It's another strange month here, why you ask? With unusually wonderful weather, which is very welcome, at the end of October, we haven’t needed to sweep the chimney or gather in the annual wood for the fire – certainly good for the fuel bills!
During one weekend here, we havesomething called “Les Rondes des Villages” and people are passing by our door in their hoards. They have these Nordic walking sticks and they wake me up from 8 in the morning clacking up the road. I don’t quite understand the system, but the route covers 19 villages around here, and you choose where you want to go. It is apparently linked to the “terroir “ ie the food of the region ie duck, foie gras, nuts, walnut oil , cheese and wines. It all ends with a big dinner at each town hall, to celebrate the life of these small villages and their beautiful buildings (photo here of La Halle and Le Couvent , Salignac Eyvigues) which dates back to the 11th century.
I encountered and spoke to people passing our door as they were often struggling to get up the steep hill. I even saw some people leading donkeys; a surreal image which unfortunately I didn’t manage to capture in time.
Yes, we all know the “typical” French man, the baguette, on a bicycle, a striped t shirt with onions draped around his neck? Always with a cigarette clenched to the lower jaw. Wearing of course a beret, so French. I know it is not so by the way!
I read about a young woman, however, who has saved the oldest fabrication of berets in France. She is called Rosabelle Forzy and she took over the huge enterprise Laulhère which had been founded in 1840. Each year more than 200,000 berets are made there and almost half of them are sent to the French, Norwegian and Belgian armies.
At the foot of the Pyrénées, in Béarn , in a factory employing nearly 50 people, she has revolutionized the traditional beret into a complete fashion statement that appeals to “la haute couture” ie Dior, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton and worn by famous stars like Madonna and Rihanna who wear a very glitzy version of the beret.
This lovely hat is an amazing piece of work. It keeps out the cold, it doesn’t get damp, it is light to wear and is very malleable , you can roll it up and it will still return to its proper shape! It takes two days to make with about 10 different workers working on it, However the benefits are many. It will last for life and you can pass it onto your children etc etc. It was always made in Béarn , and many years ago the shepherds wore these in the mountains to protect themselves from the severe climate changes . It was also given to children aged ten to wear to school and this signified that they were beginning to enter into the adult world.
Another clicking sound, this time, it was the crane beside the Chateau of Salignac. They are steadily working on it but it will take time and money, as always. Recently I saw a man hitched up to the crane and descending onto the castle tower. Intrigued, I started to take some pictures. Suspended , he appeared to be searching for the roof, and with a device on his harness, he was able to manoeuvre himself into position. It looked very scary. He did an amazing job of attaching a huge green tarpaulin over a big area of the tower in readiness for winter, after having been up there with some sort of chain saw used to cut down the vegetation? I was pleased to see him come down to earth safely.
It is the son of the chateau owners who does this, as “la chatelaine “ tells me, when she walks her dog up the hill past our door. He has done a lot of alpine climbs she tells me , but she herself cannot look too much!!
The last word goes to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron,who enraged people by calling something “Le bordel “ He didn’t know he was being televised apparently. This is a word that is both vulgar but used widely to say something is basically a right mess. I think the French use these “gros mots “ much more than we do, but when I flinch , they just laugh at me, it is not the same signification perhaps.