Saturday, 29 October 2011

Who are these guys?

In Cluny one often bumps into a handful of people dressed like this. They did not walk away from a Carnival celebration; no these are students of the ENSAM, one of France’s Grande Écoles in their working outfit. The ENSAM is a very prestigious technical university (that seems to come as close to the school type as one can get), and Cluny is just another (very small scale) branch of the École Supérieure des Arts et Métiers of Paris. We have never been able to figure out how the school exactly works, but we do know that these students are in Cluny only for a couple of months. The lecture halls are in one of the remaining parts of the former abbey.
The students live together in a couple of blocks of flats, and sometimes, when there is a party going on, one really gets the impression that Cluny is a university town. But generally one only sees the students in their extravagant outfit wondering around the market or browsing the shop windows in Cluny’s main street. The school possesses a beautiful collection of “masterpieces”, a piece of handicraft the students must produce to prove that they master their trade. The collection is open to the public on the open days of the school. The students in the bottom photograph are standing next to one of the old “masterpieces”.
The ENSAM is also heavily involved in the abbey of Cluny. Various 3D films about the Ecclesia Major and other buildings of Cluny III often bear the signature of the ENSAM.
We were not aware what else was involved when it comes to the French Grandes Écoles. We found out about it when one group of students was leaving and another one was coming in. This normally happens during the weekend, and a sure sign that something is going on is the lack of available parking spaces. But once having discarded one’s vehicle, one bumps regularly into bunches of students and their parents and friends.
To our amazement, the students had undergone a metamorphosis. No more grey, with bright colours painted or embroidered dust coats; on those hey days the students are wearing a military like uniform, and the few female students wear a similar skirt suit.
When comparing working cloths and gala cloths, the difference between those two is even greater than within the army!

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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Mental arithmatic

Although un-officially retired, I still have to do some work every so often. Most of our clients live quite close, a few a bit further away. One of our clients lives half an hour’s drive Northeast of us, and nearby there is a village called Bissy-sur-Fley, which we had never seen before. We knew it had a Romanesque church, and since it was at least dry, we went there after inspecting our client’s house. Unfortunately, the church was closed, but fortunately we found a few other things we did not know about. Bissy-sur-Fley appears to have an old castle, which once belonged to Pontus de Tuyard, a French 16th century poet. I had read in the local paper about music performances at the castle, but did not know where this castle was.
The next find? In the past I have reported about rumours that “Aux berges de la Grosne” is going to be transferred into a beer bar, which was at the time located in a place not near here. I was quite surprised, to find, very near the closed church, the “Café le Papillon”, offering a selection of 111 different beers. I seemed to remember that the original beer bar was located in a village with Fley in its name, so adding up one and one, and still another one, I came to 111!

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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Paranoid, moi???

Early 2011 Egypt, and the middle East, were very much in the spotlight; regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by weeklong demonstrations.
Which makes me think of a story we heard from a guy who lives in La Bergerie, a hamlet not far from here. This guy, C.P., told us that his neighbour was building a pyramid opposite his front door. This all sounded rather strange, and the way he described it pointed at something quite bizarre. According to him, there was a big group of people living opposite his house, most of them lived underground, and they were erecting a pyramid with Egyptian statues at the entrance. There was also talk of red eyes of the statues, which would be lighted up at night. He had complained at the Mairie, but according to the Mayor his neighbours had received planning permission from Mâcon, so there was nothing he could do about it.
Give C.P. his due, he is a juicy story teller, so which part of his story was true, we could not work out. How do you find out? Simple, you just drive past. And so we did.
C.P. had not really exaggerated. Opposite his house there was a former pond, with tapered dikes around it. In the middle of this pond stood a house, and the entrance through the dike which had recently been clad with concrete, seemed to give access to some underground corridor. There were at least 10 cars parked next to the pond. With the story of a big number of people living there in mind, and also considering that C.P. obviously was not on speaking terms with this neighbours any more, we did not really dare to get out of the car and start taking pictures.
However, one sunny afternoon we finally got our act together, plucked up the courage and went off to La Bergerie. Plan of campaign (think Private Eye!): I had my camera with tele-lens ready to roll. We drove to a path from where we could see the house without really being seen, windows rolled down. I got out of the car, found some support against a pole, and shot some pictures. From there we drove off to the front of the house, doing a turning manoeuvre (paranoid, moi?) - implying to those who might think “What are those people doing here?” that we had taken the wrong road - which brought me and my window in a position to take some pictures of entrance and Horus statues at close range.
Operation Moscow Rules went very smoothly, and once home I could have a close look at the pictures I took. Well, I must admit, that I would not be very pleased if someone was building a tourist attraction opposite my front garden.
Now what connections is there with the fall of dictatorial regimes? France has a tradition of giving shelter to ex-dictators (Baby Doc and others), so it would not surprise me if Sarkozy has built this little cosy pyramid for his friend Hosni Mubarak......

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