I’ve had a week or so off from the Blog, partly through total exhaustion after the departure of the grandchildren and partly as there is so much to do at this time of the year.
Holiday with Granny and Grandpa
I took my eyes off the peach tree for a moment and overnight the fruit was lying on the ground. You hear the thud thud of fruit dropping and have to get to work freezing it and making compotes or jam. The courgettes lurk under the foliage, small one minute and like marrows the next. The runner beans likewise went from too small to large and inedible overnight. I have a theory that runner beans are more suited to the soft climate in Leeds, the weather being too nice for them here.
A good year for fruit
Although the end of summer is nigh there are still lots of events. This weekend Cluny hosted a national carriage driving competition. The cross country event on Sunday was spectacular with carriages with two or four horses. I know it looks easy on the westerns but I hadn’t appreciated how difficult it is to drive a team of four round an obstacle course. Sometimes it was a husband and wife team, the husband driving and the wife hanging on the back yelling ‘Allez!’at husband and horses. ‘Typical’ said Chris.
Carriage racing at Cluny
Across the road at the equivallée there was a demonstration of western riding. Anything western is very popular here; every French kid would like to come from the US. And Chris has always hankered after riding in jeans and a cowboy hat! There was a bit of barrel racing too.
You realize at this time of year that you have to make an effort and go and see things that finish in September. On Saturday night we were enjoying a lovely meal with the committee of the foyer rural at the Hôtel de l’Abbaye when in came a funny little lady (do you remember the poem ‘When I am old I will wear purple…’) to remind us about a show that has been running at the Museum in Cluny all summer. It was ‘Le Chant des Poulies’ – ‘the song of the pulleys’ (not something about chickens as I had thought). So on Sunday afternoon a group of us met and squeezed into the tiny theatre to see this well fêted production. It was performed by two actresses, one of which was the little old lady we had seen at the hotel. They told the story of Cluny Abbey, starting with the battle between good and evil to the monks’ small beginnings in 910 to the impressive Maier Ecclesia which was built a thousand years ago. Hence at each stage the pulleys used to build the Abbey got bigger!
Le Chant des Poulies
The show could be described as a puppet show but French, rather poetic and strongly burlesque. It was written and performed by the two actresses with incredible energy and a huge range of voices. The cardboard sets and groups of figures were wonderful. If you haven’t yet been it is well worth seeing.
This week is the rentrée when most people are back from their long holidays and school starts. Winter activities start for us too. It’s back to riding this week but we are going to try out the riding centre at Cluny which is more convenient for us than Laizé. Badminton starts, as does folk dancing. We are going walking this afternoon; September is the best time of the year for randonnées. I must get on and do some French lessons too. Goodness knows how people have time to go out to work!
Pantomime in French is a faux ami. It really means mime show even though the village children were treated to a pantomine today in the lead up to Christmas. Les Aventures de Monsieur Theodule was a one-man show that kept the kids enthralled. By just changing his hat he could become a completely different character and his sketches were just so funny. French mime at its best. The kids were especially pleased to provide sound effects for a story about a train. There were no words so it was easy to understand for toddler and foreigner alike.
Today the snow is melting away as fast as it came. We went for a walk through the woods and the sun felt warm on our backs even though the wind went straight through. We are expecting the temperature in double figures by Wednesday, a welcome relief after being intermittently snowed in for much of December.
Due to snow on Saturday the attendance was very poor at Laizé so we combined classes to play Pony Games. We were given the small ponies which enjoyed dashing around playing tag. I must show you this picture of Chris on Epine. His feet are almost touching the ground!
Racing through the village
Everything is happening this weekend. Businesses have shut up shop for the whole of August and on the TV we have seen the usual exodus from Paris. The first Saturday in August is called ‘Black Saturday’ as it is the busiest day of the year on the motorways down to the South of France.
As it’s the first weekend of the holidays every village seems to be holding its fête or puce or foire. Our neighbour was saying that there were so many events to visit that she was staying at home!
Cormatin was full of visitors today as Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin has begun. This is the 18th annual theatre festival. Over the next three weeks there are going to be 40 performances of drama and opera performed by several companies well known in France. Most will be held at the Château. Hopefully the weather will be fine as some performances will be held in the outdoor theatre.
But the weather wasn’t fine today. After a sunny morning and a sudden rise of temperature a storm blew up very suddenly and we must have had a good inch of rain in an hour or so*. Unfortunately the storm arrived midway through the local cycle race. The route was 15 laps of a circuit of 6km through the village. So, unlike the Tour de France, if you blinked and missed the cyclists you had only to wait ten minutes and they would come past again.
*Just heard that Sennecey Le Grand, not far away, had 30mm in half an hour
The cast of Ubu Roi
On Saturday night we were treated to a energetic performance by a theatre group from Mâcon. The play was ‘Ubu Roi’ by Alfred Jarry, a legend in the French theatre. It is as famous as Macbeth and remarkably similar but in a burlesque sort of way. The adjective ‘ubuesque’ is commonly used to describe something totally absurd or grotesque.
During Jarry’s lifetime the first performance was the last. After the very first word ‘merdre ‘ was uttered by Père Ubu, the audience rioted, and Ubu Roi was outlawed on the stage. Besides being deemed vulgar it was seen as an act of political subversion.
Père Ubu is a greedy man who decides, by whatever means, to kill the king and take over the throne. He is magnificently stupid and appallingly unfit to rule anything, so his eventual ascension is a farce. He becomes a violent and incompetent dictator who kills his subjects, destroys the economy, and goes to war without a second thought.
Ubu Roi is meant to be played in an infantile fashion with very few props or actors. There is a small cast who, as soldiers, get killed and go off left only to reappear right, with only the slightest change of appearance, as peasants, nobles, or government workers. Père Ubu gallops around on a hobby horse, and armies fight with cardboard swords.
The star of the show was a gangly girl in overalls who kept us amused during scene changes with slapstick routines involving the pasting up of posters showing us the location of the next scene. She could have been straight out of Laurel & Hardy.
When it was all over the chairs were cleared away and the trestle tables set with a meal for the actors, hospitality Burgundy style. I sat amongst them listening to their chatter, unable to believe that these perfectly ordinary folk had shortly before been playing larger than life characters, the loudmouthed grandiose despot, the shrew of a wife, the boisterous soldier…. . I think it a good actor who can step off the stage and bear little ressemblance to the character he has portrayed.