Meetings, Meals & Municipales

Sometimes when I sit down to write these posts at the end of the month, I wonder what on earth I am going to write about as having been here for well over 7 years now, new topics are often thin on the ground! However this month has been, shall we say, quite a full one, one way or another. As the title suggests we have had a good smattering of meetings (some good, some very boring), have had quite a few nice meals out & then to round off the month, we have had some good shenanigans around here with the municipale (local) elections, plus of course there have been other things happening too as is evident from my note pad!

Lets start with the meetings. Early in the month we went to the local annual branch meeting for our bank. As we are Society members we get invited to this meeting every year & although it bores the socks off me, we get a very nice “free” lunch at the end of it! This year the location had changed & it was a beautiful day so it was all the more galling to have to be inside a rather dingy salle de fetes for a whole morning when the sun was shining outside. However the lunch was good! Next year I shall be tempted to do as one of the ladies did this year & turn up , register & then disappear to do her shopping, returning just in time to eat! The second meeting was one organised by the Tourist Office in Issoire. They had organised a series of meetings to discuss some research they’d had done concerning people’s perceived views of The Auvergne as a tourist venue. I only went to one as I find them very tedious & frankly unproductive. Everyone talks over each other which make the discussion difficult for me to follow, & although there are some good ideas put forward at times, no one ever gets off their backside to follow them through. Its such a shame when the Auvergne has so much to offer & frankly we often feel the Tourist Office is not really interested in promoting itself or the region at all. I left the meeting feeling very depressed & a little annoyed too as we pay quite a lot to be part of this organisation & never feel it is money well spent.

Our last meeting (if it can be called that – more of a social do really) was the first of the years soirees which our friend Liliane organises in our little commune. This one was a fascinating visit to a chateau in one of the hamlets here. A couple has bought it to renovate. It’s a fabulous building but, oh my goodness, a project & a half I can tell you! So far they have restored the main salon, a couple of bedrooms & they have a temporary kitchen of sorts as they are working on what will eventually be the main kitchen at the moment. We were amazed at how cosy it was inside mind you..a big log fire, lots of lamps & candles etc all helped with that. It will be an absolutely stunning place when they finish…but “rather them than us” I think was the general opinion of all of us who were there that night!

Now then…the meals. We have done rather well (for us anyway) with our eating out this month…& living with Le Radin, that is something I don’t often get to say! I had a very good “Ladies wot Lunch” type meet up with friends Judith, Linda, Muta & Tots at a restaurant near to Tots` cottage at the beginning of the month, although I could have done without the snowy drive there & back! We were also invited to eat with Judith & her husband Edward & their neighbours (one of whom Geoff teaches) & we had a lovely evening with them. The food (as per usual - Judith is a great cook) was excellent & we all really enjoyed the evening very much. Linda & Mike invited us to their house for Sunday lunch one weekend. The two “boys” went off for a walk which ended up turning into a very brambly ramble as their route took them through woodland where the path was often blocked by fallen trees which had to be circumnavigated. Geoff was not exactly properly attired for this & came back looking, literally, as if he had been dragged through a hedge backwards! But again a good afternoon was had by all! And finally, I did manage to make Geoff open his wallet once this month, when we discovered that due to my art class & his conversation class both being cancelled we were both very unusually free one Wednesday evening, so I suggested we went out for a pizza in Issoire! He has recovered from the experience now!!

We are still way too quiet business wise at the moment for my liking but we have had our first B&B visitors of his year, thank goodness! We have some bookings for April & May (both B&B & Gite) but things are still very slow this year. I’m hoping they buck up a bit next month. Being quiet, we have continued to get the gite spruced up a bit more. We have finished the kitchen & are now waiting for the plumber to arrive to change the hot water tank & then that’s it for this year over there. We are still also waiting for the roof to be done on the house - “sighs”! Fortunately the weather has been OK fact we had some lovely warm sunny days at the beginning of the month. Geoff even managed to get in his first sunbathing sessions of the year – but then it turned cold again so the sunbathing stopped very quickly! The garden is looking fantastic at the moment with daffodils, primroses, forget-me-nots & violets everywhere & the fruit tree blossom is just coming into full bloom. Very pretty. We also have new residents in the hen palace. We eventually got round to replacing Florence & Elizabeth (who did a runner if you remember) with Henny & Penny a couple of weeks ago. They are settling in very well, grumbling nicely every time I go out to hang out the washing, but so far not laying any eggs. I gave them the French talk the other day (ie. ”if I was a French farmer you will be heading for the pot soon if you don’t start laying”) but so far it hasn’t made any difference! It is lovely having some girls again though…I could stand watching them for hours!

We have just finished the second round of the Municipales this weekend. This is one of only two occasions when we get to vote (the other being in the European elections). These elections are to elect the mayors & councils of the towns & communes & are very closely followed by all & sundry…to the point of having the results coverage on all 3 major French TV stations for 2-3 hours on 2 consecutive Sundays! That is mega boring I can tell you! In our commune the maire was reelected without any real problems – even though he did get the least number of votes! However in two of our neighbouring communes there was a bit of an upheaval which has all been very interesting to observe. To understand the way it works you have to remember that in the small communes like ours, someone (who then usually expects to be maire) puts together a list of 11 people & then these 11 folk each have to receive over 50% of the total vote to be elected to the council. In one of our neighbouring communes, 10 of the 11 got elected outright – but the existing maire (& remember this is HIS list!) didn’t receive the percentage he needed to be elected in the first round! So there then had to be a second round of voting between him & another person who also failed to be elected first time round. He did get in this time but it shows how unpopular he is as maire. The second commune has been even more divided. The existing maire there (who happens to be a good friend of ours) took on the job when the maire suddenly resigned mid term as he had had enough! There should be clues here as to what is about to happen to this commune! She put together her list but decided to drop one guy (a local farmer who she though was not really pulling his weight on the council as he had lots of things going on in his life) This guy took umbrage & put himself forward as an independent, & then the weekend before the elections went round all the inhabitants bad mouthing our friend! You also at this point have to understand that our friend is seen as an “incomer”, as she has not lived here all her life, plus she is female & is not from farming stock – all of which put her at a huge disadvantage in this rural community. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that this guy got elected along with 10 of our friends list, but our friend did not. Then it all goes to pot! The people elected from our friends list all decided to resign in protest, which left this farmer guy on his own – a totally impossible situation for him - so he too resigns. So now this commune has no maire & no council! It will be run by the sub prefecture of Issoire for a while & then we understand there will have to be new elections at a later date. Totally crazy situation…but very interesting for us as observers!

OK, as the song says…enough is enough…for this month anyway. I’m looking forward to April now, our first gite guests of the year, several B&B guests …& hopefully (dare I say it) a new roof!