Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The feast of the Assumption or the need for a breathe of fresh air

What should have been, as was predicited a hot summer, festered and died and we are left with an early autumn and a pervading dampness that blots out any hope of sunshine from our lives. Due to the long and rather unaccounted absence of the Chief Pattiseur who it would appear has developed an unsavoury compulsion to seek out the secrets of the perfect cheese tart , The reluctant children and I were forced ,by propriety and our elevated postion of social standing in the community, to go forth amongst the masses and represent the Loufoque family for the fete of the 15th August, the day when our Lady was assumed into heaven and the greatest feast of the Breton calendar. Normally one hopes for a fine hot day so that at least some of the festivities are able to be performed in the open air but alas and most vexaciously this year a slight drizzle and dark clouds meant the entire commune were trapped like sardiness in a tin within the confines of the chapel of St Cenyyd through out the long and tedious service.

The Breton peasants have always in my experience been somewhat lacking in even the most basic skills when it comes to the genteel matter of personal hygene and cleanliness. The men when they marry are given 12 shirts one for each month of the year, made by thier dear mothers coarse and work worn hands from linen grown on their own land, this affords them one shirt a month which is worn for that entire month then according to Madame Grognonne ,who is somewhow privy to such matters, discarded in a corner until washday, where one presumes resident mice cats and rats make themselves at home, and the dirty shirt is replaced with a clean one. Washing is done once a year at the village lavoire when the women trundle thier dirty linen in a wheel barrow and spend the day scrubbing and gossiping and, one presumes, praying for fine weather so that the wet and relativley clean washing may be dried on the hedges and bleached in the sun. Sadly this only applies to the linen, the black velvet and heavy formal dresses and clothing of thier traditional attire has it would appear to make do with a rub down with a damp cloth and a brisk brush. This may work wonders to dislodge the dust of summer and mud of winter but I can assure you that it does nothing to dislodge the smell of stale sweat and the sour aroma of clothes dried inadequietly due to inclement weather conditions.

St Cenydd if you are not aware was a rather disadvantaged and unattractive child with some sort of bodily deformity which led his father, rahter sensibly I feel, to set him adrift in a wicker basket of some sort persuambly in the hope of never having to see him agian. God being renowned through out history for having a rather obtuse sense of humour guided the little basket to the shores of an island where the birds and a rather unlikley breast shaped bell fed him and kept him alive on a diet of milk bread and rice until he grew up to be a hermit, his father on repenting prayed to God for his body to be cured however Cenydd like ungrateful ofspring everywhere, objected strongly and decided to remain a hermit on his island thus enjoying the company of birds and avoiding having to spend assumtpion day surrounded by the unpleasant and all pervading aroma of damp clothes and incontinent elderly and infants villagers. How he managed to become a saint I am uncertain but I suspect God rewarded him for his comon sense of choosing rice pudding and that of the company of seaguls to cheap cider and Breton peasants.

It eas not a day a care to remember with much joy. My only concillation through out the entire ordeal was the knowledge that the clergyman officiating at the service was none other than he whom had comsumed far too much of our cider than was good for him at his last visit to the Loufoque household and whose intestines appeared some weeks later to be still suffering rather unpleasant after shocks. His sermon was thus mercifully short and I was accorded the pleasure of keeping him corned in the cloisters after mass and engaging him in appropriately banal and long winded conversation regarding the health of the poor of the parish whilst watching his face contort and his limbs twitch in an obvious desire to escape with the utmost speed possible to avail himself of the nearest convenience Having allowed sufficient time for madame Grognonne to have prepared a decent repas for the family and feelign thsat the unfortunate priest had deonhis penance for the day I bid him aduie and left him to scurry unceremonoiusly off with the upmost haste to a place where he could safely releive himself in relative privacy which was in this case a rather uncomfortable yet conveniently planted abundance of goarse bushes. Well they do say God will provide do they not ?


The photograph shows a group of young Breton housewives watching despondently the gloomy horizon in the forlorn hope of a break in the clouds so that they may dash home, grab their wheel barrow full of dirty linen and rush off to wash it before the next storm clouds appear.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The first of August has arrived and with it all the glory of the season that one may expect n Brittany. We have had fierce winds and torrential rain and the famers are fighting to get the grain in before it is ruined. With all this comes the mud, only yesterday poor Loic had to be dug from the pottager when his wooden leg sunk in the potato patch, I am forever warning him of the foolhardiness of venturing out into the potager wearing his dibber attachement on his leg when the ground is soft. If he goes too near the edge of the pond we may have to launch the boat to retrieve him. It is al very vexacious.

The boys friend has had to return home unexptedly to his parents after an unfortunate incident involving his slipping from the top of the roof whilst attempting to hoist a pair of madame Grognonnes capacious under garments on to the cockeral weather vain as part of some boyish prank, luckily none of the slates were broken but the boy will ,I fear , forever walk with a slight limp.

Due to the inclement weather no one has been eager to remount the cock and disengage Madame Grognonnes undergarments, thus in the high wind they wave thier voluminous legs above the turret in all thier glory like some salop advertsing her wares. It is far from decorous ,neither is it an attractive edition to the ediface however, my one concillation is that should the village cleryman ever fully recover full control of his bowels after having participated of our rough cider on his last visit ,Madame Grongonnes pantaloons festonned as they are with lace and emblazoned with the Brton Motto Cassis tutissima virtus ( virtue is the safest helmet) will be sufficient to enourage him to beat a hasty retreat.

