Fiona Alderman Blogging from Rural France, May 2020
Making Masks. (Photo by Elena Djelil)
This last month has been long and strange during the confinement relating to Covid-19. However, we have all rallied round and tried to keep our spirits up. The local hall has been transformed into a hive of industry, making masks for the population in Salignac. People have been asked to use their sewing skills to good use and we could go to collect our free masks last weekend and give a donation for the Red Cross. There is a local branch in the village which also offers food aid to families in need. An excellent enterprise for us all.
A friend was asked if she could make some masks using her sewing machine and she has spent the nights burning the midnight oil to finish them in time! Aided perhaps with a little refreshment?
We are now allowed out without our attestation of where we are going. Very good. Some shops have reopened but not the cafes and restaurants as yet. It has been difficult for everyone as this is a source of meeting people and a centre of our village life. The Cafe de la Place is a family business dating back to the 1800’s and the present owner is a great great grand daughter who with her husband and son run both the Cafe and the Tabac.
Back to the masks. There are so many different ways of making them too. The Internet is flooded with examples, from the folded ones to the “duck ” shaped ones– le canard as they are called here– that are pointed. Everybody is wearing them now when going to the supermarket and they have become quite stylish too.I n all colours and fabric with elastic around the ears or tied around the head, but I feel hot with it and plus my glasses steam up.
I have just received a package from the local Council asking me to make some? I stupidly returned a form which requests me to make 60 of these masks. I have no sewing machine and my hand sewing is not brilliant either. Shall endeavour to find someone to do them for me I think.
The French Bookcase
We have all been watching the news these last few months and most of the stories have a large bookcase in the background? They are usually pristine and white and I have become fascinated with them, wondering what they contain and how tidy they often are. I wonder sometimes if half the books have even been read?
Mine is upstairs in what we call le petit salon and which used to be a bedroom for the previous owners. We turned it into a little sitting room with books to read and where we listen to music.
Our bookcase was originally a cupboard so we took the door off and we used the shelves for books.They include much loved and read books of Somerset Maugham, History of Art, ballet and dance autobiographies of many , including Margot Fonteyn, Merce Cunningham and photography by Doisneau and the Magnum photo Agency. There is a French section with authors such as Francoise Sagan, Jean Paul Sartre, Beauvoir and Marcel Pagnol who wrote about the Perigord. I also have the Bescherelle important for French spelling and grammar, Le Robert for vocabulary and numerous dictionaries and encyclopaedias for when I give my English lessons.
I also have a great amount of LP’s dating back to the 60’s and 70’s. Using an old turntable which I play them on and I become very nostalgic listening to the Beatles and Soul music plus Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, which I inherited from my parents.
The “piece de resistance” though is my mother’s wedding dress that I found when tidying the house after she had died. Dating back to 1923 it is still lovely to have. In cream brocade with tiny buttons all the way up the back and a little bustle at the waist it must have been quite something for its day. My mum was very slim too and I have photos of my parents on their wedding day which took place in a big church in Glasgow with dad in his full uniform as he was in the RAF during the war. My bookcase is full of memories.
The Swingle Singers
I remember listening to this group way back in the 60’s and liking them very much. I heard them recently and it took me back to that time when it was a very different sound to the pop music of that day.
Originally they began in Paris 1962 by the American Ward Swingle with a group of backing singers to Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour. The lead soprano was Christiane Legrand, sister of the famous pianist and composer Michel Legrand ,whom I have spoken about in an earlier blog. Their style was unusual , using the human voice in a capella form and their album Jazz Sebastian Bach won them several Grammy awards.
In 1973 he disbanded the group and moved to London forming Swingle 2 specializing in madrigals and impressive a capella singing – 8 voices in perfect harmony.
They continued after Ward Swingle’s death in 2011 with a newly formed young group of singers who have become internationally famous. They increased their repertoire of music and singing in numerous film soundtracks and working with Jamie Cullum and The Modern Jazz Quartet.
They are well worth hearing again.
Fifi’s Stories from rural France. May 2020.
Dance and film courses in SW France. www.salignacfoundation.com
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