Fiona Alderman’s May Blog from Rural France

may tribute para1Fifi’s story from rural France.

A May Tribute 

We were given a little bouquet of flowers recently , “muguets des bois” ie. lily- of -the valley, that are traditionally offered to friends and family on the Ist of May. These are given for luck and good health and are so pretty with their little bell shapes. They smell gorgeous but are apparently very toxic , so beware! I wondered how this tradition had come about? It dates back to the Middle Ages apparently , when the future king of France, Charles IX , was a boy and had been offered these flowers as a gift . He liked this so much that it became a tradition on this day to offer his ladies at the Royal Court these tiny flowers. It was a reminder too that the winter was over and a new season was in view. They are given to those that you care for and cherish and we were especially delighted that our bouquet had been given to us by our neighbour and his wife. I do believe that we are finally feeling “chez nous” ie at home.

This day is also a bank holiday, and is one of several during this month . On the 8th is the anniversary of the Second World War and each year there is a small gathering at the War memorial here in Salignac where a wreath is placed below and there is a speech by the Mayor in remembrance of those who died. It is very touching. Even down in this part of France the Resistance had a part to play and there are some plaques depicting this in the village. There was an old man in Salignac who it was said was “le dernier” The last one alive here who had fought to save France by helping others to escape. It makes you think?  

French Etiquette

Table manners are very important to the French and are slightly different to ours I have found! The first one is that you never put your hands under the table  and that your hands must rest lightly above it to be seen. I always forget this, as we were brought up to never have our elbows on the table and that it was rude!! However “when in Rome” do as they do I suppose.
Bread has another meaning too. If at a restaurant or dinner, your host /hostess  offers you a piece of bread from the “corbeille” basket. It is not done to fill yourself up with several pieces. Instead, it is considered polite to take only one piece and if needed to ask for the corbeille again afterwards. It is always best to wait until your host starts to eat that you may also! In France it is considered rude if you add salt and pepper to the food without even tasting it. It looks as if you don’t trust the cook! I especially love French cheeses and there are so many varieties that it will take a lifetime to remember them all. At a family lunch (French of course) I was offered a plateau of cheeses. All looked delicious and I realised it was better to think of it as a cheese tasting and not to be seen to gorge oneself.

We have a thing called the “Perigordian 15 minutes “ too which is an art in itself of when to be late. If you are asked to a dinner, for example, don’t arrive on time as they are never ready! It is deemed  very correct to arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes late. I still find it difficult. However, it is appreciated when you know  all these things! This doesn’t apply to business appointments, doctor’s etc but one has to be careful!

picturesWhat’s happening in the attic?

I go and visit an old lady, whom I am very fond of, and we often share a moment or two together over a cup of tea and a gateau. She is Spanish and her husband French. He died about 20 years ago and she has been living alone for many years now with all her cats in a huge house. She is not very appreciated by certain members of the community because she has let the house become a bit run down and she had at one point about 30 cats and their offsprings. She isn’t so mobile now and prefers to sleep downstairs in the living room. The top floor is never used and hasn’t been for quite a few years I suspect. However,one day, on showing me round her house, I noticed some large paintings on the stairs up to the attic. She explained that they were her husband’s.  He had been an amateur artist but when I  looked closely they seemed amazing! They were Impressionist copies. From Renoir , Van Gogh, Manet and Degas, I just couldn’t believe it. They were collecting dust and I tried to take a few photos. There were some very careful studies and pretty well copied but I didn’t want to make a fuss. It is curious though. Maybe he really was a forger and what is really happening in the attic?

telephone boxThe last telephone box

On walking around the village one day, I thought there was something missing on the main Square. I couldn’t quite place what it was until it came to me later on. The phone booths had gone. We had several and now only one remains? As in so much here, one wakes up to find something has changed practically overnight. Now that everyone has moble phones , usually clamped permanently to their faces, there seems no need for the lowly phone booth. I am sorry but I bemoan the modern world sometimes. I even rather liked the old French phone boxes with the old dials and push buttons. Then the coins making a very satisfactory sound as you emptied them in !

Well the last one is looking very solitary now. I never see anyone in it and when I DO go in you need to have a card for it that you get from the Post Office as pre paid units.All very time consuming, of course, but it is the way of things now.

DSCF1433 buildingcloistersSummer Dance/Choreography Course

From May to September I am holding a Five day Dance/ Choreography Summer course on September 1st -5th. This will take the form of daily technique classes (Contemporary dance Cunningham method) and afternoon choreographic sessions using improvisation, structured sequences and chance methods. ie throwing the dice to determine where and how the movements are arranged.

Site specific work within the medieval village and beautiful surrounds of Salignac Eyvigues. I use a magnificent open hall for some of the choreography and we often film a piece for students .

I thought I would start to advertise it here and if you have a look at our website at you will find more details, or drop me a line at  Merci!

Fifi’s Story from rural France. May 2014. 

Fiona Alderman's Blog from Salignac, June 2014
Fiona Alderman blogging from rural France, April, 2014

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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