It’s always been our custom to go out for a decent walk on Boxing Day afternoon. Yes, I know we don’t have Boxing Day in France but old habits die hard.
We’d seen a lake on the map, not far away. Being in search of places to take the grandchildren in the summer holidays we thought we’d take a look. From Cluny we took the Monceau road to Le Rousset. We soon found the lake, bordered on one side by a forest of Douglas firs.
Disappointingly it’s just a fishing lake, no swimming and no boating, but it was pleasant enough to wander round.
On leaving Le Rousset we called at the Chapelle de Saint-Quentin.
This little 12th century church is dedicated to St Quentin, a Roman who came to France to preach Christianity. In 287, as a result of the religious persecutions by Emperor Maximian, he was tortured, executed and beheaded. His burial place, in what was to later be renamed Saint-Quentin in northern France, became a site of miracles.
The interior of the chapel with a statuette of St Quentin
It’s interesting that the chapel is built on a high rocky plateau and is surrounded on all sides by giant round boulders.
On turning for home we took a turn around La Guiche as we nearly bought a house there once. Nowadays La Guiche seems very foreign with its steep Dutch roofs and square stone towers. Now that our world is the Cluny/Cortambert/Cormatin triangle we find we don’t have to go far to feel we are in a different land. A deserted land as we hardly saw a soul all afternoon.
Last night, despite the cold weather, there was a good turnout of families to see this year’s lights in Cluny. Thankfully the events were not so drawn out nor so weird as usual. The Ombres Blanches, four ladies on stilts in beautiful floaty costumes led the procession through the town to the market place.
One of the shop fronts on the main street
In front of the Abbey we gathered to watch a lively performance of fire dancing and pyrotechnics with Lughna by Cie l’Arche en sel.
Don’t try this at home
After another wander round town we returned to find the Abbey open, and the four ombres blanches were leading a procession round the cloisters. Following behind was the semeur d’étoiles, alias Gérard Thélier, our resident historian.
The ombres blanches in the Abbey
Le semeur d’étoiles
It was nice to see the children so enthralled. The evening was cut short as the horse spectacular was cancelled. Just as well as the snow had begun to fall and it was nice to get home to a warm fire.
I don’t usually feel the cold but yesterday we were chilled to the bone. I think the raw weather put a lot of people off visiting ‘Les Oiseaux Rares’ this weekend, or at least they moved smartly between venues and didn’t linger. ‘Les Oiseaux Rares’ are a group of 25 artists in Cormatin who collectively open their workshops and studios the last weekend in November. You follow the bird footprints chalked on the pavements to go from one venue to another. They use the Mairie, tourist office and church in addition to their workshops. Each door is decorated with a wooden bird which is supposed to be a caricature of the artist within.
The bird at the entrance to the church…
wherein was the artist Patrick Balleriaud with his latest paintings
You can buy a bowl produced by one of the potters and at every exhibition try the homemade soup on offer. Perhaps we arrived too early for that but at the workshop of Pascale Ponsard we enjoyed some mulled orange which fortified us for our return through Cormatin.
The bowls, but where was the soup? Pascale Ponsard’s silk scarves piled on the bench behind
Returning to the church we admired the work of Patrick’s partner, Silvyanne, who runs workshops making things out of what you and I would call rubbish. Her work always reminds me of the Art Brut of Johé Gormand of Cortambert (famous after her death in 1963).
There are special day or weekend art courses available at the studios of Patrick Ballérinaud for visitors and locals alike. See www.studioballeriaud.fr. We had a lovely day last year learning how to sketch and watercolour landscapes. His portaits are excellent; we have the last priest of Cormatin in the hall at La Maison du Curé. At the moment Patrick is sketching portraits of the grandchildren. You just need to send an email with a photo. Great for Christmas presents.
Just a few hardy souls ventured out for a walk with us on a bleak Sunday morning. But despite a downpour as we started out, the cloud lifted a bit and we enjoyed the views from the vineyards and the forest tracks in the hills above Bray.
Pascale, Chris, David and Claire with Miriam & Michel
Chris had very cleverly planned his walk to finish at the porte ouverte at the cave of Christophe Perrin at Chazeux. We tasted each of the seven wines he has produced this year, four whites and three reds. You have to take into account that the wines are yet young but we very much liked the red Chapaize which I hear won the popular vote as it was practically sold out by the end of the weekend. We’ll save some to have with Christmas dinner.
Christophe Perrin (L) telling us about his wines
In cheerful mood by the 7th tasting
Despite the cold weather we enjoy the winter here as there is so much going on. The events by AFM-Téléthon to raise money for research into muscular dystrophy are just getting into gear. AFM-Téléthon is the French equivalent of Children in Need or Red Nose Day. It monopolises the first weekend in December when there is a marathon of 30 hours of fund raising TV.
On Sunday afternoon we enjoyed our first of many charity events, a line dance at Sennecé-lès-Mâcon. The hall was packed for the more popular numbers and it was a good experience to be dancing elbow to elbow with the other clubs, concentrating on not going to pot when all around go wrong (or could that be me?).
An enjoyable way to spend a cold wet afternoon
I think Téléthon must have done quite well yesterday seeing the amount of cakes and tarts consumed during the afternoon. And dancing is thirsty work.
Cormatin will devote the first weekend in December to raise money for Téléthon. Meanwhile next weekend it is the turn of the Oiseaux Rares, the group of 25 artists who will open their studios and workshops. It will be a busy time for the Cormatinois.