Friday, 28 August 2015

Summer life in rural France

It takes time to learn how to slow down and enjoy the pace of life in rural France, a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of urban life in the UK. If a meal with the neighbours takes 4 or 5 hours, so be it, enjoy! 

That patient and paced mental attitude needs to be remembered, especially when it is the weekend of the hamlets' annual Mechoui. The neighbours' barn, usually full of ancient but regularly used farming equipment, has been cleared when we arrive to help set up the previous afternoon. However everything is not well as the 60 year old combine harvester has a collapsed bearing so half a dozen people are working hard to remove and replace the bearing so Alan the farmer can complete the harvesting and of course clear the remaining area of the barn for the mechoui. As is usual with any event there is always a hard core of helpers who volunteer to carry, wash and unpack all that is required to feed 60 plus hungry souls and here in France we, as relatively young senior citizens, make sure we do our best to help out.

Tables set and organised.
The following morning we are there again helping out although the two sheep have been turning on the spit over the oak logs since 7.30am. All the ladies in the hamlet have been preparing all manner of items for the days feasting, and the children have spent house preparing the canapes.
Serving as well!
The format is typical of a rural French event, planned to commence at 12.00noon but actually its 12.45 before we get under way, bottomless supplies of food and drink all afternoon with the roast sheep as the highlight then at about 5.30 we start a petanque (boules to you and me) competition.This continues until 9.00pm, with those not participating or those eliminated playing cards, UNO or other strange games only understood if you have lived here for 100 years or more!
People mill around talking before things get underway
And we are off!
Young and old all enjoying chat, simple good food and wine
The roasted sheep arrive
After the 'lunch' some play cards
or petanque
or read
After all the card playing, petanque, reading or for some an afternoon nap - we need sustenance, so by 9.30 the tables have been relaid and everyone sits down for the evening meal - more of the same and this continues until the early hours.

Lights on and the chat continues
So the evening goes on, slow and steady. Maureen and I serve wine, clear plates and wash dishes and feel privileged to be part of a lovely country community.

The next morning we return to clear up and guess what - yes there is enough left to provide lunch for 20 clearers and helpers.

You may well ask who pays for all this? Over the winter months three traditional 'tea dances' are held in the local town and the money raised pays for the mechoui.

It's a bit of a marathon, but we enjoy it all the same! The secret is to pace yourself!

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