Bastille Day

Being a complete plonker, I thought the flag bunting going up all over our nearest town was in preparation for the forthcoming Oradour festival (which attracts around 40,000 apparently!).

Then I realised that this Saturday is Bastille Day to commemorate the storming of the prison gates back in 1789.

I have no idea what the town is planning but will obviously go to have a look on Saturday. What usually happens in your area?

Thanks, Andy: we'll call in when we're passing (which is, inevitably, often). Now I found your Cancer Support France links, I know where I've seen your name before. We have, occasionally seen the butcher, but never near us. And grocers? Our greengrocery comes either from our garden (a little, yet), from our neighbour's beautiful potager (and he is a visiting Parisien), CM's markets or, I admit, Intermarché.

And, by the way, we didn't attend the lunchtime repas: it was just too early for us (-:

Butcher's van, Nigel? You have more chance of seeing a gendarme! He used to be in le Bourg 3 times a week - now I think it is once. Used to be a grocer's van twice a week as well.

Drop in if you are passing - we are the large house with the slate roof opposite the car park.

Hi Valerie:

Thanks for your comment to mine. When we first met our oldest neighbour, and until we knew her name, we referred to her as Madame Deux Cannes, because she walks only with the aid of two sticks. But she can move fast when she wants to!

Hi Andy:

Thanks for your comment. We're in Chez Ribourgeoux. We did deliberately decide not to visit houses right in the middle of villages or towns, although Chez RIb is a little too far from Benest (or Alloue, or Chatain, for that matter) really: we said to ourselves "up to a km from a village with a boulangerie". But never mind, the boulangeries in Benest and Chatain visit us. Now to get the butcher's van to come!

I'll send you an email as you requested.

Welcome to Benest, Nigel! I hope to meet you before too long - hopefully before the Bar re-opens (in Februray is the date I have as well, according to the French family we we with yesterday.

I'm pleased (honestly!) that you have fhad a different experience to us - but there again, we live in le Bourg, which is very different to the hameau. (Which one are you in?)

E-mail me at, and I'll put you on the 'mailing list' for the occasional newsletter I produce - contributions welcomed also!

Did you also go to the lunchtime event?

Yours sounds like a wonderful hamlet, Nigel, and such kind neighbours. What a lovely lady coming round to check on you in the big freeze and she's 90! Bless her. I gave up looking for flyers, on the internet etc yesterday for anything happening in our local town. Then 11.15 last night I could hear bloomin fireworks so could've taken the kid after all. Never mind. We'll know for next year.

I meant that it was our first 14th in Benest: is there a way to edit posts here?

Well, here's a thing. We live near Benest, and went along to the Pizza party and fireworks organised in the village. It was fun! This was the first 14th in Benest (we live in one of the attached hamlets) and we were a little apprehensive: lots of old people, recalcitrant maire, anti-English sentiment and (mainly) dead or dying village. But no, there were plenty of people, most were in fact young, and, for a while, I think I was the oldest person there (and I'm only just over 60). We do know the local boulangerie (from buying the products, but also because the woman who makes the van rounds to the outlying hamlets is English), and they were making the pizzas: I am sure several hundred were made and sold last evening. And on the most fantastic wood burning pizza oven (OK, presumably really a bread oven). Lots of the local people had, it seems, lots of fun (perhaps mostly alcohol induced), the school children walked up to the firework field with burning torches, and the fireworks were above expectation, too (above mine, anyway). We did see, perhaps, five or six english people, but they were joined in. Altogether, good fun.

In fact, I might add that, since we moved in, people here have been more than friendly. In December, a tree came down in a storm in our hamlet and the electricity and phone were cut off. The ERDF reconnected most of the lines, but not ours (because we were in the UK). We returned on the coldest day of the winter: -15. The following day, 15 cm of snow. Our nearest neighbour came round to see if we were still alive! (She's 90, by the way.) And later that day, other locals rescued us, and we spent about a week keeping warm and clean in their house (while ERDF got round to reconnecting the power). The boulangère called in and helped, and she helped sort out the phone. This is a small and declining community, but I think it could work just fine for us. (And we hear the local bar has been sold and will re-open in February: yay!

