Fiona Alderman blogging from rural France, April, 2014

Fifi’s story from rural France.

first paraA Royal return. 

We recently went to vote in the local elections here in sunny Salignac. We can also vote in the European ones too but not for the big job! This time was a little different , as there was just one candidate  ie Monsieur Dubois our lovely mayor . This is his third term and he was of course elected as he is personable and well respected. Accompagning him on his “team” were a few new faces. One of which is Cecile our friendly café owner who is looking set for another dimension to her life , that of local politics . There are 14 members in the cabinet and we pretty much know who they all are now . From the baker’s wife , a builder , a butcher, to a retired osteopath they are all respected citizens of Salignac.

Barry and I went to give our support, on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We were a little confused as to what to do? There was no signing with a pen , so we dutifully each went into a little curtained booth which was completely empty. We only had to fold our piece of paper and put it in a tiny envelope . They all laughed at us ! We did realise then that as there was only one candidate you had not much choice as to what to do. Luckily we are for him!
The main news of the month has been the reshuffle of the President of the Republic’s cabinet, after a very poor showing in the polls for the Socialist party.Monsieur Hollande’s credibility is waning and he has tried to boost his image with some bold changes to his team. Firstly with Manuel Valls , an ambitious man, seeking the top job probably, but who has climbed up the political ladder steadily and has now reached the Prime Minister’s spot. He is a very powerful voice within the party and is a favourite with the voters . Ségolène Royal comes back from the wilderness too, she is elected the Ecology Minister. She has as they say “les oreilles du President”. The ears of the President, not literally I hope!

second paraWalking through the forest.

I had the chance to have another” France Profonde” moment when we went with our neighbour, Mr.Lacombe, to visit a forest not far from us.
It is part of an association called Le Sentier des Fontaines which is basically a series of marked trailways and is a nature paradise with rare wild orchids. They hold festivals throughout the summer and organise walks through this very beautiful site. Barry has been asked to hold an exhibition of photographs in the old church in the village nearby, so we went to have a look. In the middle of nowhere , Monsieur Lacombe points to a clearing in the depth of the woods, to an old stone wall and fireplace. This had been the home of his grandparents which he eventually bought and restored bit by bit . It seemed so surreal , listening to him talking fondly of his grandparents and of their tiny little cottage far from the rest of the world. It would , he said, house the animals below and it would keep the family warm sleeping upstairs . I was curious as to why they were the only inhabitants in this rural setting but it seems that this wasn’t unusual at that time. What is amazing is that he found the original stone sink and various farm tools that were his family’s and he has constructed a sort of shrine to them in this haven of peace and tranquility where time really has stopped still.It had an almost magical quality that we were sorry to leave it to go back home.It started to rain and we didn’t manage to get all the photos we wanted, but next time!

Papers, procedures and no politeness.

France has the highest number of civil sevants in the world. Yes it is true. However, I deal with a lot of the paperwork and I have encountered  a great amount of mis information and even sometimes a lack of politeness.This is not a snub about the French but just an observation. It certainly has helped my command of the language though. We recently applied for a benefit for Barry having been firstly “advised” by a person working in this field ie retirement. We were told to contact the Depots at Bordeaux, also the CPAM (medical insurance) and the CAF (family benefits) I also went to our local mairie who knew nothing of this type of allocation but we persevered. Filling in a long form  plus details of our proof of existence in France , there was already a huge amount of paperwork.Knowing already that I would be sure to not have all the relevant data, as there is always something missing when you put in a dossier, I decided however to send it all off. Within a week I got a letter back to say this was the wrong form! However , furnished with the new forms which they had kindly included we set off again! During this time the CAF gets back to me to ask for a signature and proof of something which was totally wrong I subsequently found out. I phoned her a few times and was met with a very disinterested attitude . I was left thinking is it me? Already to phone and in another language takes an amount of skill as you can’t see the other person’s reactions or read their lips. I slammed the phone down one time as I was so fed up that she couldn’t reply clearly to me what was needed. It is still not resolved by the way.
For a nation that believes in their courtesy and tradition, these civil servants leave a lot to be desired . There is someone here in Salignac, un ” fonctionaire” a civil servant, that I have known now for 14 years who still treats me like a non person , thinking I am an English person on holiday! Grrrrr.

last paraFrench Stockings.

My mum used to use gravy browning or use a brown eye pencil, during the lean war years, to mark a line of stockings on the back of her legs. I was reminded of this when I saw a young French girl with similar marks. It turned out that they were tatoos! Beautifully done and very straight they do look very realistic , but only the French could do that!!

They can look fantastic clothes wise or else simply dreadful I think. A lot of mail order clothes are to be found but I have never done it as I have seen the results!

Vive La France!
I wish you a very happy Easter and look forward to next time.
Fifi’s story from rural France . April 2014.

Fiona Alderman's May Blog from Rural France
Fiona Alderman blogging from rural France: Springtime in Salignac

This section: Fiona Alderman blogging from The Salignac Foundation France

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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