Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Crescent Jazzclub

After having found Jazz à Trivy, I wondered whether there actually might be an ordinary jazz club somewhere in the vicinity. In the summertime Cluny hosts occasional jazz concerts in the local theatres, and Couches has a rather prestigious jazz festival in the summer, but I was more looking for something like the Ronny Scott Club, only at a smaller scale. In Mâcon (not really next door, approx. 35 km from here) I had found a jazz club called the Crescent Jazzclub. It is smack in the middle of town, and hosts regular concerts and jam sessions. It looked like the prototype of the old fashioned jazz clubs from the sixties; smoky and with a very low ceiling. Although smoking is no longer allowed in French public places, the rest of the description fits the place well. It is located in an old, very small (wine)cellar, which is so low, that a bass player cannot stand his instrument upright. The photo actually shows the amount of people that fit in; one is hard pushed to squeeze more in. One night we went there, wisely combining the concert with having a meal out; we paid entrance fee and membership fee (€ 3.50 for a year) and went inside. The music was rather boring, and that is an understatement. We left the club during the break. A couple of weeks later we gave it a second try, because a “young, promising” guitarist was playing in the Crescent. After these two disappointing experiences we left the Crescent for what it was, although I keep an eye on their program. One never knows, maybe one day a good group might be playing there. The only thing which impressed me, was how the musicians handled the volume they were playing at. Firstly they played acoustically, or, in case of the guitar player, used the amplifier with moderation, and secondly, in case of e.g. the drummers, they managed to play in such a way that one was not blown away by the noise. That is certainly one of the minus points of most Dutch jazz venues; they play at a volume sufficient to bring down a stadium like Wembley, and than they wonder why so many of their fans have problems with their ears!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Loto, Quine, Kien and Bingo

Actually I am not interested in Bingo or Loto, as it is called in France, at all. When living in the Netherlands, I played Bingo only once (an experience I gladly forgot!) and I hardly remember anything of it.
However one thing has intrigued me for a long time. As a child, my mother sometimes allowed me to play with small wooden circular pieces of wood, with a number written on it. And she referred to those small discs as being part of a Kien (pronounce Keen) game.
When we were explained the rules of Loto more than a year ago, we were told that we had to shout “Quine” (pronounce Keen) when we had a full card. Assuming there is a link between those two words is, in Dutch, a matter of applying non-scientifically founded etymology, or popular etymology. Anyway, Wikipedia could possibly help here.
The origin of the game lies in Italy, where it was played around 1530 as Lotto. The word Bingo is derived from the American version of the game, which was played in the twenties on a form called Beano. The word Beano in itself is derived from the beans which were used to cover the numbers on the card. Hence Beano was corrupted to Bingo.
The Dutch word Kien is derived from the French word Quine, which comes from the Latin word Quini (= 5), and which refers to the 5 numbers on each row of a Loto card. The forms used as well as the rules of the game seem to vary per nationality.
The French (Loto) and the English (Bingo) use forms of 3 rows and 9 columns, whereby the first column is meant for the numbers 1 to 9, the second for 10 to 19, etc. The last row is for 80 to 90. This makes checking the numbers relatively easy. The game can be played per row (the winner is the first one who fills a row) per 2 rows (as before but with 2 rows) or per full card. When one plays by row, the French call out “Quine” (= 5); when one plays for a full card the French shout “Carton plein”.
The Americans, as the Dutch (Bingo), play on a form of 5 x 5 squares, whereby the square in the middle does not contain a number. The 24 numbers (between 1 and 75) are either randomly put on the form, or sorted per column (1-15, 16-30, etc.). Here one can also play per row, per column, per square or per any other form determined beforehand, or of course, per full card.
And all this, because I was curious about the relation between the words Kien and Quine!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 13 February 2010

