14 Juillet

The frenetic pace of rural life is killing me. I need a break in some escargot-paced haven like, oh, I don’t know, New York. Yesterday was of course Bastille Day, otherwise known as “Let’s tear down the prison and behead the king” day, but here in Maury it is an occasion to honor France’s soldiers and for that we need to put aside politics, ignore the immorality of colonialism and simply say: “Merci”, because the only surviving ancien combattants in town served in Algeria. So while Macron was beguiling Trump with war toys in Paris, Charlie, the mayor, was pinning another medal on an old soldier.

The Mayor says a few words
Les Pompiers Salute

The day began with citizens, elected officials and the fire brigade marching from City Hall, looping around town to the cemetery where flowers were laid at the war memorial and after a few moments of respectful silence, Charlie said a few words about sacrifice and the responsibility of all of us to remember the terrible cost of war. I talked with the Mayor as we walked and asked him why Macron was hosting, and thereby honoring Trump. He said he thought Macron honestly believed he could make some progress and perhaps persuade the American to reconsider his position on climate change, but also the young French President wants to be the leader of Europe and saw an opportunity when it became obvious that Trump and Merkel will not be buddies.

The Mayor, members of the Council, honorees

The procession made its way back through town to City Hall where the old soldiers were acknowledged, pictures were taken, and most everyone adjourned to the Maison du Terroir for an apero. I had to skip the drinks because a Brit from my French class had invited me to a village meal in Palairac, a tiny commune about 40 minutes away in the Corbières mountains. Lovely melon with a bit of smoked ham, squid stuffed with pork, rice, ice cream, and lots of very nice local wine. There was music, dancing, and a lively mix of French and English. I was introduced as an American but endorsed as anti-Trump.

The Musicians
Band Uniform

Back home, I met Bardot in the garden who blessed me with a sack of the summer’s first tomatoes. There was time for a brief nap until Michel came by to fix a leaky faucet and then off to St. Paul for dinner with Marcel, Carrie, and Marcel’s parents. As quiet and darkness settled in on us, and Carrie put Jordi to bed, I went back to Maury to end the day with fireworks and a glass of Maury, along with the largest crowd I’d ever seen in town. I’d guess there were around 300 people there, including an unusually large number of children, an optimistic note to close a full day of gentle wholesomeness, the best of village life.

©2017 Ron Scherl

Bastille Day

The weekend celebration actually kicked off Friday night with a tour of the outdoor art exhibit throughout town, followed by a paella dinner at the kiosque. I had every intention of covering this event for my loyal readers but there was serious competition, a very good group was playing at the café. Three women playing guitar and various percussion instruments and singing beautifully took a wonderful musical world tour: Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Africa, Spain, the US and France. It was a great show so I opted for the music and merguez over the paintings and paella.

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl

Bastille Day ceremonies began about 10 AM when people gathered in the Place de la Mairie. Flags were flying, the mayor wore his sash and the veterans their medals. Not many left now and the ones that are served in Algeria. Since official France does not consider that war to have been a war, the medals were awarded for service in the “maintenance of order.”

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl

The firefighters and their teenage trainees led the march from the Mairie through town to the war memorial, which is in the cemetery. There, flowers were placed, the mayor made a short speech and asked for a moment of silence for those who sacrificed for France. Then we marched back up to the Mairie for a short ceremony honoring the living veterans who were present at which point the mayor invited everyone to join him at the café for a drink. That’s France in a nutshell: patriotism, recognition and a pastis.

Bastille Day: The Mayor ©2012 Ron Scherl

I felt it was my duty as a legal resident to see this through so I joined the group at the café and received cheers and nods of approval when I ordered a glass of Maury. This was not your usual café crowd. For one thing, it’s probably the first time since I went to shoot bingo at the club for the elderly, that I wasn’t the oldest person in the room; and also, the place was not quite up to the standards of some of the first-time patrons. The tables weren’t properly cleaned, the glasses didn’t sparkle and the Schweppes was lemonade. When the Maury was served, several people were sure it wasn’t the real deal, so the glass was passed to Pierrette, the president of the Cave Cooperative, who pronounced it real Maury Blanc. That still didn’t satisfy, so the glass went to Paul, the former president who agreed with Pierrette. With the wine suitably blessed, another round was ordered. Still not everyone was happy and the lemonade went to water the tree.

The evening brought fireworks, a rock band and more eating and drinking for a distinctly younger crowd outdoors at the kiosque. It’s getting hard to keep up.

Bastille Day 2012 ©2012 Ron Scherl



Baby Wine

I took a walk in the vineyards this evening to record the state of the fruit. I like to go the same vineyard at least once a month to see the changes and understand the process. It’s hot now and we have very young, small green berries with opaque skin. It’s baby wine and it made me think about all the things Maury does for its children. OK, I know that’s a stretch, the truth is there have been all these events for kids lately so I couldn’t help but think about them and then I went for a walk in the vineyards and it all got tossed together in the salad of my brain. I’ve warned you about this before: this blog doesn’t have an editor.

