Fiona Alderman’s Blog from Salignac, June 2014
Fifi’s story from rural France
The tree of freedom.
We were invited, as part of the commune, to witness the planting of the May tree recently. Not an everyday occurence but one not to be missed, as it is just in the Perigord that this tradition exists,and dates back to the Revolution These huge trees are specially grown and are shaved of their leaves to the very top leaving a little bush at the top which is then decorated with the French flag and other ornaments. This one was in honour of the Mayor and is quite magnificent. You can see others that have already been planted, around the village that are for the delegates of the local council, newly marrieds’, bar owners, the butcher, the restaurants and even the supermarket. All this is set around a lively fête, taking many hours to do! You can’t rush these things and in true French fashion they do it extremely well. It was due to begin at 18h ie 6pm but nothing ever starts on time here. So we wandered around saying “bonsoir” to a lot of our friends and Barry started to take some photographs. A huge crane attached itself to the trunk of the tree and at a first attempt it tried to raise it into the air to wedge it inside another elm tree for support.
Alarmingly, it seemed to bend quite a bit and so with many shouts and waving of arms it was lowered to the ground. There were so many spectators by then and we were all willing it to rise a second time. It did and it looked wonderful against the blue French sky , its flag waving merrily in the light breeze. To secure it to the other tree, fastenings had to be wrapped at intervals all the way up nearly to the top. A long ladder was brought and one of the team of helpers “shimmied” up . I was surprised that it wasn’t one of the young and strong men, but it was Monsieur Ferber who is late 60ish and is a retired physiotherapist!
Anyway, after all this excitement, down to the important bit of a few glasses of rosé and a long buffet table of quiches, tarts and delicious nibbles. There was a meal laid on afterwards at the Salles des Fêtes that would go on until the late evening. No problem to the French and a very pleasant time for us!
The trains are too big.
I read an article recently about the new French trains, costing 80 million, which said that they are in fact the wrong size! They are too big for the platforms and work has now started to widen the platforms to accommodate them. All down to a lack of communication apparently between the rail operator RFF, and the company SNCF. At first the RFF had transmitted faulty dimensions to the SNCF and it will be a costly mistake to rectify.
A spokesman for the RFF said:
” We discovered the problem a bit late, we recognise that and we accept responsibility”. Poor marks all round really! Who lost the tape measure? We have been suffering a similar lack of communication with French administration and the personal consequences it has incurred. They love paperwork here, the more the better in fact, but sometimes it works in reverse. Two different organisations were not in harmony and financially it has cost us. We had to ask our French friends for help and I thought of an expression “the French are like coconuts, hard on the outside but sweet in the inside”. It is true. As soon as we get to know each other the difference is like night and day. The French are naturally reserved, not willing to intrude, but as time passes and friendships are built up there is a tremendous breakthrough. The warmth and genuine support we have been given is quite overwhelming!
A new building on the block.
As I keep saying, things seem to change almost overnight here. The latest mystery were holes being dug up and an area cleared at the side of the supermarket. Within a few days a big grey block appeared. They are washing machines and dryers. All very hi tech but why? There are already two other outlets for dry cleaning in the village but this one looks as if it is very handy for shoppers at the supermarket. Pop in to do your washing and do the shopping at the same time. Perhaps a bit revolutionary for rural France? I watched someone put in some coins to start the machine and heard a loud “putain” meaning shit ! It didn’t work. A very annoyed Frenchman fiddled with the right combination of money and he got it going, but I did, quite secretly, laugh!
Just on a last note I wanted to remember the men who lost their lives 70 years ago on the beaches of Normandy. However a lone piper evading the shellfire, a true Scotsman, pursued his way up the beach in safety. The D day landings and all that was to come. Vive L’Ecosse and Vive La France.
Fifi’s story from rural France June 2014.
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