New Year, Galette des Rois and on to Chandeleur . . .

31st January already, and the winter celebrations almost over. Today is the last day for wishing people a happy new year – so  “Bonne Annee; et bonne sante a tous”

Christmas came and went – bitterly cold, but no snow. New Year we celebrated here with french friends

A great time was had by all – including this little character

Made by one of our guests out of a slab of butter (and perhaps after a little too much to drink!), it’s supposed to be a statue of me. Now I know I’ve put on half a stone over the holiday season, but if that’s what I look like, then the New Year’s diet had better be undertaken in earnest.

We finished the evening – or morning – after celebrating both French and English New Years, with a little champagne

And so on to Epiphany and the galette des rois. Epiphany is celebrated the first Sunday after Christmas, as is also the patronal festival of Piereville – St. Genevieve – in the church. But the galette can happen anytime in January. So the 19th the hall was set for the club celebration

the galettes were brought in

the crowns set up

and the galettes shared and enjoyed (love the taste of the frangipane!)

3 people – Marjory being one – were crowned king (or queen) for the day having found the figurines

And so to Chandeleur (Candlemas) on the 2nd February. Last weekend was the Candlemas Fair at Montebourg – unfortunately we weren’t able to get there – perhaps another year. Traditional food for Chandeleur seems to be pancakes !! always thought they were for Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Carnival – but that’s something else to follow in about a month.

So Happy Candlemas, however you celebrate it, and best wishes for this year.

Bob & Marjory

English invade Surtainville !!

After the vikings last weekend – and perhaps previously –

it was the turn of the english at the Mare des Laguettes –

Jaguar, MG, Morgan, Triumph – all English makes – even (for fans of the original “Prisoner” series) two Caterham “Super 7” –

All english cars, but look again at the registration plates.

All owned locally by members of the “Roadsters Owners Club” of Normandy. Preserved in excellent condition and driven with pride –

We visited with French friends, who asked if there are similar clubs in England for French cars !!  but then went on to admit that the French have never built cars like these – but we did remember the pheneomenon of the “2CV” clubs in England.

Has any nation other than England, or Italy, built cars like these? Not only stylish and sleek, but winners of races like Le Mans year on year, as many of these cars boasted –

Bob & Marjory

Vikings invade Surtainville!!

 

The Viking flag was hoisted over the Mare des Laguettes last weekend. Camp was set up, and the invasion began –

They’d brought with them their weapons –

but also their household items, as if for a long stay –

Not only that; they were accompanied by their workers in wood and bone –

and in metal –

They set up home in Surtainville; but of course, it was just for the weekend. For these Vikings were members of a re-enactment society, of which a search of the web reveals many in Normandy. They brought with them traditional artefacts, games, and music, many of which are still to be found in derivative form in the region.

The Viking kingdom of Normandy was established in 911 A.D. by permission of the King of France, in order to try to curb the power of the invaders from the North, but also in recognition of their advanced state of civilization, under Rollon (Hrolf Gongu). 100 years later it had become a Dukedom within France, but was to blossom again under William, Duke of Normandy who in 1066 established the Kingdom of Britain and Normandy.

Many Normans revel in their Viking origins, and for the 1100th anniversary of the Kingdom of Normandie are planning on linking with countries of Viking origin throughout the world, and organising events and spectacles in celebration.

More information can be found on the website –

www.911-2011.fr

and the links to Viking and Norman heritage given there. ( www.Normandie-heritage.com is one example)

Bob & Marjory

Midsummer’s Day – Fete de la Musique

No need to travel far to celebrate Midsummer’s day and the start of the holiday season here in France. Every major town and city, and many, many smaller towns, villages and communes celebrate the summer with the Fete de la Musique. From the spectacular celebrations of Paris, Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux and the like; to Caen, to Cherbourg and other smaller cities; it will be a night of celebration of all kinds of music – medieval, folk, classical, pop, rock, indie, techno; you name it, it will be there somewhere.

Not to be outdone, smaller towns and villages started the celebrations early. Last Friday saw the choice of three local villages – Surtainville, Le Rozel and Benoistville. As I was singing with “Dynamique” of Pierreville it was to Benoistville that I went.

The village centre was packed by 2030hrs

Entertainment included choirs; small groups with guitars; a large group of musicians who came together for a jamming session; a group of singers who concentrated on songs in the local language – patois; a group of musicians and dancers with traditional instruments.

One highlight of evening was “La Chanson de Rue” – a mass sing-in of “Les Copains D’Abord” by the assembled visitors led by most of the musicians and the choir “les Marins de Cotentin”.