Athletes ©2012 Ron Scherl

The children are everywhere; if you invite friends to dinner, expect the kids to come too. Parents tell me the school is excellent and they love the teachers. The library (http://www.maury-village.com/biblio/) serves everyone, but Cati has a special emphasis on children and if you go there on a Wednesday when school is all athletics, some of the kids who are not sports minded will be in there reading. She also has a Saturday morning meeting for parents to read to their preschoolers and even hosted a seminar for regional librarians on sexism in children’s books, featuring a prominent expert in the field.

Music ©2012 Ron Scherl

Children are included in everything, they begin the Mass by bringing candles to the altar, Voix de Femmes included several theatrical presentations for kids; they carry the torches for the Fête de St. Jean (accompanied by firefighters). Even the large winter bingo parties set aside some of the games for kids only, with appropriate prizes.

Fete de St. Jean ©2012 Ron Scherl

This is one of the nice things about small town life and it’s important that it still exists here. Many small rural towns are dying because there is no economic opportunity, but Maury has the wine and so far, that has kept many of the younger generation and their young children here working in the independent wineries or growing for the cooperative. When I first came here I feared this generational continuity would be lost for two reasons: winemaking is a very difficult way to make a living, and the influx of foreign investment would buy up the best vineyards and drive the locals out of the business.

It hasn’t worked out that way. For one thing, it’s difficult to earn a living anywhere right now and the scarcity of employment may very well have kept some people in the vineyards. Also, much of the acreage that changed hands was scheduled to be torn out because the farmers had retired, and many of the best vineyards remain in the hands of the locals, who continue to make wine and feel they will prosper because of the new attention being focused on the region. And it’s this generation, in their twenties and thirties whose children are filling the school.

Meanwhile, the mayor works for managed growth and a balance between the new investment and family traditions and I have to think that if anyone can make this work, it’s Charley.

The Mayor ©2012 Ron Scherl

The Great Parking Crisis of 2012

Geneviève was fed up. These people were not playing by the rules and could not be convinced that parking in front of her house was just not done. Time and again they just ignored her and parked wherever they wished. Geneviève does not like to be ignored so she went to the mayor. And Charley doesn’t ignore anyone.

Parking in Maury is not a straightforward experience. Walking around town it appears that anyone can park just about anywhere. You see cars in front of doors and blocking driveways, streets become impassable because of oversized vehicles in the wrong places. But this is a very small town and you tend to know everyone and their car, so when you open the garage door and see Michel’s car, you walk down the street and tell him you need to get out. There’s time. Often, there will be a loudspeaker announcement from the Mairie asking someone to move, and if you don’t hear it you may be towed, but if your driveway is blocked when the Mairie is closed you’re out of luck. Someone decided to park in the middle of our street this weekend and just left it there for two days. Unbelievably, no one behind him tried to move a car and thankfully, there were no emergencies that would have required access.

Now some of this is unavoidable; most of these houses were built before cars and without garages and in some cases garages have been converted into additional living space. Sometimes people need to drop off groceries before parking and sometimes a visit lasts longer than expected. And then there are those who are just too inconsiderate and entitled to be bothered. They’re everywhere.

But there must be some underlying order to this and it probably has to do with how long your family has been in the village. A few months ago, I’d noticed others had been parking in front of Geneviève’s house, so I pulled up and no sooner had I set the brake then she popped out and waggled a finger at me. I told her it was just for a minute and received the blessing but it was clear I was not to make a habit of this. I figured all the other parkers were family but when it turned out to be the arrivistes from down the street, she went straight to the mayor.

So Charley called a meeting, right out on the street in question, and everyone on the block received notice, Tuesday at 6:30. This was an exciting event and since I was parked in my garage, I was in the clear. When I got out and saw the scene shaping up the first thing that came into my head was Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of a Nazi collaborator being denounced at the end of the war. I’d show it to you but I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was making comparisons, either of the situation or the photographers. And I still believe in copyright.

The Neighbors ©2012 Ron Scherl
The Mayor ©2012
Pierrette and Geneviève ©2012 Ron Scherl

The upshot of the whole thing is that these parking scofflaws are moving to Estagel in a couple of months (we knew they weren’t our kind of people) and Charley worked out a temporary solution to get us through the crisis:

– two of the offending vehicles which are not used very much will be parked elsewhere;

– everyone will take care not to park in front of low windows, front doors or garages;

– not on the sidewalks either;

– those people fortunate enough to have a garage will park there.

Oh, and everyone will please take their garbage cans inside as soon as possible after the collection. Seems careless parkers are also a little loose with the poubelles.

Charley expressed his hope that civility and common sense will lead to cooperation with this plan and he wouldn’t have to use his police powers to post signage and mark the road with parking instructions to be enforced by the gendarmes.

In other news:

The nearby village of Bugarach has called off  “The End of the World” previously scheduled for December, 2012. A new reading of the Mayan calendar suggests things will go on for a while longer and the proliferation of t-shirt vendors was really bumming out everyone.