Saturday, 29 May 2010

A tragedy

When we came here, in 2005, there was a huge building bordering the Voie Verte, on which was written in mega letter size “MUSEE DU VELO”. It would be quite difficult to come up with a better location for a museum dedicated to the bicycle. The owner, a man from Tournus, rented the building and had on display a collection of over 200 old and new(er) bicycles, bicycle tax shields from the Netherlands and Belgium, posters for the Tour de France, trophies, jerseys in various colours, in short anything remotely connected to bicycles and bicycle racing. We have been there a number of times, and not just for the collection (after the 3rd visit one knows what there is on display). It was also a place where one could, after a long cycle ride on a hot day, sit down and have a drink or an ice cream. Unfortunately, in 2007 the museum closed down. According to those in the know it closed because of the declining number of visitors, and because the commune of Cormatin did not provide sufficient support (read subsidies). The next year the building reopened, this time carrying the name of Musée du Poilu. Poilu (=hairy) was the name for the French soldiers fighting during the Great War. The museum displays artefacts and utensils made by the soldiers in the trenches in between charges. As materials they used everything that was abundant in the trenches: shrapnel, cartouches, even aluminium from the ignition mechanism of grenades, brass, cartridge cases, shells. The collection is interesting enough, but, although the Great War has asked its toll in this part of France just as in any other part, the real fighting took place much further North from here, this location seems to me (literally) a bit out of place. Having said that, the museum is still open, and features in the summertime theatre plays about the home front during the Great War. There certainly seems to be a market for this museum.
In our local variety of the Cormatin Times we saw recently articles emerging about a resurfacing of the Musée du Vélo (in the words of their PR manager “Unique en France”), not in Cormatin however, but in Tournus. And indeed, the museum will reopen on June 19, and the Commune of Tournus has offered the space for this museum, for a trial period of 3 months. The tragedy of it all is, that the owner of the collection, Michel Grézaud, did not live to see the day. He died beginning of this month, just before his dream would have come true again.....

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Living history

The nerve centre of all information in a small village like Cormatin is undoubtedly the local Tabac. Everybody visits this shop either daily or weekly, to buy the local paper, cigarettes, a magazine or a greeting card. During one of my visits I noticed an announcement, saying that the following evening a lecture would be held with as subject Cormatin and the resistance during WW II and the influence of general de Gaulle in Burgundy.
The connection between those two subjects was not immediately clear, but that would undoubtedly be revealed during the lecture. And although we were expecting guests for our gîte that day, we had decided that on early arrival of those guests (which they did) we could attend the evening. So on the night concerned we drove up to Salle Beun, the village house, where everyone in our village who could read was gathered.
The object of this particular Blog is not to give a run down on the lecture itself. But one has to admit, that Gilles Plattret, historian, writer, journalist, politician and lecturer (he appears to be quite popular as “conférancier” - meaning stand-up comedian in Dutch! - in Saône-et-Loire) delivered an excellent story about how the war started, what the influence was of the line of demarcation (which ran not far from Cormatin) between “free” Vichy France and its occupied northern counterpart, when and how the resistance movement started and what the influence was of de Gaulle in ’40-’45 in communities like Cormatin. The lecture was illustrated with a projection of images of this period. No need to say, that those who were born and brought up in Cormatin regularly threw in remarks and comments about the contents of those pictures.
What I found most interesting during the presentation was the personalized way Plattret interacted with his audience. Of course our Monsieur P. was prominently there. Plattret told several anecdotes, in which Monsieur P.’s father (deported and victim of the camps), and Monsieur P. himself (deported and survivor of Buchenwald) played an important role. But not only Monsieur P.’s name was mentioned. Several (even for us) well known names were mentioned, of whom in many cases the descendants were amongst the audience.
This evening proved to me that a presentation about history, no matter how well documented and presented, certainly gains accessibility for a bigger public when the presenter somehow has personal ties with the subject and with the audience itself.
I was well impressed. and I will keep an eye out for the name of Gilles Plattret as of now.

