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Posts Tagged ‘Mouliherne’

Sheila’s been feeling a bit unwell these past few weeks. Not quite herself. So, we arranged a trip to the doctor down in Mouliherne. Arranging a trip anywhere is like a military operation here. The back of the car has to be emptied of the EU shopping bag mountain, and all the car accessories before replacing them with the wheelchair. You see, I’m notorious for forgetting to take a bag into the supermarket when I go in. Well, it’s not that I forget, it’s just that the intention is only to buy one or two things, and carry them back to the car in my arms. But, French supermarkets being what they are, invariably I find I’ve over-stretched my resources, both fiscally and physically, and I need a bag (or three). So, I buy a bag (or three) and add them to the ever increasing pile in the boot! At the last count there were 29 in there! That’s not counting the ones we have dotted around the place – in the gites, in the shower block, in the lofts. We’ve even started giving them away to campers when we get their shopping in for them. “Do you want your bag back?” “Er, no – you keep it. Cadeau!”

Even Bernard now has a collection of our bags as we’ve donated kid’s cast off clothes to his ever increasing family and friends. There’s no ‘stigma’ attached to us giving our cast offs to a friend, rather than throwing them into the bowels of a skip destined for who-knows-where. Bernard’s grateful, as we once were as kids, when a distant relative came to our house with bags full of hardly worn clothes. And we’re happy in the knowledge that we’ve helped someone out. It’s cool.

So, once the boot was emptied and the wheelchair inserted where once had all been bags, it’s then time to get Sheila seated comfortably. She’s not walking too good these days, she’s 77 now, and 78 in a few months, so time’s beginning to take its toll on the old bones. So it’s less of a walk, and more of a studied ‘shuffle’ to the car. I have no idea how she manages to see anything out of the windows as she’s so tiny, she can barely see over the dashboard. Syb’s the same actually. It’s scary. You must have seen these tiny people get into cars, and drive them off, peering through the steering wheel, and then the windscreen? What amazes me more is that when Syb’s been driving, and I follow, is that I physically can’t get into the driving seat. She has the seat at its fullest extent forward, and I at its fullest extent backwards! The wing mirrors remain untouched, which I find bizzare, as I can’t see out of them if I crouch, and scrunch myself into Syb’s driving position! She does alter the rear-view mirror though. So, you have two dwarves driving along country lanes in rural France. Keep a look out for them.

The doctor’s has a few steps outside the bungalow leading into the surgery. So, it’s a bit difficult. The notice on the door says ‘Sans Réservation’ between the hours of 10 & 12, so it’s a given that the doctor will be there. Isn’t it? Ah, but this is France. And rural France to boot. The médécin is elsewhere today. The receptionist took Sheila’s details and promised she’d make a rendezvous for the day after. Then she offered to help Syb with Sheila getting her back down the steps and into the car. She was visibly shocked at the difficulty Sheila had, even with two helpers, negotiating the steps. So, very firmly, she insisted that the doctor would visit Sheila at home instead!

So, the following day, Dr. Annie Petit strolled into the grounds and proceeded to give Sheila a thorough going over. She took around half an hour, wrote out enough prescriptions to fill 29 carrier bags, explained that Sheila was troubled by aches and pains normal to her age and disability, and that it wasn’t too serious. The warmer weather will be arriving soon, and she’ll thrive a little more then!

The chemist happily dispensed various pills, potions and placebos into 29 carrier bags, we handed over the carte vitale and a small sum of cash, and all was well. Sheila’s had a visit this morning from the nurse to take a blood sample, bang on 9am as she said she would be on the ‘phone. That’s now gone off for testing, and the results will be sent here, to us. This is the most bizarre aspect though, as in the UK, the results would go to your GP? We’ll have to ask Annie to come out and explain to us!

Anyway, the costs? Well, for the nurse to visit this morning and take the sample was €10.30. The home visit by the doctor was €44.00, double what it costs for a consultation at the surgery. The 29 carrier bags of pills, potions and placebos came to around €15, after 70% or so had been reimbursed by the state via the carte vitale. The doctor gave us what’s known as a ‘fueille de soin’ to hand in at the CPAM office in Saumur. This details the care given, and the cost. There’ll be 70% or so of that reimbursed too. So, all in all we’re pretty impressed with the state of care over here. This isn’t the first time we’ve had need of the health service here in France, and I doubt it’ll be the last. But, what with so many forums decrying the state of the UK’s health service, and hearing about it on the news etc. I wanted to inject a little dose of reality about the healthcare system as we find it here. I’d say it’s probably different elsewhere in France, the big cities especially, but where we are, it’s a first-class service. Sheila even has a chiropodist make a home visit each six-weeks or so. That’s been going on almost since we arrived in France. marie is lovely, and looks after Sheila really well. Everyone is professional, and so very kind and gentle with Sheila. All she wants now is a bit of sunshine on the old bones. As do we all!

