Fiona Alderman blogging from rural France: Springtime in Salignac
A new letter from Fifi
We are finally enjoying Spring here,the flowers are opening, the buds are showing on the trees and our spirits are lifting after a long dreary winter . For once we haven’t had snow though and we shouldn’t complain at all, after what the UK has experienced . I like this time of year as it feels the start of something new again! Projects to assume and contacts are made for the coming season . As from next month we will see the opening of the food and vegetable market in the Square and the locals will be meeting up with their ‘paniers”ie baskets to gossip and choose their fresh vegetables, cheese and poultry.One of the stalls I go to is Florence and Jean Paul who have a farm near here and they raise goats. Florence is also a loyal supporter of my dance class so we have built up a nice relationship. The goats cheese that they make is called cabecou and is light and wonderful on warm toasted bread with some honey dripped over it .
La saison, the tourist season, begins around April to May and the tourist office will soon be busy with enquiries .However, we have seen a bit of a decline in the number of arrivals in the last few years as people seem to come for shorter periods now and everyone has felt the pinch with lack of money.I recently had a lady for English lessons, a new arrival to Salignac and she was asking me, a seasoned Salignacoise of 14 years now, how she could meet people ? I found it difficult to explain that it takes time and even if you are already French but from a different region you are still regarded with a fair amount of caution .It has taken me some time to get to grips with this and I wonder why it is? We have friends now who are Dutch, French ( coming from other parts of France) Portuguese, Germans and a few Scottish people. I think we have integrated well because we learn the language and we involve ourselves in the daily village life but it has taken a long time!
They call this part of the world “France profonde” as it is deepest France, rural and sometimes quite cut off! I remember when I first came here, not being a driver, I enquired about local buses. I was told there was one but that it only went to Sarlat on a Saturday morning! This was something to hear but I nearly dropped down when the tourist office told me that the bus didn’t come back! I thought I would nevertheless try it out as Sarlat has a great market on a Saturday morning and I love to wander about within its pretty streets. I apparently had to signal the bus down at a precise time, for France that is amazing in itself, and I waited to see what would happen . At the allotted time, of ten past 11, a huge coach appeared round the edge of our village . I waved frantically and was escorted, completely alone, to Sarlat . This takes about 20 minutes and I had time to talk to the driver as to why it didn’t come back? He said it did, but the next Saturday . I had strange visions of this lost bus hurtling around the countryside, just arriving a week later in Salignac just for me! Of course it hasn’t been viable and they stopped the service a few years ago so there is nothing at all . You are absolutely in need of a car to survive here. However another phenomenon is co voiturage ie car pooling. You can share expenses with several people for the car owner and get yourself to where you need . It works very well.
This is farming country too, and the locals have a decidedly old world look about them. I am not being derogatory and enjoy listening to their “patois” which is the dialect in this region. It is gutteral, fast and pretty incomprehensible to me! This is the real France profonde that is slowly dying out as the last of this generation is going.
I am very lucky to have several keys to houses here in Salignac which means I am both trusted and liked I supppose! Over the years I have been asked to look after animals when the owners were away. There have been goats, hens, rabbits and many cats. I also clean and maintain a house during the summer season for a holiday let and even occasionally take prospective clients for the sale of another house. All the French or Dutch owners have now become friends . One house has lain empty for several years, is still up for sale and I regularly look in to see if it is okay but there is a problem with the roof and when it rains I have to put buckets around to catch the leaks . This involves me getting up to the very large attic and it can prove rather hazardous going up the rickety wooden stairs.
I also have a 5th key which is my favourite, because it is for the Salle des Fêtes which I use for my dance classes. This is in a huge hall, mirrored at one end, and with a great wooden floor and best of all I don’t pay anyhing for it as we live here . This is a marvellous help and we have to thank Mr Dubois the mayor for this!
What makes me laugh in all this is that the key for this huge hall is small and insignificant and I am always sure I am going to lose it. I have to collect it on the Monday afternoon but cannot keep it or even make a copy! Well maybe I could but I wouldn’t like to upset anyone! Is this the other aspect of French village life?
A few funny French quirks
The French are absolute sticklers for politeness. For example you must never forget to say “bonjour” when entering a café, shop or restaurant and equally to say “merci “ on going out of them . It is deemed very rude otherwise. You must always remember who you have said bonjour to as a “re bonjour” means you haven’t paid attention and have forgotten the person!
I read recently that in a café in Nice there was a board outside with several prices for coffee. Depending on how you asked for it would depend on what you paid. A simple “café “! without any please was 7 euros! then it ranged to “ a cup of coffee please “ was 4 euros 25 and the best one … “Hello, a cup of coffee please “ was just 1 euro 40 !
These lovely cakes in the picture are called “religeuses” because they have the same tiered form as priests hats we have now learnt, but they really are delicious as only French patisserie can be!
We recently saw a funny translation from French to English in a supermarket. It was” dry sauvage” meaning we think dry sausage!!! sauvage means savage otherwise!
Well I shall finish now and go out to lap up this glorious Spring sunshine and I hope it is as nice for everyone wherever they are. Until the next time.
Fifi’s Story from Rural France . March 2014.
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