Monday, 15 September 2008

5 Sept 2008 Friday – Grand Fete – A busy day ends with a bang!

Up early and off to the Intermarche and Bricomarche before the hordes descend. We stock up to last us through the fete, as traffic will be horrific for the next few days. All the car parks have been given over to fairground rides and a stage, tiered seating and an area of car park to dance on.
Trees have been pruned to fit the rides in, but I am not convinced that the bungee rides will not cause casualties as tetes collide with the branches.

Anyway back to the shopping. Food safely gathered in, we go across to Bricomarche and buy two plastic drawer units on wheels to store my painting and DIY bits and pieces. With 5 euros off they are on special offer.
I have a plan to store them in the cupboard off the ground floor corridor, but cannot work out in my mind how to fit a lock or a hasp / padlock.
Back at the ranch, we sort through boxes in the ground floor studio and fill up my plastic drawers. Yes, old age does not come alone. Now some more cardboard boxes can be disposed of.

Being a man of action, I go outside and put 2 of the biggest pallets back into the crawl space under the house. Next we manoeuvre by big step ladders down the steps and into the crawl space (which is called a vide septique).
There is still a hugely heavy sheet of metal and a very large and heavy roof rack or bed frame down there, as well as some thin sheets of board.
We then carry the pallets that we dragged out yesterday, into the shed at the bottom of the garden. We are now drenched in sweat again, and it is time to quit and grab some lunch and a siesta before we go into town for part one of the fete.

The choir is due to sing in the Town Hall courtyard at 6pm. We can see about 8 people in a corner of the courtyard, so we go in and grab one of the seats at under the porch.
Gradually more people arrive. The choir members with the black cases containing their sheet music are easy to spot. Eventually 6pm passes and there are about 15 choir members, 10 public and us. Only another 35 choir members to turn up and of course the choir leader.
The courtyard is right next to 2 lanes of traffic, and the stream of cars, campervans and lorries is constant.
There are fair rides a few hundred meters away and as the choir and the public continue to gather in the courtyard I wonder where the choir are going to stand and how they will be able to hear themselves sing, never mind the audience. The choir captain recognises me and comes over for a brief chat. Where is the choir going to stand?, I ask. He does not know, they have never sung there before. He will have to ask the chief. So off he goes. It is very noisy in the courtyard.

Some one starts positioning plastic chairs for the audience to sit on. We sit on them and get front row seats. I get my cameras ready. Two ladies from the choir come over to talk to us. One is them is a teacher of English and will help me if there is anything that I do not understand once I am in the choir. There is a brief discussion as to whether I am a tenor or a bass. They seem very friendly.
Then the aperitif band due to start at 6.30pm just across the road, starts up. They have, as we find out later, a brass section, guitars, keyboards, drums and at least 6 singers.

People start picking up their chairs and heading into the Town Hall. The decision has been made that the choir will sing inside. We are not so lucky with our positioning this time, but I do have a good view of the big tree in a pot which sits in the centre of the room, and some of the left side of the choir.

To my right is a series of long tables set up in a line. The tables have table cloths on and a selection of nibbles runs the whole length. There are different bottles at intervals in the middle of the table. Whisky, coke, cassis, pastis etc etc. This fare must be the choirs pre-meal treat. I wonder how much of the nibbles will be left by the end of the performance.
There is now an audience of about 100 people, adult and children. I can even see a woman in the front row with her dog on her lap. It had been in her shopping bag earlier, but obviously like to listen to music at lap height.

Members of the choir continue to trickle in to the room for the duration of the concert, and people come and go, opening the door and letting the sound of aperitif music in to the room.

Shhh! The concert is about to start. A lady choir member, front right says a few words about their first tune and then they are off.
This pattern is repeated for the duration of today’s repertoire.
The choir sounds better from the front than it did at rehearsal from the rear.

The Performance over, we applaud the choir, then we applaud the leader of the choir. A member of the choir starts handing out flyers for their forthcoming performance in the local abbey, with another choir and an orchestra. She is rather premature however, as the rest of the choir are about to launch into an encore. The beginning is fluffed, and they have to start again. It is obviously a well know tune as the audience is conducted to join in the chorus.

More applause and people start to leave. Foolishly I delay and start stacking our chairs.
Attention, arête! The dignitaries who are present want to say a few words. A lady who I think is responsible for organising the fete, reads her prepared one and a half page speech, and is visibly relieved at the end. She is rewarded with polite applause. People start to head for the exit but again they have to halt. The mayor, resplendent in his official robes of jeans and a shirt wishes to introduce the mayor from a neighbouring commune, and some other suits.
He then tells us that it has been a hard year politically, the festival committee has lost lots of members, etc etc. He thanks us for attending this first event of the festival. There should be a clear sky for the evening’s fireworks, and he hopes we enjoy the rest of the festival. This speech was off the cuff and lasted about 10 minutes. Some people had started to nibble on the peanuts…. This young lady watched the speeches without moving or nibbling.

At last we are free to go. My neighbour from the choir rehearsal comes to say hello and to say that I should come along to the next choir practices. I tell him that I will give them a miss, but will turn up for the first practice of the new material.

Then it is out the door, across the courtyard, across the road where the traffic is gridlocked and into the area where the aperitif banc are performing. They are quite good and will be back tonight to perform at the bal.

We wander around the deserted fairground areas, and this is when I wonder about the nearness of some of the rides to the trees.
The restaurants have hiked up their prices for the evening meals, so we head home for a rest and some food.

We set off just before 10pm. The fireworks are scheduled for 10.30pm. Someone visiting the flats across the road has parked in my parking, so I draft a notice to stick on their car. As I approach, another car starts to park blocking in madam’s car and someone who is visiting madam. I tell them that they cannot park there, but they ignore me and continue their manoeuvres. When they get out of the car, it transpires that they too are visiting madam.
We continue down the road and the white van man comes across the street and moves his van across the road.

There are cars parked everywhere along our route completely blocking the pavements. Do French cars have special pavement climbing suspension and tyres?

A Citroën swerves off the road and onto a patch of non-existent pavement parking. Monsieur Tookwell. It is the plumber to whom I have become recently engaged, and his wife. We walk into the town together then part. We are going to stand below the castle next to the restaurant whose prices have increased by 10 euros for tonight’s fiesta.

The fireworks start almost on time, and are of course spectacular with the castle as their backdrop. I reckon that the display lasts about 15 minutes, ending with a big bang finale. I will attach a video of it here temporarily. Parts of the show had been quite subtle, but they obviously decided to end the show by showing what it would be like if someone set off all the remaining fireworks at the same time.

We head off towards home, but the sound of l’orchestre Olympia is too much of a draw, so we head towards the music and the shrieks of the thrill seekers at the funfair.
There is a much bigger audience than earlier and they put on a very professional show. I will add a video clip temporarily.

About 3 mature couples are dancing along to the music, but the majority are standing of seated. From our position we can see that the road traffic is at a standstill as thousands of people return on foot to the centre of the town, from their chosen firework vantage points.

It is still warm when we head back home. I have been wearing a new pair of shoes since mid afternoon and my feet are killing me.
When we reach home, madam is still entertaining, but there is at least now a space for my other tenant’s van, should they ever return from their work. Their green bed sheet is still hanging out of their open windows on the first floor……. Perhaps they have been investigating how to escape from their studio in the event of fire?

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