Monday, July 13, 2009
Another Fête Accompli
Saturday night was the long-awaited Village Fête to celebrate Bastille Day, you know, the day that the Parisian hordes stormed the Bastille and freed the remaining 7 prisoners described as 'four forgers', 'two lunatics' and a 'deviant aristocrat', which sounds pretty much like the makeup of just about any French village!
On a point of historical accuracy it should be mentioned that the prisoners were not the reason for the storming. The 'vainqueurs of the Bastille' were actually after all the gunpowder there, having previously stormed the Hotel des Invalides and stolen 30,000 muskets but neglected to notice that they had neither shot nor gunpowder. A nice fashion accessory no doubt but not much use for armed rebellion.
The resulting 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen' is now dutifully celebrated on or around the 14th July when the French get together and storm the beer tents followed by a night of dancing the night away in ladies-only couples. French men, it seems, generally stay rooted to their seats unless there is an accordion present - and thanks be to God/Allah/Yahweh there wasn't one.
It has a good reputation as village Fêtes go, largely because the food is generally edible, which is more than can be said for some of the other ones where the mass production of properly cooked, warm food, is still a distant dream. Apparently 22 Maires would be present (what do you call a group of Maires, I wonder? Any suggestions? A legislation of Maires? A bluster of Maires? ), a record for a local village Fête. I have to be honest and say that this whole French 'Maire' thing completely passes me by so I couldn't get that excited about the prospect of them all.
The CH, for his sins, was commandeered for kitchen duty - note they didn't commandeer me. Must have been forewarned - and, despite his pleas to the contrary they insisted on serving rice. Rice for 500 people. 35 kilos of rice that all needed to be cooked on the night.
The menu was good. Melon and Parma Ham for starters, followed by pate and salad, then Patagonian Beef and Pork cooked traditionally by a local guy who hails from South - we are a truly international community here. It was cooked on these giant tripod things encircled by wood fire - very Bear Grylls. This was accompanied by ratatouille nicoise and 'the rice'. The cheese course followed and then a surfeit of very sweet, very sticky chocolate and coffee eclairs. Ice creams next year please!
First up for the entertainment was the local dance school, which seemed to only consist of two people, who strutted their latin stuff in a variety of glittery gowns - her that is. I must admit I find something slightly distasteful about 12/13 year olds dressed as adults and doing provocative dance moves but that could just be my conservative Tunbridge Wells upbringing.
The band was a Franco/British one with a keyboard player who seemed to be constantly one song behind the rest of the band but that was fine because there was one lady who danced the entire evening to whatever song that he was playing. I've never seen anyone so consistently miss the beat.
It's a funny thing, dancing. I could have spent hours (in fact I probably did) watching the different styles but my favourites were definitely 'out of time girl', a couple who spent hours trotting backwards and forwards with the odd dosey-do, and a drunk who's style was a bit 'epileptic on hot coals' but fortunately for the rest of us, he only kept it up for about 5 minutes before the call of the bar became too strong. People here are big into line dancing and now a bit of samba and they are instantly recognisable because the generally dance in all-girl couples. French men often seem to need the added encouragement of the accordion to get theselves moving.
The obligatory 'feu d'artifice' were duly set off. 1200 rockets the publicity proudly proclaimed. Personally, I'm sure I only counted 1148 but it was a great show anyway only slightly marred by the behaviour of some of the local 'yoof' who seemed intent on provoking the majority British crowd. Fortunately most had partaken of too much of the free vino collapso to notice.
Actually that probably was the only downside. The wine. Or at least I think it was wine but it could just as easily have been the juice from several hundred jars of pickled beetroot. It could with great ease have stripped the enamel off your teeth and the lining from your stomach. The other option was to buy bottles at 10 euros a pop - a bit steep in the land of decent wine for 3 euros a bottle, even with a markup. Next year everyone will be bringing their own.
So, le quatorze juillet was duly fêted for another year albeit on the onze juillet, but then, who's counting.