There is always the risk that due to their vluminous proportions they may become over inflated by the strong winds and rip the cock right off the roof. The cock was placed thier by the grandfather of Chief Pattiseuir, it is a proud of the symbol of the Loufoque family thus to have it ripped from its rightful place by a pair of oversized knickers would indeed be most unfortunate.

The Loufoques are inordinately proud of thier cock although heaven only knows why, it is, compared to others I have seen ,a puny specimen and seems to require constant attention in order to keep it erect and in its proper place. Over the years its surface has become pitted and poor loic is forever up there giving it a thorough rub down and polish in order to satisfy the chief Pattiseur. Of Late it has indeed been sadly neglected. One may onlyhope that the wretched thing will meet its end at the hand of madame Grognonnes bloomers and we can continue to live in peace and harrmony without its rather unsightly presence looming above us.

Friday, 29 July 2011

In which Un Peu contemplates how God does indeed move in mysterious ways

There are times in ones life when one must rise above the mire into which fate has unkindly chosen to jettison ones dreams and whilst dodging the slings and arrows of uncertainty grasp the nettle and seize the day. There are other times when one might be better advised to remain in ones boudoir with the shutters firmly closed and nothing but a bottle of chilled champagne (with a fortifying dash of brandy) for company. Alas, and vexatiously so, I took today, upon awakening, to be the former when in fact it turns out I would have been better served to embrace the latter, however I digress.

The morning had commenced with promise. Eldest being away visiting friends, the boys gainfully amused attempting to persuade a young school friend who is spending the summer here to jump blindfolded from the stable roof onto the haycart below, in an effort to prove to him the theory of gravity. I sat under the fruit trees pondering on whether cowpox might be fatal, and lamenting my ignorance on the fact, when my cogitations were rudely interrupted by the arrival of Madame Grognonne bearing news of an unwelcome visitor.

France may well be a secular state but unfortunately someone seems to have been remiss in informing the Breton clergy of this singular fact, thus my daily contemplation of Loics handiwork in the dahlia beds, and my thoughts on bovine health matters was interrupted by the appearance of our local priest , who it it appears, had come to sure up my flagging spirits and liberally refresh his own with a small part of the contents for the well renowned loufoque wine cellar.

Good breeding forced me to offer the man some refreshment which, comme habitude, he accepted after a barely noticeable hesitation and I sent madame Grogonne to the cellars to uncork a bottle. She herself being stoically anti the church since the incident of the veneration of Loics wooden leg chose to bring him a ceramic pitcher of rough cider , a beverage normally purchased as horse lineament in our household . It is very important to serve this in a small earthenware bowl in true Breton fashion as the cider tends to eat its way through glass within an alarmingly short space of time which can cause all sorts of problems as you may well imagine. The least of which being the dramatic effect of a beverage if drunk too quickly has upon the imbibers bowels.

Having drunk his beverage with ill mannered speed my visitor seemed to settle himself to conversation and became quite agitated when I attempted to waylay him with a discussion on saints days and the sanctity of marriage. it appeared he had remembered a prior more pressing engagement. Thus at least I was spared too much of the tiresome clergyman pontifications by his sudden and urgent need to make another call of a more personal nature. I was left therefore in peace to ruminate over the matters I was previously occupied with whilst the priest made a dash for the relative privacy of the open countryside outside the gates of the Loufoque estate clutching his stomach as he ran. It is comforting to know that the church can ,if spurred on, can act swiftly when necessary.


In order to illustrate the terrible dangers of drink and the debilitating effects of cider consumption on he peasant classes the photograph above shows the newly married Claude Marie-Pommier and his wife Angeline. Claude is 24 whilst his blushing bride is 18 years of age.I think I may rest my case.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Un Peu Lost in thought

It is some time since we have visited Un Peu Loufoque and we find her in changed circumstances. See her, there, under the apple trees , sitting at the small table, her early morning tissaine untouched, Her gaze fixed on something only the heart can see ,her long fingers turning her wedding band , her silk peignoir with its abundant bright and Japanese chrysanthemum design partly hidden by the shawl falling about her shoulders , ill protecting her from the from the early morning chill that the feeble sun can not vanquish.

Oblivious and seemingly unobserved, She has the air of a woman made tedious by the world and disinclined to engage its trifle worries any further. She stares out over garden, the box hedged beds of which are laced with bejewelled cobwebs decorated with the diamonds of dewdrops. In the house her children sleep and the servants step quietly about their tasks. Her husband is nowhere to be seen. He has long gone. She is a woman alone.

So then what frightful and vexing events have brought our brave heroine to such a pass, have the wicked but persistent sardine gutters finally had their revenge? Perhaps the fearsome looming shadow of Anck has darkened her household, or is it possibly that Loic ,startled into a fit of frozen animation by something such as the unfortunate backfiring of the lambique still in the outhouse at an inappropriate and inopportune moment, has tumbled from the towering turret above Un peu's long neglected studio, whence he has smashed , like a plummeting stone, through the glass of the hot house several metres below ,thus destroying the melon beds and flattering madame grongoines spiked German helmet in one swift but foul swoop? Who can guess, we shall just I fear have to gird our impatient loins and wait as the story unfolds as no doubt it will in due course....


The painting is "two breton women sitting under an apple tree" by paul serusier, if you would like to see mroe o f his workthis online gallery is excellant. Serusier was born in Paris on 9 November 1864 and was a French painter who was a pioneer of abstract art and an inspiration for the avant-garde Nabi movement, he moved down to Pont Aven in Brittany in 1880 to become one of Gaugans band of followers.