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Village gossip

It may be clear from this Blog that village life in Cormatin is not dissimilar to the stereotypical life in the fictitious village of Clochemerle.
A previous posting got an unexpected follow-up.

Understanding of modern technology by older citizens and progress of this technology do not always go hand in hand. The new amplifier cum CD-player, recently obtained by the commune (and not, as I wrongly stated earlier, by our war veteran and deportee Monsieur P.) was supposed to make the most recent ceremony (the wreath laying at the Monument for those who gave their lives for France during the wars) last Liberation Day a feast for the ears. After the various speeches the Marseillaise was supposed to be played through the amplifier at an acceptable, but clearly audible volume. However, Monsieur P. had forgotten how the thing worked. After what seems to be an eternity, during which Monsieur P. pressed buttons, turned knobs, at the end assisted by the flag bearer, who had to lower the flag for this purpose, all of a sudden the Marseillaise blurted out over Cormatin at House Party volume. It was loud enough to wake the fallen from their graves. But the official part was not over yet. Once every heart had recovered from the sudden shock, the whole group moved off to the monument for the deportees, just outside the village. Those who thought that Monsieur P. had left the amplifier running, just to be sure, were wrong. This time he could not get the thing working at all. The crowd started to get a bit restless, but Monsieur P. had a solution: if the blooming thing would not work, we could beat it, by SINGING the Marseillaise! There are French politicians, who are adamant that foreigners and French should be able to sing and know the words of the Marseillaise. If these politicians had had their way, the performance would have been great. However, obviously they had not had their way, and the majority of those present hummed away, or (amongst others the mayor) kept their mouth shut.
Anyway, after this rather embarrassing intermezzo the mayor announced the venue of the vin d’honneur, and he also explained that a number of ex-combatants and/or resistance fighters would be presented with “Un diplôme d’honneur pour les vétérans de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale”. This had to be handled before the wine started to flow, and one of the “lucky” ones was Monsieur P. After this last eruption of the ceremonial part of the day, Monsieur P. said that he would like to say a few words. But instead of thanking Mayor and Government for this generous diploma, he complained about the fact that “Paris”, so many years after the events, could not come up with something better and more apppropriate than a shoddy piece of paper in flyer format. Every other word he used was “ridicule”. And I think, that most people present, including the Mayor, deep down in their heart agreed with what monsieur P. had to say that day.

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 8 May 2010

How to read a traffic sign?

Until recently there was an agricultural path between Chazelle and La Bergerie, the other hamlet that resorts under the jurisdiction of Cormatin. It was, apart from the last 100 m, a macadam road. Since the road has been used as a deviation during roadworks in Chazelle, the status has changed to road “Communale”, and the last bit of sand has made place for asphalt. After the road had been opened to the public (before that it was a “secret” road only known by insiders) a new traffic sign appeared on the side of La Bergerie. At the Chazelle side the old sign (voie agricole) is still there. The new sign consists of a no-entry sign, and underneath it it says : “Except for school busses from 8h15 to 8h30 and from 17h00 to 17h15”. That seemed a bit strange to me: it suggests that the road is closed throughout the day, and only school busses are allowed there twice a day for a period of 15 minutes. In the other direction the road is open all day. It would effectively turn the road into a one way street. Since we had to go to the mairie for something different, we asked the question about the new road sign. No, we had completely misunderstood it, was the answer.
It clearly said - according to the deputy mayor: the road is only closed for all cars driving from La Bergerie to Chazelle during 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, at the time the school bus uses the road from Chazelle to La Bergerie. This would prevent the school bus from having to dive into the roadside when cars are approaching from the other direction. Obviously the guy who wrote the sign wanted to make it extra clear, but doing it this way he actually obscured the issue. He should have said “Only between 8h15 and 8h30 and between 17h00 and 17h15”, without mentioning school busses. Anyway, we are now in the know, and we are happily using this handy short-cut, but only outside the mentioned hours!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle