Saturday, December 27, 2008

The last post! I've moved

I've done it! Moved this blog. I got tired of the limitations of this software and created my own website.

Go to:

I've moved most of the 2008 posts over and will move most of the others over time. Bear with me as I do that and add what I hope will be some interesting new features to the website.

As allways I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A plethora of markets

Why is it that this year we have Christmas markets running out of our ears?

There are at least five being held in nearby villages & hamlet's. In fact Linda is going to one in Caylus this afternoon. It seems to me that they are breeding like rabbits. Used to be just a year or two ago that there was only one Christmas Market in a nearby village; that was at Puylagarde.

Now there have always been Christmas markets in the larger towns and cities. The Christmas Market in the main square of Toulouse (Capital) is truly spectacular and the Cahors Christmas market is great. You could go on down the line from there, but there weren't many in the small villages. Not enough traffic one would have thought.

Perhaps its the economy; everybody out trying to make a few Euros? I strongly suspect that its mainly the same traders going from village to village selling the same stuff. Certainly my quick look at Caylus Christmas market this morning didn't reveal any truly local vendors.

Anyway, more power to them, they're very colorful and, hopefully, people will find something they like and the vendors will make a few Euros to help their Christmas budgets.

I did buy something at market on Thursday. This was at the seasonal market which is an off shoot of the main Villefranche de Rouergue market. Here in the 'halle' they sell only dead birds (chickens, ducks & geese mainly) and fois gras. This is the real deal straight from farmer to you.
Rob & I were checking out prices for next week when we'll probably buy our ducks & fois gras for Christmas. One of the larger vendors must have had a 100 pounds of fresh raw fois gras for sale, amazing! I've never seen that much fois gras in one place before.

I won't mention prices as I don't want to make those of you who don't live in the French country side to get too jealous. I will say, however, that Rob & couldn't resist buying 2 cuisse de canard each (a cuisse is the leg & thigh together). They were 2 Euros each and each one weights close to a kilo. These were big ducks believe me.

I'll cook them with lots of shallots & green olives very slowly in a covered frying pan on the stove top. Absolutely tender & delicious. I'll try to take some pictures as I do it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Their hearts are in the right place

These are pictures of what pass for Christmas decorations in our village. I don't think they'll win any prizes, but they are sincere. Its just that you have to know who did them.

They're done every year on his own initiative and, I expect, at his own expense by our village cleaner. This is the guy who sweeps the streets, cleans the public toilets, plants & weeds the public flower beds and so forth. Its not much of a job and I'm sure it doesn't pay much, but he's very happy to do it and to have a place in village life.

One sees him most days if you pass through the village; a cigarette in his mouth working away. He's fiercly proud and protective of the village. I remember when we first moved here & he was in charge of the village dump. You had to prove that you lived in the village to use the dump, normally by showing an electric bill. It took several times before he admitted that he knew us and let us in without showing our bill. Cranky is probably the best word to describe him.

Ok, so, so what? The point is that here in this small village they have found employment for this man. You see he's somewhat retarded. Not too the point of being institutionalized (although in some places he would be), but certainly enough to be normally unemployable. Not here though; here a place is made for him and the village looks after him. They do it gently, kindly and allow him his dignity. 

So, nobody complains about his Christmas decorations. We praise him and them, we take a secret pride in them and when we see them we feel just a little bit better about ourselves for being part of a kind society.

I'm not sure if this system of kindness is true in the multitude of villages in France. I do know that in one of our neighboring villages the same sort of thing is true. There too the menial village jobs are done by those handicapped in some way. I suspect that at least to some degree it is a part of village life all over the country.

The French are, it seems to, me a kind people. Not in an ostentatious way, but in a collective unobtrusive manner. This weekend we have the Telethon to raise money for charity. This is a BIG deal and takes place all over France. Millions are raised. In our village it will be held in our Salle des Fetes and will be well attended.
Outside the shops the collections have started; a can of food, a packet of cookies, whatever. What's interesting is that the collectors are genuinely volunteers, young people & old, but obviously people giving of their time. You see no "commercial" collecting.

I remember that I found this approach a bit different when we first moved to France. After all the French do not make such a big deal out of the Holidays as do we Americans and the British for that matter; they're far more low key. My French friends gently pointed out that nobody anywhere in France would go hungry over this season. The general population would make sure that they didn't.

Yet another reason why we live here.