, the lyrics are a translation of Thomas Moore’s poem “Those evening bells” (Irish melodies, 1808). For those who want to hear the melody click here.
This week had a very high nostalgia content. Not only brought it back sweet memories of a very popular Russian language TV course which I once followed (only sweet memories came back, and hardly any Russian words!), but the song brought back memories of a very popular radio program from my youth. Each broadcast was dedicated to a specific firm, company or factory, of which the employees could request certain tunes to be played. And one of the very popular tunes was : indeed, “Vecherniy zvon”, performed by a very popular Dutch choir!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin

One of Cormatin’s big theatrical events, Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin, has come to an end. This year there were quite a few French classics on the program, such as plays from de Musset and Appolinaire. We always like to see at least one of the plays, but this year there was noting to our liking. In previous years we saw amongst others Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” and Brecht’s “The Three Penny Opera” (in French entitled funnily enough “L’Opéra de quat’sous”!).
We thought that we should give the Festival a miss this year, until we discovered at least one interesting concert (the theatre group also hosts some musicians or cooperates with musicians from around here). The concert was called “Entre Paroles et Musique” with compositions by Gabriel Fauré. We should have figured out from the title that this was not only a musical evening, but we did not. It appeared to be an evening describing the life of Fauré, recited by two actors of the theatre group, alternated with Fauré’s music. The text also contained poems by contemporaries of Fauré. The music was played by Guy Touvron - trumpet and Chantal Rou - piano. The actors were from the “Studio Asnières”, a theatre group based near Paris which comes to Cormatin every year to “do” the festival.
Click here for the website of Studio Asnières.
Guy Touvron is a well-known French trumpet player, who is also the founder of the Festival Guitares en Cormatinois. Click here for Guy Touvron’s website.
Despite the language problems (listening to French poetry is distinctly more demanding then chatting to the baker about the weather) it was a very pleasant evening. The music was of a high standard, as might have been expected from a guy like Touvron.
As tradition wants it, the last Sunday of the Festival was closed off with fireworks in the gardens of the Château, followed by the inevitable vin d’honneur. And this closing event is not just for visitors of the festival; the whole population of Cormatin is invited, and turns up as well!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Monday, 24 August 2009

Fête du village

When we arrived here in 2005, we did not have the foggiest idea what was happening in the villages around us. Slowly we started to built up a circle of friends, mainly through our French lessons. A couple of times a year our French teacher organises a soirée, where one meets his or her fellow students.
And all these people (mainly British) were talking over and over again about the village party in their village, and what they had to do to turn it into a success. One had to help set up the tables, another had to help out with the barbecue, etc.
And although we want to be part of our village, we were never aware of any village party. To fathom why we did not know, a little geography of the village might help understanding this.
When we go through Chazelle, e.g. to go to Cormatin, we have to take a road that is literally skirting the village. Along this road there are a number of houses; most of them are uninhabited; either because they simply are empty, or because they are second homes. As far as we know, there are is only one house permanently occupied. From this road there are three other roads, more or less perpendicular to the main road, going up hill, direction church. Hence the real village is situated on top of the hill, around the church. That is where all 30 permanent villagers live, including the mayor of Cormatin.
Last year, at the yearly brocante on 14 July, we bumped into the mayor’s wife. She told us, that the village party was going to be held on 4 August, and that we would receive an invitation. Lo and behold, a few days later we found an invitation in the letterbox. We phoned the contact person to find out what we were supposed to do (oh, just bring some wine and nibbles), and at the same time he told us why we had never been invited previously. Nobody really knew we existed, because everyone thought our house was part of the commune of Bray, and not of Cormatin. It was only because the mayor and his wife were on the committee this year, that they remembered to invite us! So we finally managed not only to be invited to wreath layings, but to the village party as well!
This year was our second village party. Contrary to last year, when a suckling pig was provided by the owners of “Le Petit Soif” (a cluster of houses, one of which is owned by the mayor), this year the set-up was a bit more sober. We had to bring 100 plastic plates and cups, and others donated wine, snacks, food for on the barbecue, cutlery, etc.
We think it is certainly thrilling to meet one’s fellow villagers. Even if half of them live most of the year in Paris, Lyon, Switzerland or other places……

