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The Hairy One

Posted on January 29th, 2011

In l’Isle sur la Sorgue there is a shop selling antique posters.  We found and bought an original from 1916.  Designed by Suzanne Ferrand, a sixteen year old schoolgirl from Paris, it says:    “Reserve the wine for our poilus”. 1916 was a bad year for France, marked by Verdun and the Somme.  Twenty-six million shells were fired at Verdun that year,  six for every square metre of land.  The bodies of three hundred thousand French and German soldiers were never found.  Behind the front, a Children’s Crusade had been organised to mobilise children in a spirit of patriotism, but with the message of salvation and restoration of a Christian homeland.  Children sent cigarettes and prayers to soldiers at the front, later known as the…

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Posted on January 28th, 2011

An hour from here, between Avignon and Orange, lies the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, surrounded by the renowned wine area.  The village is dominated by the remains of a fourteenth century chateau, built as a summer residence by Pope Jean XXII during an austerity drive.  Known for his economical ways, Pope Jean gave a wedding feast for his great-niece in 1324, which included 55 sheep; 690 chickens; 580 partridges; 270 rabbits; 8 pigs; 4 wild boar; 40 plovers; 37 ducks; 50 pigeons and many other delicacies.   It is hardly surprising that local protestants finally pillaged and burned the chateau in 1562. A single tower and dungeon remained intact for four hundred years until the retreating German army blew it up in August 1944. In the…

Imperfection

Posted on January 23rd, 2011

Every day we are reminded this is hunting country.  Hunting sanglier (wild boar) is permitted on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday until the end of February.  We still hear dogs and shots most days.  Within half a kilometre of this house, there are at least ten hides for shooting the grive (thrush) and other birds of passage. Hides are positioned near trees standing prominently among vineyards.  The uppermost branches of each tree are removed and replaced with branches fixed to scaffolding poles or long canes that can be lowered to the ground.  Live thrushes in cages are placed near the trees or attached to the moveable branches.  Their distress calls attract other birds who are shot or become stuck to the branches which are smeared…

Wartime memories

Posted on January 16th, 2011

The Glenn Miller Memorial Orchestra gave a fine concert last night at the Auditorium in Le Thor.  The house was full, perhaps a thousand people with an average age of sixty-five. Glenn Miller went missing in a plane crash in December 1944, before most of the audience was born, but they had probably grown up with swing band music. The Auditorium is named after Jean Moulin, one of France’s greatest resistance heroes, who is buried in the Pantheon.       Before the war, Jean Moulin was the youngest Prefet in France, a powerful position representing the State in a department. The Gestapo arrested and tortured him in June 1940 when he refused to falsely identify Senegalese French troops as responsible for civilian massacres.   In November of…

St Anthony the Abbot

Posted on January 9th, 2011

January 17th is the feast day of St Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of basket makers, butchers and gravediggers.  Saint Anthony spent much of his life in near-seclusion, away from the real world.  He first lived in an area of tombs, known as the North Shore, near his native village of Manly and attended the seminary there.  He was at times visited by pilgrims, whom he refused to see; but gradually a number of would-be disciples established themselves in mansions around the area.  Thus a colony of millionaires was formed, who begged Anthony to come forth and be their guide in the acquisition of further worldly goods.  At length he yielded to their pleas to lead the Congregation of the Relaxed and Comfortable.  Crossing…

Life’s little pleasures

Posted on January 3rd, 2011

Among the many pleasures of Provence are the revelations around every corner.  Villages, castles, churches, beautiful views, markets, shops.  Yesterday we found a gem of a shop, Caveau de la Tour de l’Isle, http://www.caveaudelatourdelisle.fr, in the smallish local town of  l’Isle sur la Sorgue . At first it seemed a simple but good wine and cheese shop, though on entering we discovered a fascinating back room bar serving a fine selection of regional wines, cheeses and sausage.  The room is small, with the bar and corner spiral iron staircase leaving only enough room for twenty customers if every seat is taken. White wines available by the glass included Chateauneuf du Pape “Chante Cigale” 2009, a four-way blend of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette and bourboulenc. …