For me, a real find  was the group Ars Nova performing medieval songs accompanied by medieval instruments in the church. If you’re interested you can find out more on their website – www.arsnova-consort.com

I missed the “Danse Country” at Surtainville on Friday, but managed to catch some of it on Sunday in Les Pieux; part of their Fete de la Musique – not that I’m enamoured of American line dancing, but it does seem to go down well over here. No the reason I wanted to go to Les Pieux was that Mask Ha Gazh were once again playing outside the Hotel Les Pieux

– always a pleasure to watch, and join in with the singing (and dancing – you can’t keep still to their brand of “Rock Celtique”). Their website – www.maskhagazh.com

Once again the town was packed and people were entertained by a wide variety of acts –

And yet another “find” for me. Playing beside the Mairie was the (locally based) Folk group Eridan

Once again you can find out more, and listen to their music on their website – www.eridan.folk.free.fr

So the season begins – after a long time without blogging  I hope to get organised and bring you up to date on events in the area for the summer season; and just to tantalise a bit  – ‘what are the Vikings doing in Surtainville this August?’

Best wishes for a great season

Bob

La Foire de Lessay

Just had a very busy weekend – school’s back, the season’s over, but still things happening. The Fair at Lessay happens each year on the second weekend of September; and for the past few years we’ve tried unsuccessfuly to get there. Established in the 12th Century by the Benedictines of the Abbey of Lessay for the Feast of the Holy Cross, but also ‘pour favoriser le developpement du commerce’ (!), the fair has a long history, and every year has in the region of 400,000 visitors.

busy

Always busy, the fair today is a mixture of traditional elements, from the trading of animals to the reconstruction of the past, to modern farm machinery, and of course the foire forain (funfair) of modern celebrations.

agriculture

foire foraine

There were recruitment campaigns for the armed forces, and the gendarmes; but the highlight of the fair for me was the “Battous du Cotentin”, a reconstruction of traditional flailing of the wheat – using ancient forms of wheat

tradition2

from the separation of the grain from the chaff

tradition 1

to the grinding to make the flour

tradition3

and then serving up the proceeds as crepes for lunch.  A busy, but very rewarding day. Too much to see and do, so we’ll definitely be going back, all things being equal, next year.

Sunday we spent with the “Association Attelage en Cote des Isles”, in a cariole for 4 hours between Pierreville and Le Vretot.

 

attelage

 

In company with a dozen horse riders and a similar number of  chariots, carts, and other horse-drawn vehicles, we travelled a circuit of lanes

 

Lanes

and bridal paths

bridal paths

around Le Vretot, finishing with lunch, which in the usual Norman fashion took most of the afternoon. A busy and enjoyable weekend; and more to come next weekend with the “Journee de Patrimoine”.

More next week

Bob & Marjory

Summer in Surtainville

 

 

surtainville

It’s official then – summer’s here; and Surtainville began it’s celebration of summer last weekend with “Surtainville en fete”. Saturday was the summer Loto (Bingo); followed on Sunday by a Vide Grenier in the morning, afternoon INTER-JEUX (Surtainville/Pierreville), and various other events, including a display of country (line) dancing. The evening saw the annual Souper Normand followed by a Bal Populaire and Feu d’artifice. A good way to kick off a whole range of summer events publicised by the Mairie. And don’t forget the weekly summer market –

marche_estival

Talking of the Mayor (in a roundabout sort of way) – saw her on Saturday afternoon directing traffic!! Huge wedding in Surtainville, and after the church ceremony, the taking of pictures of the bride and groom blocked the main way through the village as friends and relations crowded round the church door. There was the mayor in the middle of the road, helping traffic through the village. Then again sunday evening, she was amongst the group of women serving up the souper normand. Real hands on stuff this being  mayor of a commune in rural France.

For details of summer events in the area visit the local commune and tourist office websites.

All the best for the summer holidays,

Bob and Marjory

Celebrating the start of summer

Last weekend saw the start of some traditional summer festivities with the local commune of St Germain-le-Gaillard celebrating its Foire Saint-Urbain. Traditionally a livestock fair, it began with a concours de mouton; and then through the day an animation inter-commune; including courses en sac, tir a la corde, lancer de charentaise, course a l’oeuf – recognise these from English village fairs?

 priddy_sheep_fair_2003_150_150x180[1] 

 

 foire-aux-moutons2-250x185

There was , of course, the modern aspects to the fair, with a soiree couscous, a vide-grenier (literally an empty attic) or car boot sale, and a moto-cross.  All-in-all a good time was had by all; and the weather, though not as sunny as the previous few weeks was good. Not like now as we have traditional English Bank Holiday weather!!

But then there was the more modern start to summer. Last year it was the fishermen protesting at the price of fuel and blockading the ports. This year the farmers blockaded the supermarket carparks. In an on-going protest at the supermarkets’ lowering the price paid to the farmers for milk, old tires, fumeur (mucking-out from the cowsheds) and agricultural vehicles are used to block entry to supermarket carparks. To do our weekly shop last Friday we had to park in a nearby street, and walk to the supermarket. Super-U was quieter than we have ever seen it! The protest continues, and there are rumours of a shortage of milk and dairy produce. We wait for further news.

IMG_0001

Meanwhile however, the summer season slowly begins – watch this space for upcoming events and new, or refurbished summer attractions.

Hoping the weather continues to improve after this Bank Holiday setback. (We have our fourth bank holiday within a month next Monday – Lundi de Pentecote (Whit Monday, the [religious] forerunner of Spring Bank Holiday).

Bob and Marjory