Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

August 23, 2012

Le trot – plus qu’une allure, une culture

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: , , — Mary @ 19:05

Trotting racing is very popular in France, more so than flat racing or steeplechasing. We were at the Hippodrome in Cluny this week watching the racing with friends who hadn’t been before and as they asked us how to study the form we learned quite a bit from trying to decipher the programme.

The trotters warm up

The trotters warm up

 

 Before each race while the horses warmed up I would normally just look at them passing by and pick one according to its looks and behaviour.  But as it was a quiet day with not too many horses running we had time to evaluate past performances and disqualifications. The little symbols took a bit of working out but they revealed a surprising amount of information about the horses and their jockeys.

 Horses are named according to the year in which they were born. All the four-year-olds’ names began with a U  and the three-year-olds’ with a V. So you can easily work out the age of a horse from its name. 

On the home straight

On the home straight

 The important consideration is the previous wins or disqualifications. A judge sitting in the open door of a van watches to see that the horses do not depart from their trotting gait. Several did, at least in the 4-year-olds’ race. I had read that there are two particular irregular gaits, the amble and the traquenard. The amble is when the horse trots with its back legs and gallops at the front. The traquenard is the reverse, galloping with the back legs and trotting with the front. I was interested to see how this could be done as I couldn’t really imagine it, but the horses we saw that became a bit too enthusiastic just seemed to gallop at full pelt on all legs.

 A little horseshoe symbol showed that the horse might be unshod. This reduction in weight sometimes helps the horse trot faster. Also the head may be reined to a particular height to suit the horse. Blinkers help to keep the horse from being distracted. One horse I saw had one eye completely covered, whether by accident or design I do not know.

It was a hot afternoon and afterwards the horses were taken for a cooling shower.

A welcome shower after the race

A welcome shower after the race

 As I did not pick a single winner I’m not sure that studying the form did me much good. I think I’ll stick to backing the pretty ones.

 

Neptune Collonges

Neptune Collonges

 By the way we see some lovely thoroughbreds in the fields locally. Of course the national stud is at Cluny only a few kilometers away and we are at the centre of a horse breeding area. But until yesterday I hadn’t realised that Neptune Collonges, the winner of the 2012 Grand National, is a local horse. Horses tend to be named after where they were raised and Collonges is within a stone’s throw across the Grosne valley. 

 

August 16, 2012

Le Petit Prince

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , — Mary @ 11:18

 

All grown-ups were once children… but  few of them remember it.”

 I had occasionally wondered why Lyon airport has such an exotic name – Saint Exupéry. But a couple of week ago we were sightseeing in Lyon with Marie Antoinette. She pointed out a statue almost hidden amongst the trees in the Place Bellecour. Here was Saint-Exupéry the famous aviator and, standing behind him, the Little Prince.

Saint-Exupéry with the Little Prince

Saint-Exupéry with the Little Prince

 

In his role as diplomat, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry went to the US in 1941 to convince the Americans that they had to enter the war. While exiled in New York, he wrote Le Petit Prince which was first published in 1943. He went on to rejoin his old squadron in North Africa and was shot down in July 1944, only three weeks before the liberation of Paris.

 Le Petit Prince is one of the best selling books ever published, with about 200 million copies worldwide, and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France. So why had I never read it?

 

Le Petit Prince was written as a children’s book but, although the language is very simple, each phrase is thought provoking and packed with meaning. It’s the story of an encounter between a pilot who makes a forced landing in the Sahara desert and the Little Prince from Asteroid B-612. The pilot gradually learns about the boy’s journey where he hops from one small planet to another and meets a king, a conceited man, a drunkard, a businessman, a lamplighter and a geographer,  thereby witnessing a whole spectrum of adult behaviour. It isn’t until he comes to Earth that the Little Prince learns the important things in life when he encounters a desert fox.

 

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

Saint-Exupéry draws upon his own experiences. He himself had once crash-landed in the desert and was saved. The petulant rose which causes the little Prince to leave his planet is thought to refer to Saint-Exupéry’s difficult Salvadoran wife, and the field of roses his infidelity. The planet itself is like El Salvador with its three volcanos, two active and one extinct (but you never know!). The fearsome  baobabs that have to be rooted out before they take over the planet refer to Nazism.

 The Little Prince realises that he loves his rose when the fox tells him “It is the time you have devoted to the rose that makes your rose so important”.

 Above all Saint-Exupéry describes the different way children and adults look at the world. Being grown up is a state of mind. The pilot suffers loneliness as he retains a childlike perspective of the world and is frustrated by the stupidity of people who cannot recognise a drawing of an elephant inside a boa but say it’s a hat. 

He also learns why some individuals are dear to us even though they are only one of many. The fox says “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed….”  The downside to the joy of friendship is the pain of parting, as the pilot discovers when the Little Prince disappears,  to return to his planet we hope.

 Saint-Exupéry lived and died long before most of us were born but he left a legacy which is perhaps more relevant to us today than it was in the 1940s.

August 1, 2012

Summer somnolence

Filed under: Events,People,Village Life — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 18:14
 

I haven’t any good excuses for why August has managed to arrive and there have been no new blogs. I could say it’s the hot weather and the Olympics but it more a lapse into holiday mode, c’est bien français.

Also too much has been going on to have time to write about it. Here is a snapshot of a few activities in Cortambert over last couple of weeks.

 

July 14th - Vide grenier at Varanges

July 14th - Vide grenier at Varanges

July 14th was celebrated with the annual vide grenier in Varanges. In spite of gloomy weather there was a reasonable attendance. We found some wonderful toys for the grandkids which kept them amused for the rest of their stay.

 Village scene by Michel Bouillot

Later that week was an interesting exhibition of the work of Michel Bouillot at the Cortambert library. His speciality was pen and ink drawings of the old buildings in southern Burgundy. He must have known every stone in the region as he sketched every lavoir and old house, as well as the churches and abbeys. He taught locally for many years and was mentor to PJ, our mayor.

PJ on Michel Bouillot

PJ on Michel Bouillot

 

The highlight of last weekend was the René Alamagny cycle race. RA was once mayor of Cortambert and a keen cyclist, as is PJ who not only organised this event but worked all day at everything from sweeping the gravel off the road and hosting lunch  to presenting the prizes.

 

Sweeping the road in Varanges

Sweeping the road in Varanges

 

The cyclists come hurtling down to our corner of Varanges

The cyclists come hurtling down to our corner of Varanges

 

Watching the race with our lovely neighbours

Watching the race with our lovely neighbours

 

In the evening all the helpers were treated to a BBQ at the marie

Florence hard at work cooking sausages

Florence hard at work cooking sausages

 

 followed by entertainment with our multi-talented mayor and Alain & Florence from Awen, our local rock group.

Entertainment from PJ and Awen

Entertainment from PJ and Awen

 

By the way, this is how our neighbours keep their grass down.

Next door's lawnmowers

Next door's lawnmowers

You’ll see our neighbour in Cormatin also has the same idea as he borrows a horse for his garden. Can someone please lend me a pony?

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