Summer in 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 –


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

One swallow might not make the summer …

but many swallows suggest that summer has arrived!!


Last Sunday the familiar shape passed over the road as we drove down to Portbail; but it was such a fleeting glimpse that it was not sure. However Tuesday was a very definite sighting of two over the bridge at Portbail, and then yesterday definite sightings of groups over the roads between Portbail and Surtainville.

It’s taken us so long to report these sightings because for the past week, as you probably can guess, we’ve been in Portbail. We’ve travelled in early morning, and not returned till late evening. 13hour days working with a group of French schoolchildren from just north of Paris on an immersion English course, including a daytrip to Jersey!! We’re exhausted, but just about ready for the season as it begins.

So summer is officially here, and all signs are that this is going to be a good one. A little cool today, Easter Sunday, but it’s only early April yet. Time to look forward to those long lazy days of summer holidays on the beach at Surtainville.

Bob and Marjory

Happy New Year from a snowy Pierreville

Yes, here it is. The holidays are over – very cold, but clear and bright for most of the last few weeks – and as people return to work and to school, here comes the snow. Pretty spectacular it is too –


We were promised snow flurries overnight, and awoke this morning to a dull grey day; no sign of snow, just very wet.

At one point it seemed that it might just brighten, but the grey, cold wet continued. Then the snow, at first a little sleet, “won’t settle”  but soon changing to the biggest snowflakes we’ve ever seen -you might be able to get an idea from the pictures.


The TV news from England this lunch time was about the coldest winter for a decade continuing; our next door neighbour says here is the coldest winter for over 40 years. Seasonal weather, even though it missed the holiday itself, perhaps boding well for seasonal weather throughout the year ??

Best wishes for the New Year to all our readers and guests.

Bob and Marjory

All Saints and the chrysanthemum (La Toussaint et le chrysantheme)

The cemeteries have been very busy places for the last few days, and are now looking splendid with the graves cleaned and decorated with masses and masses of chrysanthemums.

In a custom that goes back through time families have decorated the graves of their departed loved ones; previously this was done with candles: the flowers, and in particular chrysanthemums replacing these since the middle of the 19th century.

The chrysanthemum (from the Greek “khrousos anthemon” – flower of gold) is a symbol of pleasure and well-being in Japan – in France a symbol of immortality, as it resists the frosts and takes little looking after.

It is said that the chrysanthemum never flowers before the autumnul equinox (21st September); their petals are seen as a light of hope in the midst of the autumnal mists and fogs.

In 1789 a French sea-captain brought the first variety of chrysanthemum from China; 50 years later another sea-captain, aided by a gardener, worked to begin the production of the vast range of chrysanthemums available today. Every cemetery, every garden, every market is resplendent with the colours of these plants this weekend.

Some confusion there – 1st November is All Saints day, and the colour should be white; violet and other colours should only come in from the 2nd November – All Souls Day, the day set apart by the Church for remembrance of those who have died. But then as with all pagan festivals taken over by Christianity, the older elements and celebrations have a habit of creeping back in.

France as a secular state shows this same ambivalence in taking as a jour ferie the “Christian” festival of Toussaint.

Best wishes for your celebration of this season – Hallowe’en, Samhain, All Saints/All Souls, Day of the Dead.

Bob and Marjory.


Well, not quite yet. But the shops are already full of fancy dress for the kids, and foods and drinks specially for the day. France seems to be following America in making this festival a huge family affair, with all the paraphernalia for the occasion. And remember the Christmas House ?

Well, at the moment it is being decorated with ghosts and witches and pumpkins, ready for the holiday season rapidly approaching. For a secular society France still clings to a many religious festivals, and the festival of “Toussaint” is a public holiday, and the centre of a week’s school holiday.

In the ancient pagan religions this festival was celebrated as Samhain, a harvest festival, hence the pumpkin, but also part of the ancestor worship and looking to the spirits for protection, hence the ghosts, witches, etc.



In England we don’t seem to make so much of it; even less after the puritans put their spoke in on the non-biblical basis of many religious festivals. But then of course we do have Bonfire Night coming up, and its celebration of the failed Roman Catholic coup in England!

How about celebrating Halowe’en in France? Brittany Ferries have a special 24hr offer – see their website – with children up to 16 travelling free. If you arrive through Caen and leave through Cherbourg you can have a day and night in France. We can offer accomodation (B&B) at €42,00 for a double room; or perhaps an overnight stay in a gite – contact us for details and advice on ways to make best use of this offer.

Or why not have a longer break ? –

October Half Term

Saturday 25 October-Saturday 1 November



5 days

Saturday 25 October – Thursday 30 October


Sunday 26 October – Friday 31 October



This includes cottage, inclusive of electricity, and ferry travel for up to 5 passengers in a standard car travelling Poole to Cherbourg.   More details or other dates available on request.

 Wishing you all the best for the festival, however you celebrate it.

Bob and Marjory

Not another bank holiday!!

The Monday after Pentecost – another jour ferie in France. Strange for a country that is proud to be secular that it still celebrates these religious holidays. Of course May has always been a Holiday (holy day) month – the month of the Virgin Mary. But four holidays in a month is a bit much surely!??

So the first of May – the worker’s festival, but with links back to the start of summer festivals of the ancient pagan religions – May poles, which seem to have some part in French lore – and Morris dancers. This year some confusion with the festival of the Ascension – a jour ferie also, but coinciding with the 1st became the subject of some contention over how many days off we’re due!!

Then the 8th – Victory Day – and today the Monday of Pentecost.

4 festivals – 2 religious, 2 secular – within two weeks. Not bad when England thinks it does well with the 2 May bank holidays it enjoys. But bad news for those who, like us, want to get on with the woprk of gardening and preparing for summer visitors – noisy machinery can only be used between 1000 and 1200 on these days. Fitting in the trimming of hedges, cutting of lawns and so on is very difficult when we lose 4 working days in a fortnight!!

However, the weather’s great so let’s enjoy the enforced break.


Bob and Marjory 


The first of May – now the workers’ festival, celebrated with a national holiday here in France, in England you have to wait till the first Monday in May for a Bank Holiday.

In the supermarket today we bought a “brin de muguet” as a gift for this festival. Links to a more ancient tradition celebrating fertility and the start of a new growing season, nowadays seen as “une fleur porte-bonheur” – “le muguet annoncerait le retour de la joie, du soleil at d’amour”.

Of course, in England there is a similar festival that for 30 years whilst still living there, I took part in. Dawn on the first of May is the start of the Morris dancing season. Wickham Morris will be greeting the dawn in Wickham Square yet again, and finishing the day’s celebration with mass morris for all who would like to take part. Yet again a celebration of the flowering of the crops, of new life and fertility for this year. Sorry we can’t be with you this year!!

Yes, in this picture they are dancing in France – in Les Pieux – just two years ago March when they were here for the Festival of English and Irish Cinema in Cherbourg.

Best wishes to all Morris teams for tomorrow and for the coming season. And best wishes to all for the !st May, Workers’ Festival, Festival of Spring, Day of Fertility (and also Ascension Day).

Bob and Marjory