Saturday, 31 August 2013

A literary village

Years ago I borrowed a book from an English friend about the developments around the deployment of a public urinal in a small village in the Beaujolais.

The book was called "Clochemerle", written by Gabriel Chevallier. After having lived in France for a while, I noticed that, no matter how farcical the story seemed, it was an interesting satire on the division that divides France, still, when it comes to the separation of Church and State. One can sense that in "real" politics, but it is very obvious at a local level.
In a nutshell : the Mayor of Clochemerle wants to make a point, and decides to have a public urinal erected, near the church and the girls' school. Being a cunning village politician, he ensures himself of the loyal support of the local "intellectual", the village teacher. The latter is obsessed by fear of intervention from the "conservatives", i.e. clergy (the parish priest) and nobility (the baroness).

Het urinoir
A pious old maid, who is watching this cesspool of vice day in day out from her window, mobilises the conservatives to halt this humiliating performance. The book has a few more story lines, but this is in essence what the book is all about. It is written in a style not dissimilar to that of P.G. Wodehouse.
Not so long ago I learned that there was a village in the Beaujolais which had been used as the model for Clochemerle, as regards to plan, location and inhabitants, sometimes even with their real names. A couple of days ago we visited, for that reason only, the village of Vaux-en-Beaujolais alias Clochemerle. Of course there is a Chevallier Museum, but on top of that, the village square boasts a urinal, especially erected for the purpose. Besides, another building facing the square, has been adorned with a trompe l'oeil with scenes from the book, a mural which cleverly uses light in shadow to suggest reality. The shadow of the man hanging from a rope from a balcony makes this clear.

Trompe l'oeil
I am not so familiar with English book characters, but certainly the Dutch are lacking in fantasy on this front. Most nationwide well known characters from books or novels come from real places like Rotterdam or Amsterdam, very often with real street names as well. Maybe the Dutch are just too dull to come up with a fictitious village or town....

Anyway, those who are interested in the original French version or a Dutch or German translation of "Clochemerle", these are available at La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A lunch for 3500 people

That they think big in Burgundy may be deduced from the following.

Ready, steady, go!
Friends of ours had asked whether we cared to joint them for a balade gourmande, freely translated an appetite whetting walk. I had no idea what to expect, but what the heck, why not? The Foyer Rural (village club) of their village organises every year an outing by bus to Ladoix, where this event takes place on a yearly basis. Reservations have to be made in February, because there are limited tickets available, and in March it is normally sold out. So we decided to enforce the ranks of the villagers of Saint-Ythaire, of whom we know quite a few by now.

First stop : the starter
Ladoix appears to be a village near Beaune, which produces a number of prestigious wines.
Every group who registers, get a time slot allocated. At arrival, the whole village was swarming with walkers, not really amazing when one knows that there are normally between 3 and 4 thousand participants. Everybody was provided with a straw hat, a little bag to be carried around the neck, a glass of kir and a few snacks, and after the glass had been downed it was safely stored in the small bag and off the group went, to the starter.

Enjoying the view whilst eating
The walk is about 5 km long, and passes along a number of massive places to eat, where respectively a starter, a fish course, a meat course (boeuf bourgignon), a cheese platter, a dessert and a cup of coffee is served. And of course every dish is amply sprinkled with various local wines.

To summarize this day: A lovely hot summer's day, a light refreshing breeze, lovely surroundings, an excellent meal, a bit of physical exercise, quality wines, good company.... In a word, what more does one want?

Quite handy, this stylish whine tray!

To learn about our corner of Burgundy, click here.

Saturday, 3 August 2013


Why would one not, when addressing someone else orally or in writing, restrict oneself to the absolute minimum?
I would not go as far as speaking and writing in SMS (texting) format, but superfluous phrases like "Dear Sir", a rather tiring body of the message and closing off with unnecessary words like "Best regards" or trivial things like that, are totally unneccessary.
No, we have to go back to the essence of the language. Down with all polite phrases! What we need is something like a haiku, but without this rather boring restriction of the number of syllables!
Recently we received the following email:
Do you have any camp sites available August 8, 9, 10?
Most people would elaborate bit, giving at least a name and address, with how many people and tents they want to come, etc., but lo and behold, we are now living in the fast lane.
Some people pick up new tricks really easily. This is the avant-garde haiku Sue wrote as a reply:
Afterwards she only regreted using "Rgds"....

This proves by the way, that when you approach "La Tuilerie de Chazelle" you will receive an answer, no matter how concise!