Life is full of surprises! Last night we had no idea what was to come. The stalwarts of the village met up at the cross at Varanges just as darkness fell and we set off up the hill and into the forest. I had heard there were to be surprises but I imagined it would be more along the lines of someone making wolf noises behind the trees (wolves did live here until the 1950s and ate a luckless fellow at Cortambert).
The eclipse of the moon last night
I thought it was just a walk to take advantage of the full moon. The night was balmy and the moon was full but as there was a total eclipse it wasn’t a great deal of help. In the darkness the flashing procession of LED torches looked just like a multitude of fireflies.
It turned out to be a treasure hunt cunningly devised by Pascale and Marie Antoinette. At clearings in the forest there were little cairns with fairies and goblins guarding runes and manuscripts.
A goblin guarding the secret
There were clues telling the way to proceed or there was simply a riddle and we had to guess the answer. The runes had to be collected. They meant nothing until the last cairn where we were shown how they had to be arranged and how to read them. They spelled out ‘Dans la gueule du four à chaux’ which means ‘Into the mouth of the lime kiln’.
Working out the puzzle
At last we reached our destination and found the treasure. The maire was waiting at the old lime kiln ready to serve us with wine and gaufrettes (wafer biscuits). It was well past midnight by now and we descended back into the village and bade our neighbours goodnight.
Snow, snow go away…… We are still getting light falls of snow but not enough to be disruptive. It was most spectacular yesterday as we set off in the sunshine to go to Cluny, and halfway there it was a whiteout. When we got home the sun was out again and the new snow on the hills looked most picturesque against the bright blue of the sky.
The village in winter is more active socially than in the summer when everyone is busy in the vineyards, with their gîte visitors and in the potager. The hub of activity is the Foyer Rural. This week we were treated to a talk about wolves in Burgundy given by the author Gilles Platret. He explained that wolves were living in this region until the mid 1950s. Some time ago an inhabitant of Cortambert was eaten by a wolf, and they were prolific scavengers during the war. You can be sure that we all looked around carefully when we went out into the darkness to go home.
To ex-townies like us many of the everyday country occupations are fascinating. On Saturdays we have started to attend a workshop where we are making wicker baskets. Most people use them for shopping at the Saturday market in Cluny. They are used for picking fruit and storing just about anything and come in all shapes and sizes. We are making the smallish rounded one particular to this region.
So we watched enthralled when Robert, the local vineyard owner, showed us how to strip lengths of willow and grade them for size. For the weaving of the basket the willow is split three ways to make it thinner and more pliable. These strips are also used for tying up the vines. We appreciated how expertly he worked when he showed us how to bend lengths around a form, cut them to size and anchor them with pegs and bits of bicycle inner tube. These will become the basis of the handle and the bottom of the basket. Our efforts are now drying by the stove to be ready for the basket making next week.
The last couple of weeks we’ve been without internet or phone as we decided to change our internet provider. During this time Chris has taken the opportunity to redesign this news site so we can illustrate the goings on I describe with photos. So hopefully next time I post it’ll be easier to see what I’m talking about.