It IS coming – honest!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2009

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Last weekend was one of the high points of the village social calendar. The annual Apple Fair! The event’s held each third weekend of October. On the Saturday, there’s the official opening by the Maire. There’s a band, lots of stalls and the inevitable fairground rides. The bars are full, the villagers all get behind the event and make it a popular attraction for quite a few miles around, judging by the amount of ‘out-of-department-cars’ there are to be seen parked up in the fields and lanes! Sunday’s given over to a huge ‘vide grenier’ stretching up, down and around those parts of the village that aren’t already given over to other forms of stall-holding. It’s enormous! Again, all the villagers turn out in support, and there’s plenty of friendly banter and rivalry going on. There’s lots of laughter too, especially if the sun shines like it did last weekend! We parked up just on the outskirts of the village, the sunshine highlighting the glorious autumn colours in the trees. The village seemed to stretch away in front of us in tiers of golds and reds. It was simply beautiful. All around us were stalls of every description. Some hawking copper pots and pans, old clogs from the farms hereabouts and just about every type of farming implement you can imagine! There were bargains galore to be had, if only we had the money! Intermingled with the villagers’ stalls were the ‘Comité des fetes’ stalls selling freshly cooked ‘beignets de pommes’, or apple fritters! The smell was overpowering! Gorgeous juicy apples, peeled and sliced in front of us, then dunked in hot oil before being rescued, packed tightly into plastic ‘barquettes’ and smothered in sugar….I’d have inserted a photo at this point, but they were just too tasty! You’ll have to see for yourself next year! But, here’s a couple of the preparation, and the lines of folks all waiting patiently for their turn!


Anyway, we meandered (did a bit of nodding too…) around the stalls, picking up the odd (very odd) bargain here and there. It’s felt like home to us here for a long time, and now that the language is coming together for us, it’s even nicer to wander around a fete like this and feel a part of it. Neighbours were stopping us in the street, M. le Maire nodded bonjour, and shook our hands. Gilles was on his stall in the Place de la Mairie selling beer and wine. Raising his hand above the crowds, he waved to us! On a sunny day in France, slowly taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a local fete like this one is pure magic! There’s simply nowhere else we’d rather be right now. We partook of the autumnal tradition in these parts too…a couple of glasses of ‘bernache’ in Bernard’s bar in the centre of the village, before heading up to Alain’s for a couple more. Bernache is the must of the first pressings of the year’s grape harvest. It’s pretty much still fermenting, so slightly ‘sparkling’, and very, very cloudy. The old boys will judge how the years wine will turn out simply by sampling the bernache. It can be quite a potent brew too – the bottle we bought from Alain said 11%, so after a few glasses in the sunshine, it’s advised to take to walking around the rest of the stalls! So, onwards & upwards it was. Literally! Mouliherne’s a very old village, built on quite a few small hills, where once numerous mills stood once upon a time. Hence the name – ‘Moulin- herbe’, translated throughout the ages to simply Mouliherne.

Because we’re in a predominantly apple-growing area, we get to sample the delights of freshly pressed apple juice quite often. In the Place de la Mairie, there was an ancient ‘pressoir’ in service now just as it’s been for the past hundred years or so. This one’s unusual in that it’s square shaped, instead of the more traditional (and practical for cleaning purposes) round shape. The workings were explained to us by the owner, a local farmer who’s had this thing in his family for at least three generations he told us. It’s a work of art, a lovely piece of farming machinery. Indeed, we wondered whether health & safety back in the UK would preclude the use of such a thing at a public fete such as this. Yet, the ever pragmatic French were pressing their apples, collecting the juice in the large bucket, and selling it by the glass to delighted fete-goers such as us. It was quite simply superb! There are things like this to be found for sale from time to time. You see them in barns, left to rot down to powder and rust and it’s just such a shame. If the ‘powers that be’ in the UK spent more time turning a blind eye, and less time tightening the laws so that people can’t see anything like this other than a static display in a museum, then the world would be a much better place! Along the main street, rue Touraine, and up towards the stade, or football stadium (almost every French commune has one), there was something there that again delighted both the child in me (memories of standing on railway bridges while steam trains thundered below) and the pyromaniac brought out by my bread oven fetish! It was an old 1947 wood-fired oven that actually roasted peanuts for you! Again, an incredible piece of machinery, nestled tidily on a trailer, with artefacts from days gone by scattered around. It was lovely to see, and photograph.




