DERNIER MOT - LEAPING THE FLAMES
The village is flexing its recreational muscles as it gears up for the summer. There have already been two meetings and a sit-down dinner in preparation for the first big party of the summer: Les feux de la Saint-Jean.
When we first moved here, I used to feel a bit sheepish about this lady, apprehensive that as a daughter of Albion I personally might be blamed for the poor soul’s uncomfortably hot send off from this world, but in fact Joan of Arc has nothing to do with it; this bonfire party traditionally celebrates the midsummer solstice.
The “Comité des Fêtes” has asked the local fireman to supervise the blaze. It’s not just a question of correct construction or ignition, there’s also the sporting element: French men take great pride in leaping through the flames, and naturally every child in the “commune” is desperate to have a go too.
In the Camargue, riders leap through the flames on horseback, but in the Moisson the only animals present will be Dolly dog and her canine cohorts, who will be far too busy supervising the barbecue to interfere with the bonfire.
“Cos just think,” says Dolly, her tail waving like a flag, “if a kilo of sausages did fall on the floor and we wasn’t there to snap then up, then it could be disaster...”
Bien sûr, Dolly!
Sausages are on the menu, although not baked potatoes. They don’t eat many spuds round here, regarding them as an occasional visitor to the table rather than a household staple. Green salad will be served however, bread and cheese of course, and fruit (probably cherries from Eglantine’s over-grown orchard).
There will also be a disco playing old records from the 80s and 90s, and of course this will mean dancing frocks. Unlike in London, in Moisson during the summer months, women of all ages wear gaily-coloured dresses and pretty sandals, so having folded the snow suits away and shoved the jumpers behind the washing machine for washing later on, I suppose I’d better drag out last year’s frilly offerings and try them on.
Or perhaps not. I mean, they shrink. Every winter it’s the same. However you store them... carefully pressed and stored on hangers, folded into a drawer, or left in a crumpled heap behind the washing machine... cotton frocks which fitted perfectly in September are tight under the arms and impossible to fasten at the waist come May. It must be something to do with the altitude. You know, like, when it gets cold up in the mountains the fibres sort of cling together and... shrivel.
So I’ll be joining my neighbours at the frock stall in the market at Moisson-Le-Grand, trying on clothes that have certainly never made the pages of any fashion magazine but which everyone here wears all summer. Bright blue, pink, olive green, acid yellow and orange, they have gathers and frills, lace and ribbon trim, waistbands, puffed sleeves and sweetheart necklines. Most of them are well above the knee, and those which venture below the knee are slashed to the thigh.
In my cotton sack, I may not set the world alight, but like everyone else, I’ll be dutifully hogging sausages, swigging back pastis and prancing round “les feux de la Saint-Jean” under the stars.
Duty? Oh yes. It’s really important to integrate when you move abroad; join in and make friends with the neighbours. So even though all this malarky goes completely against the grain, I’ll be forcing myself to throw caution to the winds and dance all night.
It’s so tough, living in France.
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