Your commune sounds a little like mine, Brian - save fot the attitude to 'foreigners' (ie anyone not born here). Only 340 people, average age over 70, noted as the poorest in the Charente. The maire, in his second (and he is determined, last) term is very 'pro-newcomer' and welcoming, as are two or three others on the conseil. He at least recognizes that les anglais bring money into the village.

I know a lote of ex-pats in the general area (and from other regions of France - they all tell me that they have no problems at all. Just looks as though we ended up in a dying village resistant to change of any sort. (You should have heard the fuss when they were forced to connect to mains drainage three years ago!).

At least I can let off steam here!

Andy, just read that about 'No Anglais here' and I am appauled. Our maire, who I think will stand down in two years, has been out recruiting candidates for the 2014 election. Our neighbour, in fact who we bought the house from, is receiving an award next week for 35 years service to the community, especially the football club and as a member of the council. He is standing down next election, so they need a candidate from this corner of the commune. At the other end of the commune there is a sizeable hamlet where the majority is Anglais and there are some in the village proper. So this commune has always had a 'foreigner', usually a Brit but there has been a Dutch one once I gather, on the council. The present one is not very well, so standing down. The maire has been trying to democratically persuade me to become a council member, which means the less than 200 voters in the commune have the exact number of candidates to elect and that is that. I am probably not going to do it but if there are shennanigans then I will. When we have the fête de l'ancien in August I am expected to where my kilt, as too the other Scots in the village, the English have to be a bit yokelish, the Dutch wear clogs and the one and only German family put on Lederhöschen although they are not from the south of Germany at all. That is part of the strangely cosmopolitan nature of the commune.

If anybody makes tonight's modest little Fête National barbeque then it is a matter of joining in all the French songs associated with the revolution and national identity, so

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! Contre nous de la tyrannie, L'étendard sanglant est levé

Nobody in the commune is actually Anglophile, the maire knows almost no English nor most of the council bar the 'foreign' member knows any. It is just a small, poor commune that has decided to make the best of its scarce resources without prejudice. That is the message of the 1789 Declaration too, is it not?

@ Jane: North Charente, on border with Vienne. A very divided village. Would love to move - but not much chance of being able to sell the house

@ Valerie: The maire depends upon these bigots to get elected, and to get anything past the conseil. Not all the locals are like that, to be fair - the ones we are having lunch with today also won't go to the village 'do' because, although born and raised here, they had the temerity to move away (to Paris at that) and only come back for holidays. So they are treatd as foreigners as well.

My son plays saxophone in the town's brass band, so he has a couple of concerts - parade at 10:30 from the Mairie to the War Memorial, then in the evening at the town's bandstand from 21:00 until the fireworks start at about 23:00

Gonna rain tomorrow, we promised the girls we'd do something... Bergerac has something on, Lalinde near us has a little something.

Carol is there anything going on near st Foy

or even Eymet Sat.

We are now not going to the concert.

any ideas?

Andy, that's appalling! Such blatant bigotry. I wonder why, if the Maire was furious, nothing was done. It would have been too late anyway I suppose, the atmosphere was already ruined and 'battle lines' drawn. I don't suppose there was a very slim chance that they meant 'No-one at this table can speak English' as opposed to no English bums are to sit on these seats, full stop.

Andy where is Benest?

We have had nothing but kindness and a warm welcome from our neighbours here in Trivy and Sivignon in 71.

What about moving?

We will walk 200m down the road for luch with some French friends, and probably stagger back about 6pm!

We (and several other Brits here) have given up on the commune's lunchtime barbecue - since three years ago several tables had signs up saying 'No Anglais here' and we were shunted off into a corner. (The maire was furious - but that is another story). Anyway, the OH, who has French citizenship, vowed never to go again. She will probably wander down to see the fireworks in the evening (if it isn't raining). I light watch them from the balcony at the back of the house - if I haven't already retired to bed!

For us it is a private concert near by, everyone bringing some edible goodies and then

a suprise at the end....probably fireworks.

On Hollande’s first Bastille Day, expect family fireworks

"What can we expect from François Hollande’s first Bastille Day as president? Three things are for sure: crap weather, a rare appearance from his catty girlfriend, and – supposedly – the last word on the “Tweetgate” family feud... Or so he hopes."

The opening para of Sophie Pilgrim's blog on France 24 - well worth a read