Our Life in Burgundy

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September 30, 2010

The End of Summer?

Filed under: Events,Weather — Tags: , , — Mary @ 00:19
The Cloisters at Cluny Abbey

The Cloisters at Cluny Abbey

It is beginning to feel as if summer is drawing to a close this week. The weather has been cold and damp with only the occasional glimmer of sunshine. The grape picking is finished. Woodsmoke is curling out of the chimneys. The autumn classes have begun.

The special exhibitions for Cluny 2010 are drawing to a close this week so it was our last chance to visit Cluny, apogée de l’art roman – Cluny, the peak of Romanesque Art. This exhibition was co-ordinated by the chief curator of the British Museum and it brings together works of art from many museums and private collections.


Many of the sculptures are from various Clunaic sites including Lewes in southern England, and they show the evolution and influence of Cluniac art throughout Europe. The many remnants from the cloisters that were built about 1115 show the artistic wealth of Cluny Abbey at that time.


Amongst the sculptures was perhaps the most famous of them all, the Paschal lamb, the Christian symbol that has been used in Cluny to mark out the tourist trail around the town.

The Paschal Lamb

The Paschal Lamb

After the French Revolution much of the Abbey was destroyed and sold off for its stone. So many old houses incorporate decorated carvings. At that time fancy carving was right out of fashion so many of the stones were used with just the flat side showing. So until a house is demolished it is difficult to find these pieces. A particularly fine one was discovered in a house in our village.

We went to the floor above in this ancient mill to marvel at the illuminated manuscripts which were written in the scriptorium of Cluny Abbey in the 11th and 12th centuries. The colours of the illustrations remain fresh and vivid. There were not just scriptures from the Bible but biographies such as The Life of Blessed Gerald of Aurillac by St Odo of Cluny. A book that especially interested me was one showing full page paintings of musicians. They wore bright tunics with embroidered edges and woolly tights. Some wore three-quarter length trousers that wouldn’t look out of place today. But none seemed to wear shoes. So life in the 12th century was probably merrier than I would have  thought but imagine the chilblains.

The sarcophagus

The sarcophagus

We had visited the exhibition with our neighbours and on our way through the Abbey we had stopped to look at a new exhibit, a sarcophagus which had been discovered recently in the excavations at the south side of the Abbey. It had been found by archeologists who were staying in our neighbours’ gîte. Despite not having lived here very long, the more we learn about Cluny, the Abbey and the surrounding area, the more ‘connected’ we feel.

September 25, 2010

The Lazy Pony Club

Filed under: Places — Tags: — Mary @ 18:40
The Laizé Ponies

The Laizé Ponies

It’s actually the Poney Club de Laizé but the name makes us laugh every time. We used to know the Idle Working Men’s Club in Bradford, and we occasionally passed the Pidley Mountain Rescue Team; Pidley is renowned as the highest point of the Fens at 88 feet above sea level. This is not far from the Ugley Women’s Institute in Essex.

Anyway Chris and I are now paid up members of the Lazy Pony Club. Not in the same class as Chris is a débutant (this evokes more smiles!). And it’s not just all about riding. We have to fetch the horses, brush them and saddle up. And clean up after them. One day we are hoping to have a pony or two of our own so all this is very good practice for us.

September 22, 2010

The end of the Affuage

Filed under: Village Life,Weather — Tags: , — Mary @ 23:07
Fetching wood from the forest

Fetching wood from the forest

The yearly cycle of the affuage has just drawn to a close. It starts in November when we can apply to work a plot in the forest. Then many days are spent in the forest over winter, chopping down the trees, cutting the wood to metre lengths, then splitting and stacking. It is a great occupation on a cold winter’s day, especially for me as I love making big bonfires to burn the twigs.

The cutting has to be done by mid April and then the forest is left until July or August when the wood has to be fetched out of the forest and stacked in the village. We were a bit late this year with Cluny 2010 but managed to get finished today. We clocked up 26 trips with the van and trailer, plus one huge load brought in by our neighbour who has a tractor.

The woodpile at home

The woodpile at home

The wood now has to be left for a couple of years, but we can start to use some of the wood we brought in last year. The birch and poplar does not take so long to dry as the oak. Although I am enjoying the hot summer weather we have been having this week, a part of me is looking forward to the cold, dark evenings when we can sit around the woodburning stove enjoying the results of our labours.

September 20, 2010

Mellow fruitfulness

Filed under: Village Life — Tags: , , — Mary @ 21:35

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…………   

Our village is a hive of industry this month as everyone is busy bottling, freezing and making jams and compotes. Pumpkin soup is a winter favourite and freezes well. Peaches must be used very quickly and can be made into juice which will keep if pasteurised.

This year was poor for cherries but now we have an abundance of fruit and vegetables. In the hedgerows there are plenty of blackberries and the walnut trees in the fields are laden. We are still eating raspberries and strawberries and the tomatoes are doing very well. We ate the first of our cabbages today and cut the last of the courgettes.

The grapes in the nearby fields are ready and a gang of pickers is moving around the village getting them in. We did promise to help with the vendange but we haven’t had the time in the past week. It is an experience which will have to wait until next year.

Autumn fruit

Autumn fruit

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