Fiona Alderman Blog: Life in Rural France
Reflecting on 20 years in Salignac
After 20 years here in Salignac, I stopped one day to reflect on what we have done and achieved.Which is a lot.
Learning a new language has been a huge thing to do but essential and now we feel very integrated into our village. Age brings new problems and its important to maintain good health. Unfortunately my partner, Barry, has suffered with several problems over these past years. I have become his carer and battle daily with new medical terms and translations. Even becoming a “medical secretary” in some ways, telephoning and making appointments. This was hard at first, as on the telephone you can’t watch the person’s lips, but now I am more confident. There are still many cold calls everyday though, usually for insulation or electricity reductions, that need a sharp non and I put the phone down quickly.
The village is quiet at the moment, with both Cafes closed for their annual break, people are still wearing masks in shops and hand sanitizers are used before entering. These precautions are becoming the norm an thankfully there are no cases in this region.
So I really enjoy going out to the baker, supermarket, cafe and the local corner shop, where I know everyone and everyone knows me! With a cheery bonjour, ca va Fiona? It is lovely. Neighbours and friends pay a visit and my lady from the Chateau brought us some cakes recently. Called Cannelles, they are made with eggs, flour, cinnamon, vanilla and some rhum. A speciality from Bordeaux apparently. Baked with a custard interior and glazed with sugar, they must be served warm.They are delicious.
After many years teaching dance, I took a bit of a break, which was unwise as I am now suffering with arthritis, a very common problem for dancers later on after a strenuous and punishing pull over the years on the body. I have to go for some physio which is another learning thread of the language. You have to be able to explain your symptoms and quickly too. I went recently to a new osteopath in the next village because our local one in Salignac is completely overbooked. Everyone asks me where am I from? English usually. Today it was thought I was German, sometimes I am taken for Dutch, because I am tall, blondish/grey hair and blue eyes, but when I tell them I am Scottish, everyone looks and smiles at me differently. Many French people have been to Scotland and have fond memories of it it seems. My young physio lady had been to Glasgow with her aunt and found it wonderful.
Good bye Juliette Greco
I have already written about La Muse de St Germain in 2017 in my blog – She died recently at the age of 93 and she was a complete star. However she merits another tribute. Juliette Greco had links with this area of France, Bergerac and her family, when they moved during the Second World War. She, and her older sister Charlotte, had free rein , as their mother wasn’t very attentive and their father had left just after Juliette’s birth. With a new companion, the mother was already otherwise engrossed. The house, however, became a meeting point between Resistance workers and helping Jews to escape during WW2. One day the Gestapo raided the house whilst the family were absent and they then decided to go to Paris where they were arrested. Charlotte would be taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp as would her mother. Juliette wasn’t deported because of her young age only 15 and they were not to be reunited until after the War had ended.
This begins the young Juliette’s new life, in pursuit of happiness and an artistic career in the theatre. She would find lodgings with her ex teacher in Bergerac, who had become an actress.
The years that would follow were spent in the company of writers, singers ,dancers and artists. A rich tapestry would be woven into her already noticed talent, her superb voice and her unusual beauty. This begins her life as the Muse of St Germain des Pres, and later to America where she was a favourite of Darryl Zanuck, the Hollywood producer.
She was married to actor Philippe Lemaire and they had a daughter named Laurence but the marriage didn’t last. She would go on to have many relationships, notably with Miles Davies, and even after the passion had died, they would remain friends for life, even stealing 10 minutes wherever they were in the world to be together.
She would interpret the songs of Brel, Gainsbourg, Ferre and Francoise Sagan the writer. Her distinct look, wearing always black, a slim figure with eloquent hands fluttering up her face and over her head, black hair and expressive eyes always circled by black kohl, she would stand under a single spotlight and sing in a low, smoky sounding voice.
From 2000 onwards, she worked with young singers and authors and received a Victory of Honour for her whole career. Failing in health by 2015, when she suffered a stroke, she died peacefully last month, surrounded by her family and last husband, the pianist Gerard Jouannest.
A French Banksy?
Just to finish with, a little photo that I took recently. Maybe not Banksy but an artist does live in the house next door.
Until next time. Fifi’s stories from rural France.
October 2020. www.salignacfoundation.com Dance and film courses in S W France.
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