30 April 2024

CHM's nieces

Charles-Henry's nieces came back to Saint-Aignan this past Saturday. They stopped by in the evening (in a frog-strangling downpour of rain) so we could look at some photos together. We ran them as a slideshow on my laptop computer and displayed them on our living room television screen. Here they are. Their father was CHM's brother. He passed a way nearly two years ago at age 101. CHM passed away in February at age 99. Thanks to Walt for the photo, taken with his phone.

29 April 2024

Our village (4)

Views of the Cher River at Mareuil in the Loir-et-Cher (41) near Saint-Aignan

A plaque in the village center at Mareuil — autumn leaves — a typical house on the banks of the Cher

28 April 2024

Our village (3)

    Driving into the village from Saint-Aignan               The town's main square with the church and the town library

A closer view of the church                   The town in autumn.

Le château de Mareuil                  La mairie de Mareuil

27 April 2024

Our village (2)

I won't write much on this post because I've written several long comments on my previous two posts. Go have a look. Here are some more photos of our village that I took when we first arrived here 20 years ago. Things haven't changed much, but several new (small) subdivisions have been built all around the village over the years.

Our neighbor the mayor has two years to go on her second six-year term in that position. I wonder whether she will want to continue. She's a year or so older than I am, and her husband is getting close to 80. They have a vacation home on the coast down near Bordeaux, and I know he wants to go live down there. I wonder what changes a new mayor might make in the village.

26 April 2024

Our village (1)

These are some photos I took in our village when we first moved here. That was in June 2003. The village has a population of nearly 1,200 people. These days, it's sort of a suburb of Saint-Aignan, in the sense that the only retail store in the village is a bakery. There's also a hair salon. There's a garage that repairs cars and sells used cars. And there's a post office that's open five mornings a week. There's also a lending library. And there are wineries where you can buy boxes or bottles of local wines. Saint-Aignan (pop. 3,000) is less than 5 miles away with many more businesses, including hotels, restaurants, banks, insurance companies, doctor's offices, etc. Blois, a small city, is 25 miles north. Our village has its own mayor, who is one of our neighbors.

According to Wikipédia, the village has a land area of about 12 mi² and it is on the left (south) bank of the Cher River, which is 365 km long (225 miles). The village church is dedicated to saint Martin de Tours.

25 April 2024

Those mystery guests

So for a couple of hours yesterday evening we had company. That doesn't happen much any more, since people travel less than they used to — at least the people we know. I wanted to take photos but I didn't. It didn't seem right. So I give you a photo of our living/dining room and empty chairs. The visitors were two of Charles-Henry's nieces. I had never met them before. They made a special trip to come meet us and talk for a while about their uncle, our friend.

We sat around the dining room table for a couple of hours and reminisced. I'm talking about two women who are just four or five years younger than I am. We shared information about CHM's life. We compared notes. We each drank a glass of some of the local bubbly wine. It was nice. I have a feeling we'll see them again. More tomorrow.

24 April 2024

L'enterrement et le pot

This is what I wrote about un pot in a comment on yesterday's post. It is a glass of wine or whatever you want to drink, usually in a café. And it's ponounced [poh] with a silent H. On prend un pot avec des amis. By extension, organiser or faire un pot means to invite guests into your home or colleagues at your workplace to have a drink of whatever you are serving. I guess it's a cocktail party in a way. Un pot d'adieu is a going-way party. Yesterday's pot at the neighbors' house across the road was a crowd of maybe 50 people drinking glasses of the local bubbly wine or beer. There were some finger foods. We were lucky with the weather, which turned off mild and sunny, so most of the crowd stayed outdoors. It was fun.

Pot is an interesting word. It can mean a drink. It can mean a party. It can also mean "luck" — j'ai eu du pot ce jour-là. I was lucky that day. Manger à la fortune du pot means to take pot luck when talking about lunch or dinner. Un pot au feu (the T is pronounced) is a boiled beef dinner, and une poule au pot (silent T) is king Henri IV's famous chicken in every pot. And there are many more meanings as well. Le pot d'échappement d'une voiture is the car's muffler. I don't know if this link will work, but if it does you can see how many definitions there are for pot and how many expressions use the word.