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Friday, 21 August 2009


When our guests ask for it, we do a little guided tour along the remains of the old tile factory. We always start were the process of tile making started, i.e. at the clay pit in our filed. The occasional guest asks how it is possible, that a tiny little stream like the Grosne could have produced any significant amounts of clay. Of course clay sediments are not deposed overnight; the deposit is a matter of centuries. And that the Grosne in the summertime looks like a peaceful little brook, does not mean that it is always like that. In spring or autumn this little river can flood huge areas around here, especially when melting snow from the nearby hills combined with heavy rainfall in the area makes the river swell to proper river proportions.
It is not unknown to us, that under those circumstances the Grosne is a piddly little stream, and by lunchtime it has turned into a seething river, inundating the surrounding meadows and demolishing the protection of the banks. We have experienced floods about three times now. The last time even the road between Chazelle and the D981 (the road to Cormatin) was closed by the pompiers, and a few houses along that stretch were inundated as well.
Fortunately these things do not happen too often. the first time we experienced a flood at this scale was in April 2006, the last time in November 2008. On the pictures the height difference is well illustrated. On the first picture one can see, that the difference between the roof of the lavoir (washing place) and the level of the Grosne (water already approx. 75 cm above normal) is approximately 1.75 m (my height).
On the second picture the water has risen to the edge of the roof, hence approx. 2.5 m.
In the morning, on my way to the baker, the situation was as in picture 1. By lunchtime the same day the water had risen to the level on picture 2.
At that time the meadows around us were inundated, the road was closed, and everybody was wondering what to do about two pregnant mares that got caught on a protruding knoll. Luckily for the owner, in the late afternoon the horses could be rescued without any damage!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Campsite contest

This is going to be one of my shortest Blogs. My learned assistant, Mrs. Nixon Phd etc. (Oxbridge) has done some statistics, and there is nothing I can add to this. For those who like to know:
Click here

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Another cat

A couple of days ago Sue got a phone call from friends in Vaux (a village 11 km from here), that a birthday present had arrived for her. The fact that her birthday is not due for another 2 months, and that these friends had no way of knowing when her birthday was, made us very curious indeed.
So off we went to Vaux, to see what present Santa had brought us. Our friends were having dinner the previous night, when a little stray cat walked in. They gave it something to eat, and it kept lounging around their house. Seeing this as an act of God, knowing our “need” of a cat in view of the mouse and mole population, they decided to donate the cat to us. They lent us a cage, and told us that we should not let the cat out of the cage for at least a couple of weeks. That is easier said than done, having to put up with the soft but persistent moaning coming from the cage. We let the cat out as often and as long as possible, which makes it purr like a Singer sewing machine. In the meantime we have bought a leash, and although either the lead is too big or the cat is too small, and it manages to worm its way out every so often, we can now let it wander around the garden in search of, at least that is what we hope, mice and moles.
Hopefully in the near future we will have a cat wandering around the house, who would like to stay here…..
Click here to see part one of this saga.

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Dog Latin?

The nearby village of Ameugny hosts a beautiful Romanesque church. It is one of many in this region; the abbey of Cluny has certainly left its traces in the area. The church is built of beautiful yellow stone, which has a stunning effect when the late afternoon sun shines on the church.
There is a tympanum above the church door, which may not be unique; however it is special in its own way, because the stone mason who made the tympanum has left his signature on it. On the lintel, at the bottom right hand corner, the following words are carved: “SEGVIN LAPIFEX MALEI”, which means “SEGUIN, STONE MASON FROM MALAY”. Malay is one of the many villages near here, with its own inevitable Romanesque church. I would have loved to make a picture of this signature, but my knowledge of cameras, light and photo editors was insufficient to come up with a photo showing a legible text. Fortunately one of our gîte guests has been teaching photography in the past and still is a keen photographer. He offered to help out, and he has not only taken the photos I wanted, but also made a collage of the various interesting parts of this tympanum. In the arch there is a central circle with an E carved in it. Funnily enough this E strongly resembles the Euro sign €! Around the circle four words are displayed. The whole thing must have been something like a mediaeval rebus. None of the words has an E in it. After filling in the E in the right place, the words “LX DI VRA ST” are transformed into “LEX DEI VERA EST”, which means as much as “Gods word is the truth”. The photograph attached is the collage made by Paul Geels (thanks a lot, Paul!). For those who cannot get enough of Romanesque churches, please click here to see more. The page is a first set-up of a collection of photos of churches in the area. They are ordered by post code and then alphabetically; this makes finding them on a map easier.

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle