The local villages are beginning to look very pretty with their Christmas decorations. Cormatin has the usual little white lights in the trees on each side of the main road and various tableaux on street corners. Near the gîte this year we have Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; I’m not sure what Snow White has to do with Christmas but she’s very colourful.
Penguins in Confrançon
This afternoon, going through Confrançon to the west of Cormatin, we were surprised to find an exotic mixture of penguins and an Eskimo fishing in the ice. Well done Confrançon!
And it's even cold enough for eskimos......
We are doing our bit by erecting our crèche by the road. Our friend Sue from La Tuilerie in Chazelle points out in her blog that at this stage the crèche should contain only the sheep and cattle. Then come Mary, Joseph and the donkey. The Baby Jesus and the Three Kings shouldn’t appear until Christmas Day. However in this snowy weather I’d rather have them snug in the stable than walking down the road.
Cluny celebrated its Illuminations and Marché de l’Avent last night. As usual, being oblivious to what’s going on, we arrived too late for the parade by lamplight through the town. We did however enjoy wandering through the streets looking at the vitrines, the decorated shop windows, and the candles in the houses. Along rue Lamartine there were several garden sheds displaying scenes and crèches made by the schoolchildren
Near the market square we bumped into St Nicolas and his side-kick, Père Fouettard, otherwise known as Black Peter. St Nicolas is an impressive sight with his white beard, standing tall in his red robes with mitre and crosier. Père Fouettard is short and evil with a black face and afro wig. He carries a sack of coal and a stick. It is his job to beat the bad children and leave coal in their slippers instead of presents. I think if I had met him as a child I would have been terrified into behaving better.
We met with friends and enjoyed a chocolat chaud in the café on rue Lamartine and went on to the Ecuries Saint-Hughes where handmade chocolates and pottery were for sale. We listened to a local choir sing a very catchy selection of gospel songs, then it was the turn of la Chorale La Clunisya who had also performed in the Church of Notre Dame.
During the evening the calèche was busy providing tours round the town. The calèche is a shiny black carriage pulled by two handsome Comtois horses. The Comtois are light chestnut with flaxen manes and tails. Originating from the nearby Jura, they are the everyday farm horses in this area.
We didn’t stay late as the rain set in and it became colder. At the beginning of this week we had a strong wind from the south which had brought warm wet weather. Yesterday evening in Cluny started at a balmy 15°. Today we’re back to zero but it’s dry.
This beautiful photo of the lights on rue Lamartine was kindly sent to me by Jean-Jacques Chabert, as, unusually for me, I forgot to take my camera.
Christmas lights in Cluny
Galettes des Rois
They say that time goes by quickly when one gets older but Christmas and New Year have been and gone and we are already well into January with hardly a pause for breath.
Christmas was good, our first Christmas in France with the family and our little granddaughter. A worrying time though, first with the proposed BA strikes and then the cancellation of flights due to the snow in Britain. All went well until my daughter and the baby returned via Heathrow last Thursday and found the flights to Scotland cancelled. After many hours of chaos they managed to get on a bus to Glasgow. She described it as ‘fighting your way out of a refugee camp’.
It is the first time for many years that there has been a hard winter in Britain. There must be a whole generation of young people who have not experienced the difficulties of travelling when conditions are bad.
Here we have just had a good fall of snow but we are content to remain in the village for the duration. We are lucky that we do not have to be anywhere.
Today the whole commune were invited by the pompiers (firemen) to meet together to share the Galette des Rois. This event is held around Epiphany when the three kings were traditionally added to the crib. The galette is a puff pastry case filled with frangipane (almond paste). Hidden inside is a fève (lucky charm) which used to be a dried bean. Whoever finds the fève inside their slice of galette wears a crown and becomes the king or queen for the day. Nowadays the fèves are little china figures that are highly collectible. Despite the snow the majority of inhabitants of the commune turned out for the event and it was a good occasion for us to get to know our incredibly kind neighbours a little better.
Model of Cormatin Chateau
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday it was like Siberia chez nous with snow blowing in a biting wind. One night last week we had temperatures of minus14 degrees. There was about 8 inches of snow and our narrow hilly roads became treacherous. But thanks to our invaluable commune worker who was bravely out and about in his tractor every day before dawn scraping and gritting the roads, we could manage to get down to Cluny and thence to Cormatin where conditions in the valley were a great deal less severe.
The lights in the trees along the main street in the village and the tableaux are very pretty, especially in the snow. Near La Maison du Curé this year we have the nativity scene with its brightly painted wooden figures. A huge Christmas tree decorated with gift wrapped presents stands by the Church.
Today we have a strong southerly wind with a few flurries of rain and the snow is very quickly disappearing. I am hoping there will also be a thaw further north as we have friends going off to the UK for Christmas and our family is flying out to stay with us. What, with BA threatening to go on strike last week, the closure of Calais, snow affecting the airports, the Eurostar problems and the ‘bouchons’ on the motorways both side of the Channel, it would be easy to decide it is not worth going anywhere at Christmas. But hopefully everyone will get to where they want to be and will have a good time.
So Happy Christmas everyone!!