Because the Sunday vide-grenier’s become more & more popular throughout the (almost) 40 years of the fete, there’s more & more stalls spreading further across the village! Even up by the old footpath from the main road and round by the wash house and down to the old centre of Mouliherne. I really should take some pictures and give you all a guided tour of our lovely ville some time soon!
It was up here, in the shadow of the enormous old oaks that we spotted something that we’ve been after for a while…there on the floor in front of a stall we recognised as being run by someone we’ve come to know recently, was a very old ‘pelle a pain’. A traditional boulanger’s tool for placing the dough in the ovens. This thing looked ancient! The handle was nothing more than a THREE metre long ‘stick’, a branch really! Ravaged by woodworm down through the years, and as smooth as silk to the touch. The history I felt while stroking this piece of wood was incredible. How many loaves? How many years of constant, daily use? How many people had this thing helped feed? I had to have it. I knew it’d be too big to fit into the mouth of my own rather insignificant oven, but still….It’d make a great talking point, hung over the ‘four a pain’ chez nous! So, without further ado, I offered €15 against the asking price of €20, and walked back to the car, scattering locals left and right as I attempted to re-create from days gone by, the boulanger’s stance while holding the pelle! People pointed, laughed, commented upon my purchase! A friend grabbed the handle as I was walking innocently along, holding the pelle vertically. I thought I’d snagged one of the overhead power lines, and looked heavenwards, expecting to see my pelle on fire! I realised what had happened, and followed the line of the handle back down to earth to see Yann grinning at me like a loon! He commented on what a fine looking ‘stick’ it was, and asked why I’d bought it, laughing. His face changed when I told him proudly that I’d built my own bread oven here at Le Chant! He changed tack immediately, and offered to come & taste anything we cooked! Yann used to be the coach of Niall’s football team when he was playing. He’s a bit of a character is Yann. He ran our local déchetterie too, which is the local recycling centre as well as municipal dump, whilst also being a paramedic and pompier! He bade us bon journée and went on his way, no doubt to sample bernache and beignets!

It wasn’t until we got back to the car that we realised the pelle wouldn’t fit in there…A small Rénault Mégane has only a limited amount of room for ancient boulangerie equipment! There was much laughter from passers-by as Syb & I wrestled the pelle into the car for the short journey home. So, after a bit of a tussle, the ‘paddle’ end lay on the dashboard, while the handle stuck out of the rear window by a couple of feet! It’s a good job the gendarmes know us here! laughing at us as we passed through the exit barrier, they called out bon journée, and ‘good luck’!

Anyway, as you can see from the picture, it looks lovely alongside the wicker basket Syb bought to hold the fouée we’ll cook and serve to guests next season!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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I know. This ‘blog should have been written before the last one, but I’m just useless at getting things done just lately. I do have a list, but it’s so long I’ve forgotten where the end is. So, I just do things as and when the time and inclination are together in the same universe! So, the barn raising (a la ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’) was a huge success. But, before that the fireworks and celebrations for Bastille Day both in our small village and our nearest large town were just so very impressive! In my rush to get a ‘blog out there for our faithful followers (you know who you are, er…Enid) I just plain forgot to tell you all just what you’re missing if you’re not in France for the Fete Nationale!

This year, unlike other years before it Mouliherne decided to celebrate a couple of days before. I think part of the reasoning behind this is due to the fact that Saumur has such an impressive display, and events all day that many of the smaller communes feel ‘left out’. Many of their inhabitants, visiting guests and holidaymakers preferring to visit the more picturesque and larger displays in the major towns.

