Today was VE Day, the second of the four jours de fête in May. As it is Ascension Day tomorrow many people manage to make the whole week a holiday.
At the memorial for VE Day
To commemorate VE Day the good folk of Cortambert met at the memorial for a service with the Maire and the pompiers. All were invited back to the Mairie for the vin de l’amitié and some excellent cake, the French savoury kind with ham and olives.
We didn’t stay long though as we were due at the stables at Laizé to help judge the cross country competition. The concours complet is like a three day event with showjumping, dressage and cross country.
The weather was a little unsettled, hot and sunny one minute, cloudy and humid the next with a few spots of rain inbetween. Our friend Axelle came prepared for whatever the weather might be.
Ready for the cold, the rain and the sun
We were posted to watch two obstacles. One was called the Coffin which was a jump down into a dip where there was something akin to an open grave. After this was a steep slope out with a fence at the top. The other jump was the Toboggan which was an obstacle at the top of a steep rise.
Approaching the Coffin
The judging was easy, the afternoon peaceful and a perfect day finished off with a meal with our pony club friends and our instructors in the clubhouse. This time not typical French food like in Lyon on Sunday but a very welcome chilli con carne!
May has arrived, and so did the warm sunny weather for the bank holiday.
In the big cities May 1st is Labour Day, a day of trade union parades and protests. This year there is the added interest of the presidential election which finishes on Sunday. It was an opportunity for the finalists, M. Sarkozy and M. Hollande, to woo the six million people who voted for Marine Le Pen in the first round.
One of several rallies in Paris
M. Sarkozy addressed a rally of 200,000 workers in Paris appealing for national unity for his Gaullist vision of France “I tell the unions, put down the red flag and serve France!” Meanwhile M. Hollande sympathised with the unions regarding the effects of high inflation.
But here in Deepest France it is Lily of the Valley Day. The tradition is you go into the woods and pick wild lily of the valley, enjoy the spring weather and have a nice walk. You then give a sprig to the people you love. If you get a sprig with 13 bells you are assured of good fortune.
I went down to the woods this afternoon and found swathes of lily of the valley beneath the trees. I felt like a six year old, a little guilty about picking them, walking back up to the village with a bunch of wilting flowers clutched in a hot sticky hand.
Lily of the valley in the woods
May has a succession of bank holidays where people faire le pont to make a long weekend. We look forward to a holiday on May 8th (Victory in WWII), and May 17th (Ascension Day).
Yes, I know that life for us is one long holiday. So roll on those hot sunny summer days!
The grandchildren came to stay last week and it was perfect weather for them with blue skies and warm sunshine. It was better than when they came in August as at the end of September there is little risk of sunburn and children tend to sleep better on cooler nights.
Maggie and Jo at the playpark at St Point
It was easy to keep the kids amused. They love going swimming and we tried out the lake at St Point. Perhaps it’s not so suitable for very little children as there is no beach and the water becomes deep quite quickly. But there is plenty of shade and a great playpark by the campsite.
The lake at St Point
We also returned to Lac de Laives where the little ones could dig in the sand and paddle. Hardly anyone else was there which surprised me seeing the weather was so good.
The beach at Lac de Laives
Cycling is a new craze for Maggie and we spent a couple of mornings on the voie verte at Massilly.
Maggie on the voie verte
The voie verte is a safe place for learning to cycle or simply going for a walk.
Chris and Jo set off for Cluny
The children like going into the old railway station with its colourful mural. There are tables and chairs inside for people to have lunch if the weather isn’t too good.
Maggie is also keen on horses and our kind neighbour let her ride Duchesse round the field.
And of course there was a visit to Gwendy every day. Gwendy is very gentle and is careful not to munch on little fingers.
Maggie feeding Gwendy
This Indian summer is due to end on Friday but we can’t complain after such a wonderful September.
Schoolchildren throughout France go on holiday today. They get the longest summer holidays in Europe and they don’t go back until 5th September. Working people also take a long break in the summer but the great migration south doesn’t tend to happen until after Bastille Day on July 14th.
Traditionally French children are sent to stay with their grandparents in the country whilst their parents work in the city. Our elderly neighbours tell us of the hectic summers looking after their many grandchildren; the two youngest still come but are nearly grown up.
But now there is a new generation of Mamies & Pépés in the village, including us, awaiting their grandkids. Our other neighbours’ family from Morocco is the first to arrive next week.
All kids love ponies and here in horse country they start riding early. Even our Maggie Ruth from Glasgow, aged two, started during her last visit in May! So yesterday I went with the neighbours to fetch a couple of little ponies to keep in the village for the grandchildren to ride. These two Dartmoor ponies, Banjo and Duchesse, are inseparable so where one goes the other has to go too.
Banjo & Duchesse and friend
The ponies are out grazing in the sunshine, blissfully unaware of the busy summer ahead. No holiday for them!