Monday, 6 January 2014

Closing Ze Blooody Dooor at the "Salle des Fetes"

We are at the local “salle des fete”  (community hall) in Juignac, France, 16190, December  9th 2013 as guests at a French village fete, this one thrown to celebrate the very end of the harvest season.

At the appointed hour, 7.00pm, we had been at home waiting for our farming neighbour, Jerome, to pick us up for the evening, which he did: at 7.30, naturally!  Well, we had read that one does not get a drink at French functions until everyone has arrived. Obvious solution: get fortified before one leaves home. So we do.

Good idea!! Because it’s true. We arrive, people are all standing about chatting in small groups, organizers are moving tables about (why is it that organizers anywhere feel a compulsion to move tables about?...but I digress (yet again)). Not a drink to be seen anywhere….how very un-Australian!
Val at the Salle des Fetes, Juignac, some days later.

But let me give you initial impressions: First, there is absolutely no pretension. Forget the “Paris chic” culture (we are, after all, five hundred km from Paris), forget the idea that the Frenchies don’t want to know you, forget the idea that you are in a foreign country (although that’s rather hard when all these people speak, very fast, in foreign tongues). Everyone is just enjoying being part of the village culture. Perfectly normal.

Dress code: Country warm. Men: mainly jeans or a type of corduroy matched with warm woollen jumpers,  topped by overcoat and long scarf when outside. Ladies, very similar, some with dresses and all with slightly heeled boots.

Jerome introduces us to the committee chairman, Christian (little English), and then to the local mayor, Alan (no English).  Handshakes and smiles everywhere. Alan had in fact provided us, some months earlier, with a mayoral letter to present to the French long-stay visa authorities attesting to our hosts’ good standing and the fact that we were genuine tourists and had a place to live in France, rent free. All part of the French authorities’ love affair with paperwork and rules (many of which, I believe, are ignored in real life.)

Activity starts, nibbles (peanuts and chips and pate) are passed around and (hallelujah) drinkies are being poured and passed. Everyone gets the same…. fruit juice.

Ahhhh!!!!….fruit juice.....but wait…. Jerome assures me that the juice has been liberally laced with pineau, the local Charentaise  apero.  All is well after all!

Just like any community evening in any local hall in Australia, Christian, the chairman, takes the microphone:  although we don’t understand the detail he is obviously making the usual welcome speech one hears at these events. So, Christian is talking away, Val and I are nodding away, when I realise that he is referring to a postcard from Kerry and Brian, our exchangees now in our home in Maleny. Clearly, they are very popular members of this community, even though they are Anglos. Naturally at this point Val and I are brought to the fore and introduced as guests at the fete, living in Kerry’s home. We smile and nod even more vigorously.  Give me another fruit juice.

But wait, what’s Christian doing with the mike. No, noooooo.

He’s thrusting it into my very unwilling hand and standing back with a big smile. I’ve got the mike, I’m looking at 50-odd Frenchies, standing in a semicircle around the hall, all smiles and with an expectant air.

I’m thinking “bloooddy hell”. OK, can’t let the side down. It’s gotta happen, let’s try the old faithful Australian opening line:

“Good’ay mates”. Nothing, absolutely no response.

 Obviously they mustn’t have heard: try louder “GOOD’AY MATES”.

Absolutely no response.

Plan B: Forget that idea and fall back on my limited tourist French, assiduously studied for 18 months with our U3A teacher, Patricia. I have no recollection of what I said, I do remember stumbling on words and using English a bit and I do remember getting some responses, a laugh or two (probably at my French) and good clap at the end. I’m delighted (Patricia, if you are reading this, thank you). Give me another fruit juice! On second thoughts, the clapping was probably in appreciation of the cessation of linguistic murder.

View of a lane from the Salle des Fetes area of Juignac, (just
 to add pictorial interest to my lovely narrative) 
Food’s coming out now; Christian takes Val and places her at his right hand at a table, me next to her and a young French couple opposite and another beside us. We are made most welcome. Christian ensures that we get full plates of the first charcute course, and now the RED arrives, and continues to arrive at a great rate (unlabelled local house wine). Charcute consists of thin slices of cold savoury sausage, and lots of salads.  Quite yummy.

"Le plat principal” (main course) is slices of cool boiled pork, complemented by potato chips (as in “crisps”) and masses of warm green beans, served from a huge tray of beans. Gourmet no, delicious yes.  The cheese course follows.... with beer. And dessert was a rather delicious ice cream...with  beer. But potato chips as a main course component?  Well, why not? Val and I enjoy the whole experience...with beer.

It’s a curious thing but it looks as if almost every adult is popping outside the hall at any break to grab a smoke. It really can’t be everyone, surely, as the official figure is that “only” 30% of French people smoke. However, adults are coming and going through the double door airlock entry. And kids are running back and forth through the door.  Our table is near the door, regularly collecting blasts of cold air. Katya, one of the young mums sitting at our table, is forever shouting to the kids to close the door: “fermee la porte!!!”

“Katya, what you need to shout is “close the bloody door”….it always works at home.”

Katya is puzzled, holds up her wrist and makes a slashing action….”blood” she asks?

 “Oui, bloody est le mot (the word)”.

“Ahhh,” says Katya, and proceeds to shout enthusiastically at every door incursion
 “closse ze bloooddy dooor”.  OK, I do exaggerate the accent a trifle.

The evening is closing down. Kids are clinging to parents, some falling asleep on the floor, those that  aren’t testing the door hinges, that is. Various people (either gender) come up and give us a two peck air-kiss, one each cheek, and say “Bon Soir”. Actually that’s for Val, I get a handshake. Maybe, given time, we will be elevated to the three-peck social level.

It's nearly midnight.

Bon soir from Val and Bryan

OOPS........I've dropped the crab!!!

PS  This picture has nothing to do with the story, but it is just too funny to be in a side bar!  

1 comment:

  1. Bonjour, love the blog, just imagine the look on your face when the guy approached with the mic lol!!! Do envy your cold weather, I know it is hard to believe but Maleny hit 42 degrees on Saturday it was horrendous !!!!! We headed for our own movie marathon. Had heatwave for about a week it broke yesterday with scary storms with quite a lot of rain which is wonderful. Tanks are full! Love the pics look forward to your next article de blogue x