Saturday, 20 August 2011

Scent of a woman

Have you ever been driven in a car, where the driver turned out to be a blind man? It happened to us, not so long ago, and I can assure you, certainly with the film “Scent of a woman” in mind, that is no fun! In this film Al Pacino, a blind ex high army officer, convinces his chaperone, a young sudent, that it is safe to make a “slow” test drive in a Ferrari, whilst he, Al Pacino is driving.
In our village Chapaize we come regularly across an elderly couple, making a short walk just outside the village. The man wears dark glasses, and always walks, or shuffles alongside his wife, with whom he holds arms. Whenever they hear a sound they stop, and wait in the soft shoulder until the noise is over. It seems obvious, that the man is either blind, or has very poor eyesight.
At one of the wreath layings in Cormatin we bumped into this man again. He was very jovial, said hello to us, did not wear dark glasses, and was with another woman whom we also know from Chazelle. The wreath was going to be laid at the monument in Bois Dernier, too far to walk for any French person. The woman offered us a lift, and we got into the car. To our big surprise (and horror!) the man climbed behind the steering wheel and drove off. Luckily we drove in convoy, and very slowly; further the distance between the town hall and Bois Dernier was not more than a couple of hundred metres, which eased the pain a tiny bit. We did not know how quickly we had to leave the car when it stopped. Fortunately the couple did not return to Cormatin for the vin d’honneur; they had to go back to Chazelle straight after the wreath laying. We talked about the incident for weeks to follow, and never figured out 100 % how the whole thing fitted together. But the most logical explanation seemed to be the following: the man who gave us a lift was not the same person as the blind or half blind man, even though they looked exactly the same. The driver walked normally and quietly, although not fast, and he walked on his own. The blind man however, always shuffled very slowly, and always held his wife by the arm. The only conclusion could be, that both look-alike men were (twin?) brothers, and that both lived in Chazelle. That would also explain the wife swapping. Anyway, in future we only accept a lift from people we are sure of they possess full eye-sight; we do not want to take any risk in this matter anymore!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Les Rendez-Vous de Cormatin

More or less by accident I ended up being a volunteer for the yearly theatre festival Les Rendez-Vous de Cormatin. This is a prestigious festival, whereby a renowned theatre company from the town of Asnières (not far from Paris) takes possession of the Château de Cormatin for a period of four weeks to perform a number of plays, varying from classical to modern pieces, including some musical pieces as well. This year features plays by Molière and Feydeau, whilst Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat is performed by 4 actors and a chamber music orchestra consisting of 7 musicians. I only volunteer for “heavy” work, i.e. building stages, erecting tents before and loading lorries with stage-props after the festival.
Work like checking tickets, standing at the gates of the château, selling programs etc. is not feasible given the large number of shows and the facts that we have to run two gîtes and a campsite. As a token of appreciation the volunteers are given a free ticket for one of the shows performed in the open air theatre.
Because listening to classical French theatre requires a bit more than good listening skills to everyday French, we had chosen to go to L’Histoire du Soldat, a Faust-like Russian fairy tale. Having read the synopsis from Wikipedia several times made following the narrator and the actors relatively easy.
The music, performed by a chamber music group of 7 musicians and a conductor from the conservatory of music of Asnières was excellent, and the simple but more than adequate stage made the play more than worth the money for those who had paid for a ticket. Maybe next year “A la recherche du temps perdu – the musical” ?

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Saving Private Fifi

Often people staying in our gîtes or campers ask us what these two huge barrels are for, the ones that stand next to the staircase leading up to our front door. The answer is simple: these two containers catch the rain water running off two small canopies above them. The water is used to water the plants.
The next question is normally, what these two wooden concoctions are, which stand in the water and have a little platform protruding outside the wall of the barrels.
To explain the purpose of these “ladders”, we have to go back in time. One morning I went out onto the balcony in front of our front door, when I heard a big racket going on. The noise came from downstairs, and when I came down I saw what had happened. Our cat Fifi had climbed into the bin, and because it had a peculiar lid she could not get out. I liberated her straight away, and since then the lid is unopenable for cats because it is held closed by a heavy brick. But we certainly started to think then, what would happen if Fifi ever ended up in one of the barrels, which might be filled up to a quarter with water.
The most logical and simple solution would be to build a little ladder, starting at the bottom of the barrel, and ending in a little platform. If the cat ever ended up in the water, at least then she could climb out. Making the ladders was a piece of cake, testing them turned out to be a bit tricky.
The barrels were empty, the ladder was inserted, the cat was deposited at the bottom; all we had to do was wait. With one big leap she sat on the edge of the barrel, with a second she stood on all fours on the ground.
But the second test did the trick: Fifi got onto the ladder, slowly walked up, and parked herself in the sun on the little platform. Mission accomplished! At least now we can leave the house, with the barrels wide open, and we do not have to worry that we might find a drowned cat by the time we get home!

For our own website click here.