I didn't take any pictures yesterday. It didn't seem appropriate, especially at the cemetery, and at the pot I was busy talking to people. I think there were more people at the cemetery than there were at the house afterwards. People told me that the cathedral in Blois was pretty much full for the religious service/funeral earlier in the afternoon. I sort of wish I had gone to Blois for the funeral but we were busy getting the house ready for our mystery guests, who are supposed to arrive at about 6 this evening. We've never met them before. They aren't staying overnight, and we're not cooking a big dinner. Nous allons boire un pot ensemble and get to know each other in person and not just by telephone and e-mail. These guests live in Grenoble and are on their way to Bayeux in Normandy (of tapestry fame) for some kind of family reunion. More tomorrow... maybe with a photo or two.

23 April 2024

The village cemetery (2)

These are some of the graves in the village cemetery that have plaques with words on them. Maybe you'll be able to read some of them. By the way, after the funeral in Blois and the burial in our village cemetery late this afternoon, Bernard's widow and children vont faire un pot in their house across the street from us. We're invited. Do you know what a pot is?

Some of the most common family names in this area are Ledys, Barbier, Marteau, Bigot, Denis, etc.

22 April 2024

The village cemetery (1)

Tomorrow I'll be going somewhere I don't go very often. It's our village cemetery. I've been there a few times for funerals — three times, I think, in 20 years. Two neighbors and a friend. Tomorrow our friend and neighbor Bernard will be buried there.

The village we live in borders on the town of Saint-Aignan, but with a population of about 1,200, it's only one third the size of its larger neighbor. Neither is very big, obviously, but our village has never been bigger than it is right now.

21 April 2024

Moules pour le repas de midi

I went to the open-air market in Saint-Aignan yesterday morning and bought some mussels (moules) from the fishmonger who sets up there every Saturday morning. They had to be cleaned (their "beards" and their barnacles removed), scrubbed, and well rinsed several times. It didn't take long. Once they are cleaned, they are really fast and easy to cook. See below.

You "sweat" some onion and/or garlic in big pot in melted butter. When the onions and garlic are soft, add some chopped parsley or celery leaves. Dump the mussels into the pot and pour on half a bottle of so of white wine. Add some black pepper, but don't add any salt — the mussels will release enough salty water as they cook. Cover the pot tightly, and either shake it or stir it two or three times as the mussels cook (for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how many you are cooking). They are done as soon as the shells are open. Eat them with French fries and some of the juice that's in the bottom of the pot, followed by a green salad. See more information in this post of mine.

20 April 2024

April yellows

Eastern France is shivering this week. And here in western France we are also feeling chilly. The good news is that we haven't yet had temperatures down to zero Celsius. In years past, April has been much warmer. These are pictures I took around the Saint-Aignan area between April 4 and April 27 back in 2004, when we had barely arrived here. Bright yellows dominated.

19 April 2024

Lawn parties at the neighbors'

Here are some pictures to show the kind of parties that Bernard (who passed away a few days ago) and M. (his wife), our neighbors and friends, used to throws every summer between 2003 and 2019. This one happened to be the first one we attended. It was le 14 juillet (Bastille Day) in 2003. Often there were anywhere from 50 to more than 100 people out in their yard, and there was usually a sit-down lunch or dinner served. Or both. We were always invited.

In the photo on the left above, you can see how we were seated at lunchtime. That's our dog Collette in the picture. In the middle photo, that's M in white with blond hair. And on the right, there's Bernard standing close to his "punch pot" — he was ladling punch into glasses for anybody who wanted some.

Bernard was always out on his riding mower cutting the grass before a big party or whenever the grass started to look slightly overgrown. That's how we'll remember him.

In the photos above, the woman in the red and white blouse is Josette, from whom we had bought our house across the street a few months earlier. You can see Walt in the middle photo and again Bernard in the photo on the right.