French Bureaucracy

Many of our English friends are getting upset over and over again whenever they only think of French bureaucracy. As someone who lived his whole life in the Netherlands, the French bureaucrats seem to be a lot more laid back than their Dutch colleagues. Having said that, sometimes it has advantages when you know beforehand how a civil servant is going to react; one can actually anticipate a bit that way.
The last time we had to go to the Mairie was to obtain the yearly “certificat de vie”, without which Dutch insurance companies do not pay out annuities. This is a very relaxed exercise; you hand in your form, the secretary asks “Comme l’habitude?”, she writes something, seals it with a stamp and a few seconds later you are back on the street, with a form that would even satisfy the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, and without any costs. Just pointing at a doorknob in a Dutch town hall would set you back at least € 10! We were just about to set off for lunch, when one of the local officials, in charge of the “Recensement” (Census) who saw us walking past his window, came after us.
Could we spare some time to fill in some questionnaires? It would save him the 3 km trip from the town hall to our house....
The French do not keep a proper record of who is living where and since when; the only way they keep track of demography is the census. The INSEE (Bureau of Statistics) organises every year a number of censuses, spread over the whole of France. It is not organised by postal code or by Canton, because Cormatin is on the list for 2010, whilst Saint-Gengoux, capital of our Canton with the same postal code is up in 2013.
The guy who called us back was Pierre M., a very amiable man whom we know quite well now because he is always present whenever an event in Cormatin is being prepared. So a few minutes later we answered the questions on his questionnaire, which were questions for the two of us: when did we move to France, were we living together, what sort of heating did we use in the house, etc.
After that we had to fill in a personal questionnaire, about educational and professional backgrounds, etc. Whenever we did not understand a question, and he thought it was irrelevant (or he could not be asked to explain!), he waved his hand as if to say “Ah, why don’t we forget about that one!”. After 15 minutes we were released with the words: “Well, that got you off the hook for another 5 years!”. Anyway, if my English friends read how easy these sort of things are handled in the “campagne”, they should stop moaning about French bureaucracy. And if they still insist, I would advise them to move to the Netherlands for just one month, and then say what they think about the French!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Monday, 1 February 2010

Bingo! (part 2 and last)

For part 1 of this thrilling story click here.
The yearly Loto is over again! We had, as good citizens, flogged off all our 20 Loto cards to friends and relatives, and handed over proceeds and cards to the responsible authorities. Last Saturday it was our turn, together with other volunteers, to play an hour of Bingo for those who had been conned into buying those cards. The following day, a Sunday, was the day of the “Cormatin open”. On both days however it happened several times that the prize fell on more than one card at the same time.
Contrary to what is normal in the Netherlands, the prize was not given to the first “Quinne” shouter, whilst the second winner would get the next official prize, etc. No; in one case there were actually three people who claimed a prize simultaneously. Lots were drawn between the three of them, and the winner got the proper prize. The other two won a consolation prize, in this case a bottle of wine respectively a can of pâté. And after this the Loto went on with a new round for the next proper prize. The rules in France are rather French; whether you shout Quinne, Bingo or just Oui does not really matter. As long as you shout something, everybody is happy. In the Netherlands a simple “Yes” disqualifies the “winner” in many bingo halls.
We did not have to play in the real Loto, because we were on bar duty. Hence we did not have to break our heads about French counting. Our basic mathematical skills, used in sums like “Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf = 4 times 20 + 10 + 9 = 99” were not required that day. Bar duty in France without having something to scoff is unheard of. Hence we were flogging off small containers of “Bugnes” as well as wine, beer, coffee, tea and soft drinks. Of course we did not have a clue what bugnes were, but all was revealed once we were on duty.
They resemble small donuts, although they are not necessarily circular with a hole in the middle, and are deep fried with icing sugar sprinkled over them. Although served cold, they sold like hot cakes. At the end of the day we had sold almost all soft drinks, most of the beer and all bugnes to those who needed a break in between straining Bingo sessions. This was not only because we were such excellent sales persons; the number of participants was exceptionally high compared to other years, and before the Loto started we actually had to put up more tables and chairs, although there was hardly any space left to put them. Apart from the usual crowd from Cormatin, there were people from other villages in the neighbourhood, and of course the mayor and his deputy, the honorable member of the Conseil Général of Saône-et-Loire Monsieur Jean-Paul C. and the star-reporter of the Journal de Saône-et-Loire Michèle E.-D. were all there and played Loto like their lives depended on it. Very soon this event will be head-line news in our local paper; however readers of this Blog definitely have a scoop on this one!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle