Monthly Archives: July 2007

Le 14 Juillet!

Ohhhhh….Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…This is one of our pictures of the fabulous fireworks display we went to see in the neighbouring village of Meuilley (the festivities rotate from village to village every year, and this year it was Meuilley’s turn) on July 13th. The evening was perfect – warm, clear and absolutely no breeze. We all plunked down on an adjoining wheat field and watched the show.

The next day, of course, was the annual village feast in Villers-la-Faye on the Place de la Salle de Fete. Franck had informed me previously that I was not allowed to book our plane tickets to Canada before the 15th, as this is a must attend event. Besides, last year he was declared the Village Champion of “Quilles” (kind of like a weird vertical bowling with huge wooden pegs and huge wooden balls) and he had to defend his title.

Franck had vaguely promised the girls that he would help them decorate their bikes to enter into the “flowered bikes” competition. They reminded him about fifteen minutes before we had to leave and I was amazed at what he was able to pull together with branches from our Bay tree, aluminum foil, and two stuffed animals.

I’m glad I married someone so inventive in a pinch. Here’s Camille “working” on the bike with her Dad.

Here are the girls rolling the bike down the hill from our place to the Salle des Fetes.

We were very relieved that when we arrived their was only one other bike, a meticulously decorated one that had clearly been done by an adult. Luckily there is a children’s prize and an adult’s prize. For a while Camille and Charlotte looked like they had the children’s prize in the bag as they were the only entrants, but unfortunately a few minutes into our feast a little girl came rolling in with what looked like the better part of a garden looped into a lovely arch above her bicyclette (including felt dragonflies fluttering in the breeze). Camille was quite perturbed as she seems to have inherited her father’s competitive streak. Here she is checking out the competition. She did quite a bit of picking and pulling on the flowers of the other bikes when she thought no-one was looking.

Finally the time for the competition came. Tensions were high and the other little girl looked rather smug. Camille, however, was still convinced she was going to win. As the judges were reflecting, the crowd broke out in a spontaneous chant of “UNANIMITE!” (aka “A TIE!”), so Camille and Charlotte (and Franck, vicariously) won. Charlotte chose a game of “Mikado” and a calculator and Camille chose a soccer set complete with ball, shin guards (went very nicely with her summer dress), goal markers, and fluorescent yellow goalie gloves.

After that Franck got his ass whooped in the Ping Pong tournament while the girls played “Peche a la Ligne” for hours and won lots of treasures such as stick on glitter fingernails, water pistols, and garish costume jewellery.

Then came the traditional book giving where every child in the village is given an age-appropriate book (that’s Pierre-Alexandre, the mayor, in yellow who is handing them out). Franck’s mother was telling me that they have done this for a long time, and she remembers getting her book every year when she was a little girl.
Then came the Quilles. Franck hit down three to begin with, an auspicious start, but then missed on his next two tosses. Luckily the girls saved the Germain family honour with their bike. Here is the new village Quilles champion (and neighbour of La Vieille Vigne incidentally) and the runners up looking very pleased with themselves. They better watch out, however, as Franck is determined to have his revenge next year.

Here’s Charlotte with her new best friends she played with all day. That’s Justine, Lena, my Charlotte, and Clara. Justine is quite a heady acquaintance as she is allowed to ride her bike to the Place de la Salle des Fetes and play without her parents. Charlotte is harassing me already to be able to meet her friends there “by myself, without you!” as she so subtly puts it…Luckily I have a month to stall as we’re flying to Canada tomorrow for my little sister’s wedding and won’t be back until mid-August!

Glaces aux Chaumes – a summertime tradition

On Saturday night we had Charlotte and Camille’s friends Eloi and Alix for an overnight and as the sun finally came out (this has been the most rotten June and July so far I have ever seen here – cold, rainy, and completely untypical for Burgundy) we decided to surprise the kids with what has become a summer tradition for us here in Villers-la-Faye – a before bed ice cream eaten on Les Chaumes.

Les Chaumes is the large pasture just above the village, where the villagers used to graze their livestock. It is still owned in common by all of us villagers, and it is lovely and calm and has a fabulous view over the vineyards and out to the blue mountains of the Jura.

The mugwumps, however, were much more taken with the chocolate Cornettos than the view and I very quickly regretted not having remembered to bring napkins / baby wipes / a pressure washer for the kids’ faces.

Except for Camille, bien sur, who prides herself on being a very clean eater.

Eloi is pretending his blade of grass is a sword – he makes up “boy” games whenever he can to counteract the pink and Barbie universe that is our house. The girls, however, continue to pretend they’re princesses (albeit chocolate stained) and drive him around the bend.

Les Scenes de Menage, Ghandi, et Moi

“Scene de menage”: def – A domestic conflict, colloquial equivalent of a “dust up”.

Hoping for Salvation

I have always found this common french expression for a household fight very a propos. Particularly as the word “menage” means “housework” i.e. “Je deteste faire le menage” equals “I hate doing housework”. And in our household the “scenes de menage” are almost always just that. Franck and I don’t fight about money, we don’t fight about how we raise our kids, but man-oh-man is housework every a trigger for us (well, OK, more for me if truth be told).

I don’t mind doing the dishes, I don’t mind ironing, I don’t mind folding clothes, but as far as vacuuming, spraying, and getting on my hands and knees to scrub out the bathtub and the toilet, I REALLY have Issues (and yes, that capital “I” is 100% intentional).

But at the same time I hate living in a dirty house. As the house gets dirtier and dirtier my mood deteriorates. I realize that I will need to do something about it, and soon. I procrastinate like crazy…oh, maybe I should just check my emails quickly…oh jeez, I forgot to read that article in the newspaper…a nice cup of coffee would taste really good right now but first I need to make some…

Tragically, however, the housework does not go away while I am engaged in all these industrious activities. Instead, the task gets bigger, and more horrendous, and my resentment at having to do it grows accordingly.

Here is one of the aspects of myself that I am not very proud of – inevitably by the time I finally capitulate and drag out the vacuum, Windex, and toilet brush I am in a black mood and hate the entire world and everybody in it, especially my loved ones who helped make the mess. I holler, I bellow, I yell at anyone who dares get in my path. I become a total shrew for the entire time the housecleaning lasts, and sometimes for a good couple of hours afterwards.

Obviously, we have very competent cleaning crews for the gites. When people ask me if I do the cleaning myself between guests, I answer very seriously, “No, and if I had to I would find another job.”

I have often pondered the reasons why housecleaning is such a trigger for me. Not too long ago, after a memorable tantrum that culminated in Franck scurrying out of the house with the girls for their safety, I wrote a stream-of-consciousness list of possibilities in my diary (before starting the housework, of course). Here are some excerpts;

1. Dirty house seems like such an overwhelming task. Feel tired, hopeless, and discouraged (not to mention mad) before I even begin.

2. Know from past experience that hard work will be undone in anywhere from a few hours to two days, tops, and this stirs up unspeakable resentment.

3. Feel like I work my proverbial rear end off during the week at my job, caring for the kids, etc. and strongly resent having this other and very much unwanted job of housework. It’s like unpaid overtime.

4. Dirty, unrenovated home makes me feel like a failure. Why is it we are still camping in our mid to late 30’s? In the book “Simple Abundance” the author says there is a direct correlation between self esteem and the comfort of one’s home. This terrifying thought catapults me back to the couch of that German psychoanalyst whom I frankly don’t want to be spending my precious time with.

OK, yes, it has occurred to me that I am perhaps just a spoiled brat, or that maybe the problem is that I just can’t get over myself. It’s true that I was brought up in a social and educational environment where us girls were being groomed for stellar careers and Great Things – cleaning the toilet was definitely not alluded to in any way, shape, or form. This cold, hard reality came as quite a shock to me, and I would bet I wasn’t the only one.

And yet the toilet must be cleaned…why not just get a house cleaner? many of my friends have asked when I describe the scale of my housecleaning angst. I could, and I think I will, but cleaning this half-renovated house seems like a bit of rotten job for any house cleaner. Besides if we ever receive the permission to cut out the hole for our new french doors (no, still hasn’t arrived yet,and we’re going on four months now) we’ll be starting our Reno’s in September. It really doesn’t seem fair to subject any other person to cleaning out piles of drywall dust, Reno refuse, etc.. However, when my house is done, then, yes, I very well might hire someone.

In the meantime however, I have new hope. My dear friend Heather who lives in Germany (see her blog here http://www.unlikelynomad.blogspot.com/ ) told me that what I needed to do was read Gandhi’s biography, as this changed her view on housework and showed her how important, meditative, and restorative house work could be if you just looked at it the right way. She said she would send me the book. Franck overheard this, and could barely conceal his joy.

Two weeks later a book arrived in the mail and Franck exclaimed with glee “That must be your Gandhi book about housecleaning!”. I opened it up to find, much to my delight and Franck’s despair, Anne Lamott’s fabulous book about writing “Bird by Bird” instead. Franck was gutted, I was overjoyed, and I wrote Heather to tell her she had made a fine choice. Two weeks later, however, I received another book in the mail and this time it was my Gandhi / housecleaning salvation book from Heather.

So far it’s been very interesting, but I haven’t got to the part about the zen of housecleaning yet. However, when I do I’ll be sure to let you know if there has been our own little french revolution here Chez Germain, and whether there has been any significant reduction of our weekly scenes de menage. My hopes (not to mention Franck’s) are all pinned on Gandhi.

A Very Fine Bottle

I often thought that if I actually lived here in Burgundy I would inevitably become jaded about all the great wines we get to drink here on a regular basis. However, going on three years now I’m happy to say it still hasn’t happened. On Saturday night our friends Mark (an export director for the Maison Louis Latour in Beaune) and his wife Coralie came for dinner.

They brought along a bottle of Louis Latour’s Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru 1992 (yes, I’m a total geek and took a picture…ok, three pictures actually… of the bottle before letting Franck cart it off to the recycling bin). We drank it along with some wonderful goat’s cheeses we buy from a small producer two villages over. It was sublime. Ahhhhh, Burgundy…