Mouliherne traditionally holds a hog roast, dancing to live music and a fireworks display down at our local plan d’eau – it’s a recreation area centered around a lovely lake. Most communes in France have a plan d’eau. Ours has a fantastic barn structure there too, available for hire to all and sundry, and the focal point for many a ‘do’ throughout the year, from boules competitions to hog roasts, to weddings and other events. Anyway, we were told by friends that the feu d’artifice would be going off (literally) at around 10pm. So, off we went. We arrived there at around 9.45, parked (no meandering nor nodding though, as we were among the first to arrive in the carpark) and unloaded the wheelchair for Syb’s mum. We then found a likely viewing point on a grassy knoll overlooking the lake and barn. Lovely. Not long now. A few minutes of watching the ‘ooh, aah’s’ and back to Chateau Oiseau for a swift nightcap! Friends arrived and stood with us for a while for a chat, and together we commented on the noise emanating from the barn. A stage had been set up in there and there was dancing to a live band. Now, I used to be a musician and I know the difference between a live band and something akin to a can of marbles being gargled by a pre-pubescent teen fighting with a gorilla. I have no idea what kind of ‘dancing’ is done to this kind of ‘music’, but images of some long forgotten (or even undiscovered) Polynesian tribe spring to mind. (Insert apology to Polynesian pre-pubescent gorilla fighting teens here…)

It was dire. And I know dire, believe me. I’ve been in dire bands before! Many times!

But, when the noise stopped the anticipation grew. Only to find the pre-pubescent gorilla fighting teens were taking a short breather in search of the lost chord. I think they found it. Several, in fact.

10pm was a dim & distant memory by now, my patience was wearing thin. There was a flicker of red torchlight close by where we’d noticed earlier that there was a temporary cover constructed for the techniciens d’artifices. All of a quiver, we counted two, no three red torchlights swaying back and forth. They’ve lost their matches, surely? Red torch number one went to the left of the lake, while red torch number two went to the right. Red torch number three (obviously Red torch leader), stayed put in the tent thingy. Moments later, they all came back to the same point. We were wondering whether this was indeed the display, as it seemed to be so well co-ordinated. But no. They’d misplaced the button thingy, perhaps? Or even their matches after all?

11pm came and went. Red torch leader dispatched his troops once more left and right.

Pre-pubescent teens, having at last conquered the gorilla had stopped playing. The applause was rapturous and it was a close call whether the audience was thankful for the silence, or appreciative of the ‘band’.

11.30 and a tangible air of anticipation now as whoosh…..it started!

And wow! What a display! 15 minutes of world war three. Chest thumping maroons, huge sprays of sparks coloured the night and we ‘ooh’d’ and ‘aah’d’ with the best of ’em! For such a small commune, this was indeed a fantastic show, and an obvious highpoint in the social calendar here. After a thrilling 15 minutes, we looked at one another, made a mental note to be here for the Bastille Day celebrations next year, and forgave the pre-pubescent gorilla fighting teens everything. They were the best band we’d heard in ages!

By complete contrast, two nights later we found ourselves sat on the hill overlooking the Loire in Saumur, the chateau to our left and the town below us. There was the most fantastic sunset which seemed to last forever. The chateau glistened in the evening sunlight before being lit from the ground as night fell. When we arrived, there were a few folks dotted here & there, picnics in full flow. Wine glasses chinking, laughter and soft music filling the air. It was a very calm atmosphere, a very warm, sultry evening. As the time passed, more and more people came and found a spot to sit, the mixture of languages adding to the carnival atmosphere that was slowly replacing the calm of earlier. From somewhere in the crowd, drums began to play. There sounded like there were a few of them, and very tuneful it was too. After each ‘piece’ the audience clapped, whooped and hollered! Each ‘piece’ seemed to be louder and more frenetic than the last, helping to create the most fantastic sense of anticipation. Small versions of the fireworks we were waiting for were being thrown about the sky by small boys, their trails helping to illuminate the assembled gathering. Suddenly, the drumming stopped, the crowd cheered and the lights in the town below went out!

What followed was nothing short of brilliant. Bigger, more impressive and longer than the one we’d experienced a couple of nights before. We’ve been coming to Saumur for Bastille Day fireworks since we moved here, three years ago but we’ve always been down on the bridge, the Pont Cessart. That’s where it all ‘happens’, apparently. The crowds gathered there though make it difficult for Syb’s mum to see very much, apart from the backs of people’s heads! So to sit up by the chateau, perched high above the town below meant that we saw everything. I got some great shots too. So, Bastille Day in France 2008. Two very different experiences, both absolutely wonderful, and we’re eagerly looking forward to next years. I hope the band get some practice in before then though…

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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