We’d all learn from White Cat. She is a most patient and devoted mother. She talks constantly to the kittens. Over the weeks we have learned cat language, whether she is calling them for milk, settling them down or just telling them she is there. Of course we leap up as soon as we hear a more strident voice which means she wants food or letting out.
White Cat with the kittens
The kittens are six weeks old today. I cannot believe that people think that cats are ready for a new home at six weeks. They still need their mother and White Cat would be bereft if they were taken away. I keep looking for signs that she is rejecting them, an important stage if a kitten is to learn to stand on its own four feet, but she puts up with them jumping on her and biting her tail with infinite patience. She even goes as far as to wake them up to feed them if she thinks she should. And then she washes them until their fur sticks out.
Six weeks today
Meanwhile the kittens are thriving and enjoying their mad sessions of play. They still stick to their early alliances, Blanche looks after Claude while Smudge chases about with Benedict. With such rapid progress, physically and socially, I can honestly say there is never a dull moment.
Claude and Benedict
In theory we’d always been averse to the idea of meeting expats. Part of the reason we moved to this part of France (besides it being the loveliest place on Earth) is that there didn’t seem to be any English here. We have since found a small sprinkling of people from the UK who form interlinked circles of mutual support and friendship.
I dislike the term ‘expats’ which describes those people who move to France without having the slightest intention of integrating into the life and culture of their commune nor attempting to learn the language, people who are unlikely to stay for the long haul because of family and lack of funds pulling them back to the life they left behind.
Having to make a new life for ourselves was difficult at first but we haven’t had to depend on making a living in France. I doubt we would have survived if we had. We are happy to be involved with a circle of people with similar experiences who have survived too.
Perhaps we have in common the entrepreneurial spirit of the British who have an urge to try something different. As a nation have always travelled and explored, and emigration is a common theme of our history. We have all had to learn new skills, especially in renovation. We have all had to cope with the bureaucracy and difficulties involved in moving countries. We have all had to learn the language, not a strong point of the British.
All this is leading up to telling you about today’s Craft Day at our house. This is an event held about once a month where we take it in turns to host a lunch and expand our circle with friends often bringing other friends. It was started by an artistic friend who used to invite us to her wonderfully renovated Bresse farmhouse. We used to bring a bit of artwork and spend a day painting and drawing, doing needlework or pottery, or just chatting. We all took a dish of food to share for lunch beneath the pergola of climbing roses on the terrace.
We still call it a Craft Day but these days there is no pretence to be creative, we simply eat and talk. As some of us are of more mature years the Craft in Craft Day now stands for ‘Can’t Remember a Flippin’ Thing’.
I’m always surprised what new experiences we encounter through having visitors. Last week Chris’s nephew and three university friends from Wales who stayed en route to Greece were happy to drink beer, jump in the pool and spend the night in a bar in Cluny listening to a band. When our daughter comes with the babies we visit playparks and lakes with beaches and go for pony rides. And watch Cbeebies.
Typical photo of Malcolm under the bonnet
Our son is here at the moment. He is a Renault 4 enthusiast and drove here in his newly restored 1967 Renault 4 with a Gordini engine. Last weekend he had been to a huge event in Thenay for the 50th anniversary of the Renault 4. There he met up with many of the members of his Renault 4 Club – www.renault4.co.uk.
Friends at the 50th anniversary of the Renault 4
We had planned to visit the motor museums in Beaune and Lyon but instead our mission this week has been to buy a 1972 Renault Rodeo. Through Leboncoin we found one in Charolles, a pretty town about half an hour the other side of Cluny. We were amazed to find that the seller has a business selling vintage cars.
Vintage Rolls Royce
This one belonged to Coco Chanel
We had a look around his collection. All the cars were immaculate and many had belonged to famous people. How astonishing this place should be tucked away in deepest Burgundy!
The Rodeo wasn’t running too well, having being laid up for a long time, so Chris and Malcolm have gone off with tools to see if they can give it a good overhaul. If all goes well they should arrive back with it. Luckily for the time being it has stopped raining and the sun is out. Just as well as this car doesn’t have much of a roof!
Back safely chez nous
It was one of those surreal moments. Last night we found ourselves at the romanesque church in the tiny village of Chazelle listening to two of the most celebrated musicians in Europe.
We had been urged to go by a friend. His invitation was a master of understatement – “Rumour has it that the violin player Gérard Poulet is a very good one, the pianist Dimitris Saroglou is also not unknown in the classical world, and the accoustics of Chazelle church are considerably better than those of Cormatin church”.
Gérard Poulet was in fact a child prodigy and studied from age 11 at the Conservatoire of Paris, where he is now honorary professor. He is currently a professor at Tokyo but teaches and performs all over the world. Dimitris Saroglou is Greek and he also studied in Paris and plays the piano in the best concert halls in Europe.
Gérard Poulet on the violin and Dimitris Saroglou on the piano
Guitares en Cormatinois is a series of concerts held every year in and around Cormatin. Guy Touvron runs this project which was originally the brainchild of his wife, the talented guitarist Isabelle Régis, who unfortunately died very young. The concerts are now in their tenth year. Guy is himself a feted trumpet player and the performers are some of his many friends and contacts from studying in Paris and performing with the elite orchestras of Europe. Every year he invites the classical guitarist Emmanuel Rossfelder to come to Cormatin to be the star turn.
Not a guitar in sight last night, much to Chris’s disappointment. He said I had got him there under false pretences! But everyone listened spellbound to the sonatas from Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms which well deserved the two standing ovations. The oficionados said it was the best concert so far.
The accoustics were indeed excellent at Chazelle. But the chairs are dire. We took cushions which helped a bit. But a bit of suffering was worth it to appreciate two musicians who you would normally only hear in the concert halls of Paris and Vienna, not a village church in deepest France.