Fiona Alderman: France Profonde

frane profonde

I am writing this month’s blog from my bed as I am stricken down with bronchitis. I am enjoying the enforced bed rest and, despite feeling rotten, I am quite inspired to tell you about la France Profonde. I think this is a lovely way of talking about France. Literally deepest France, the rural areas and the way of life.The farming land that would yield very little but home to people of strong character forged by hardship. France Profonde was originally a term used by Parisians to describe the provinces and remote areas that were deeply anchored in tradition. The term could often be taken in a pejorative way.

It was also a term used by President Macron and the  Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) strikes in recent years, who demanded an improvement for farmers and their standard of living. Then last year (2023) farmers blocked roundabouts in major cities with their tractors.

These rural areas are the heart and soul of France, the very essence and the beauty of so many regions.The diverse historic villages surrounded by beautiful countryside and like Salignac, my village, they thrive on local businesses, the weekly markets and cultural events.

Why are we losing it, little by little? Modernisation of the worse kind threatens to take over.

In the beautiful Cathedral city of Albi,not far from Toulouse, with a population of around 49,000, the decline has already set in. Bit by bit the local shops, the cafes, the school have all closed.

Old houses are now boarded up and how sad is that? This is a political nightmare it seems.

Hypermarkets and food chains are being opened up outside the city, with parking facilities and horrible industrial buildings spoiling the landscape, seem to sprout up regularly.

France apparently has the highest density of such retail space in all of Europe with changes taking place over the last 15 years.

So what next for Salignac Eyvigues? The tourist season is just beginning for this year and the Chateau has reopened its doors again after another year’s restoration. Despite the threat of closure of the Post Office, it is still functioning albeit with erratic opening hours. We have two bars/brasserie, a butcher, baker and local grocer. A supermarket and Health Centre are all nearby. Plus my wonderful Complementary Medicine Clinic of course.Thank goodness – but I fear for the future.

Paroles, Paroles

Dalida wikipedia

Words, just words In a song sung by two icons of French culture, Dalida and Alain Delon. This month I have been doing another 30 Day Challenge with Comme Une Francaise. The fascinating subject has been on French Music from the 1900’s up until today. We have covered such stars as Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Barbara, Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Trenet, to contemporary artists such as Thomas Dutronc, Zaz, Camille, Celine Dion and Julien Dore amongst others.

I already focused on Alain Delon in another blog, but thought I would write about the song Paroles – a big hit in the 70’s’s. Featuring the Italian born singer Dalida, the song is about the age old refrain of a woman saying to her man, Oh no, just words again, only words you keep on telling me? He is saying to her, but you are so beautifu. Just so beautiful, Just like the first time we met, with his amorous look. She is not convinced. Words, just words, that you blow into the wind. Marvellous.

Dalida was a star of the Disco era in the 70’s, with her slightly accented French accent and deep tone, she sang with her heart and soul. Stunning in looks and her gowns magnificent in style, she was a favourite with French audiences. Even the gay community paid homage to her in cabaret and musical settings. Yet, she was a deeply troubled person. With failed relationships and unable to have the children she so desired, she threw herself into her career. Her older brother, Orlando, was both her manager and her Artistic Agent, and with her early hit of the song Bambino, she became a huge success in France, often accompanying other singers such as Charles Aznavour and Gilbert Becaud at L’Olympia in Paris. She went to Hollywood, as an actress and her fame continued but the American way of life wasn’t for her and she turned down contracts. She sadly committed suicide in her beautiful house high in the hills of Montmartre in Paris, aged just 57. She lived there for many years and loved it, as did the community of Montmartre who loved her. A statue is now in place there to mark this beautiful and talented person.

Link to video and lyrics.

A tribute to Barry

Barry Paton

Three countries that Barry loved were Scotland, France and Holland. Amongst others of course, as he always talked fondly about the people of Afghanistan, Africa and Pakistan when he travelled there as part of his work as a photo journalist.

He died two years ago now, on the 30th May and is buried in the local cemetery that I visit often. To sit on the bench, which I managed to get from the local council, and reflect in the Jardin de Souvenir. The Memory Garden.

Three stories and three countries came to mind. Born and raised in Glasgow, Barry once ran a hotel with his wife and family in Nairn, in the North of Scotland. He told me stories of the musicians who came to play at the bar, and who became friends. These included Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham,  and Capercaillie in their early days.

Great “craic” and great Scottish music. Barry also met Billy Connolly later on in Glasgow, when he came to view his mother’s house when she thought of selling. Apparently Connolly wasn’t too impressed by the neighbours at that time, so he gently backed off!

Barry went to live in Holland at one point. In Groeningen to work yet again in a bar . There, he met Debbie Harry, of Blondie fame. Did they or didn’t they? Always the gentleman, he always had a little twinkle in his eye when he saw her on TV.

Lastly, France. He adored it, a true Francophile. We toured all around the country before we decided to come and live here in the beautiful Dordogne.It has been quite a journey from Scotland to here since 2000, but there are no regrets at all.

On the stone to mark the grave, I put on little stones from the Isle of Iona in Scotland that I have had for many years, and there is an African lily given to me by Dutch friends and I think of Barry’s connection to Africa. France, and Salignac Eyvigues especially, was where he wanted to rest at the end. I am very glad I could do this for him.

1 June, 2024

Fifi’s stories from rural France. May/ June 2024.

Fiona Alderman's Blog: Francoise Hardy
Fiona Alderman: Alternative 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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