The sun has come out, the temperature’s on the rise, and every commune is having fetes of one sort or another.
We had our Music Festival a week ago. This is a very local event, held in the car park of the Mairie and the church. Anyone can take part: you just book your slot with the Mairie’s office. (Yes, I could have; no, I didn’t. We have to keep the entente cordiale cordial, you know).
The evening began with a Balade Chantée: this is a walk round the village’s many little green ways, in amongst the houses, accompanied by a donkey (for reasons that weren’t explained, especially not to the donkey, who objected to being there) and a group of singers. A man and a boy played Breton pipes, if the singing flagged. All the songs were question/answer ones, where the lead sings a line and the rest repeat it. We stopped at the Fontaine of St Théo, a place where women used to scrub their smalls to the beat of bawdy songs. We paused at a house where the garden is open to the public on regular occasions; and then off we went after the donkey, behind our own garden, and back to the Mairie.
Within a few minutes, with barely time for a small glass of wine, we were whisked off to the church, where a choir sang something French to the tune of Over the Sea to Skye, and Zulu and Maori music, as well as some jazz: and they really enjoyed themselves – as did we, even if the benches were designed to make sinners repent.
Outside again, there was time for a galette saucisse: a galette, with a sausage in it, wrapped in a napkin, and eaten like an ice cream cornet – just the thing for a chilly evening.
After that there were various groups who for some reason sang in English (and I have never heard A Hard Day’s Night rendered with such perfect diction before), some Breton dancing and traditional music, and all washed down at the obligatory beer tent.
It ended with a bonfire and a trumpet playing a salute.
Yesterday was the Fete du Monde Rurale. This is rather larger, and canton-wide.
Now, the thing about this is that it happens every two years, in pretty much the same guise: the first time we went it was in the grounds of the Chateau, but this time it was on a dairy farm at the other end of the village. (As that’s about 300metres from end to end it’s not far). This time we had the sit-down meal: it was organised so that we all took a glass of kir, a tray holding a plastic plate, half a melon with parma ham, a piece of cheese (‘the cheese course’), and a dessert, and sat down at a table. There we found napkin, cutlery and spare plastic cup. We could buy a bottle of wine if desired (it was), and we settled down again. When we had eaten our starter, we took the same plate outside to where men were slaving over a barbecue grill, on the hottest day of the year so far, cooking beef from a local beast. We were given our steak and two boiled potatoes, and went back to our table. Eventually a lady came round with a coffee jug, and the meal was complete.
By now the decibel level in the barn had risen to astonishing proportions, but we were wise to have gone in when we did. An American-style marching band came in to play later, to add to the fun, but we listened from the safety of the open air.
Outside there were farm machines old and young in use, Breton horses with foals, wine tasting (we didn’t), farm-made ice-creams (we did), and a man herding geese with a sheepdog.
There were stalls set out with rural history, and other farm related exhibitions. There were two beer tents (it was a hot day) and a helicopter selling 5-mintue taster rides. These went on long into the evening after everyone else had left, and the cows had been milked.
Pretty much all of this will be repeated next time, and everyone will go again, because it’s free (apart from the meal and the drinks), and because it’s local and it’s what life is about. There’s nothing complicated, apart from the catering for nearly 1000 meals, and you may have seen it all before: that doesn’t matter one jot. It’s a community event, and it’s being seen to be part of it.