A national riding competition, a concours complet, took place at Cluny this weekend. It was a three day event where each horse and rider had to compete a dressage section, take part in the showjumping and finally tackle a cross country course.
Watching the dressage we realised why we do so much of it in lessons at the pony club. Controlling direction and pace is the basis of all riding. We went to see Chris’s teacher Anaïs compete. She proved that she could do it as well as teach it as she was well placed in the final results.
Anaïs in the dressage
Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to help judge the cross country at the Hippodrome. For each stage we were allocated an obstacle. A little confusing as the obstacles had different numbers in different colours for various courses. Once installed we sat with pen and clipboard to record the riders’ numbers and tick the columns for bien passé, un, deux or trois refus or une chute. In addition each time a horse passed we had to report to mission control by walkie talkie. I had always been a bit phobic about numbers, especially big ones (do you know how to say 79 or 193 in French without having to think about it?), but by the end of the weekend no problem. And I thought everybody was just being funny when they talked about talkie-walkies but that is what they call them in French!
Sunday afternoon was especially interesting for me as I was judging a jump that non of the horses liked. It was not particularly big but solid and it came after a long gallop and a descent down a bank. Several horses refused at least once, one refused three times and was eliminated, as was one unfortunate young rider who fell off.
You have to be really brave for cross country. You are on a madly galloping horse facing the most daunting obstacles. Some riders talked constantly to their horses, more, I think, to bolster their own courage. Bravo to all those who managed to finish.
Last night the local choir, Cant’Azé, performed their annual concert to an appreciative audience in the church at Azé. The concert was entitled A la Recherche d’un Paradis (in search of Paradise) and it ably demonstrated the hard work put in by the choir over the last year.
The variety of songs had Paradise as their theme but ranged from the religious to the humerous. Everybody enjoyed ‘La pince à linge’ which is based on the famous Symphony No 5 by Beethoven with words by Francis Blanche describing how this symphony led to the clothes peg being invented. At the end a washing line was hoisted aloft with a row of undies which amused the audience greatly.
In the middle of the concert the choir had a well earned break and we were entertained by the stars of the choir, Les Crescendises, two beautiful twin young ladies with voices that perfectly complemented each other. They kept us spellbound, singing without conductor or accompanist.
At the end of the programme the audience demanded encore after encore, in particular a repeat of ‘La pince à linge’ We all joined in with the chorus of the Joe Dassin song ‘Champs Elysée’, the old favourite that even we know the words for!
After the concert we were invited into the foyer for wine and cake so we could chat with our neighbours and the choir. The ladies of the choir can bake as well as sing. Bravo Cant’Azé!
If you missed last night there is another chance to see the choir at 5pm this afternoon.
Next Saturday 25th June there will be an evening of entertainment at Cortambert followed by a grand bonfire and dance between Donzy and Blanot to celebrate the Fête de la Saint Jean. Tonight we were treated to a preview of the concert to be given by our very own rock group, Awen.
Awen have developed their own style which is a blend of 70s progressive rock and punk. Florence is the lead singer, a veritable Blondie. She is backed by accomplished guitarists Cédric, Christophe, and Alain. Olivier plays the drums, sings and can whistle a mean tune.
So on Saturday ChristalFragil, a guitar duo, will go on stage at 17.30 followed by Awen at 19.00. An event not to be missed!
Life is full of surprises! Last night we had no idea what was to come. The stalwarts of the village met up at the cross at Varanges just as darkness fell and we set off up the hill and into the forest. I had heard there were to be surprises but I imagined it would be more along the lines of someone making wolf noises behind the trees (wolves did live here until the 1950s and ate a luckless fellow at Cortambert).
The eclipse of the moon last night
I thought it was just a walk to take advantage of the full moon. The night was balmy and the moon was full but as there was a total eclipse it wasn’t a great deal of help. In the darkness the flashing procession of LED torches looked just like a multitude of fireflies.
It turned out to be a treasure hunt cunningly devised by Pascale and Marie Antoinette. At clearings in the forest there were little cairns with fairies and goblins guarding runes and manuscripts.
A goblin guarding the secret
There were clues telling the way to proceed or there was simply a riddle and we had to guess the answer. The runes had to be collected. They meant nothing until the last cairn where we were shown how they had to be arranged and how to read them. They spelled out ‘Dans la gueule du four à chaux’ which means ‘Into the mouth of the lime kiln’.
Working out the puzzle
At last we reached our destination and found the treasure. The maire was waiting at the old lime kiln ready to serve us with wine and gaufrettes (wafer biscuits). It was well past midnight by now and we descended back into the village and bade our neighbours goodnight.