Ahhh, SANCERRE, into our last week 😢,
Crikey, there’s lots going on in ‘our’ small French village of Sancerre. Most of it I guess, organised by the movers and shakers amongst the 19 councillors in Sancerre’s Municipal Office. That includes the 45 year old mayor, Laurent Pabiot. And there needs to be action as according to census figures, there’s been a decline in Sancerre’s population of over 35% since 1982 to the present 1500 souls. Down on Sancerre’s Rue Saint Andre, there are many empty shops. Fading paint indicates a Boulangerie, a Boucherie, an Ironmonger and others who sank under the no business banner. If the owners were treated by their banks as they are in Oz, then they are paying off a mountain of debt. After several thousand years of armies crawling and scrambling up the hillside trying to breach the ramparts, decimate the populace, eat its goats, then do a spot of pillage, it’s happening naturally without anybody storming the remaining ramparts.
Many ageing people still live here holding the fort until a Huguenot in the guise of the Grim Reaper comes for them. But until then, they waddle up, down and about the Rues, Floofy on a lead, chasing a beam of sunshine, a spark of remembered youth, to partake of gossip, check out others heritage and artificial parts, a morning aperitif, an espresso, drag on a solitary Gitane, cough, remember affairs, loves and wonder what is happening to their hilltop village. They perhaps mourn the death of friends, the exodus of their children and young adults, and frown on the purchase of a house, garret, maison, or maisonette to Parisienne or overseas buyers who help stem the flow. They, The Outsiders, renovate, come in great joy, spend a few weeks then bugger off until next year. So, the empty houses remain. Sue’s Coeur de France Language school is one of the bigger employers in the village and provides a much needed sparkle and flow of euros into the shops, cafes, bars and wine cellars. Come stay, live, buy in Sancerre. The ‘housing’ is relatively cheap. Forget Provence, forget the Cote d’Azur, forget Saint Tropez especially as Brigette Bardots no longer there and if she is, her Bikini no longer fits. Hey, Brigettes still going strong aged 84 so there’s something about wearing a Bikini, having four husbands, 6 partners and several hundred thousand Australian boys as their evening muse.
Friday night in Sancerre and there’s a ‘Festival’ over the weekend. Partly headlined by an assortment of bandana wearing, ear ringed musicians dressed like Genghis Khans brewers. Their instruments required tuning, tweeters, woofers and jet decibel speakers, toned down and judging by the practice sessions raucous, jarring, cacaphonous ‘Boom Boom Bebe’ noise, passed off as ‘music’, the participants need running through with a pike. Then their equipment plundered, pillaged, burnt, and their bandanas and body rings melted down to make exhaust pipe mufflers. Set up on a large stage in the relatively small ‘Place de Connetable Louis de Sancerre’, a bar and food stall is being set up in a Rue leading off with about, a splay of benches and chairs. There’s an Italian Restaurant 30 metres from the stage on the ‘Place’ corner, and above that a small Garret where one of Sue’s schoolgirl friends, Linda from Canada, is staying with her large slice of Roquefort Cheese. Hearing the tuning up, music noise scheduled till 2am, she demobilised for the night, with the cheese, down near us at Jan/Bronwen’s Garrett to a spare bunk. The stinky Roquefort was banished to the back of the fridge. Friday arvo, we could hear them, that’s ‘Boom Boom Bebe’, revving up and we are a ‘K’ away downhill with a hundred 2/3 storey houses between us. It was like an A380 had landed piloted by hearing impaired Huguenots.
Part of the ‘Festival’ included movies. A portable movie theatre was set up near the Hotel du Ramparts down on the Ramparts des Dames. Close off part of ‘des Dames’ and ‘Bobs yer Uncle’. A huge semi-trailer arrives, large pantech with pull out sides. Hey presto, a picture theatre with a box office, snack bar and seats to sit 80. A kid’s movie at 5pm, in between movie at 6.45pm then a movie for the older about three elderly disreputable French Rascals. As all our friends back in Oz are like that, we decided to not attend. Next day in the main town square, there were stilt walkers, clowns, donkey rides for the kids and a large crowd.
Many with headache’s. Some from alcohol others from lack of sleep due to the unremitting revving of the A380 engines. Complaints started rolling into the 19 councillors as they would have done over the centuries as invaders came making just as much blood curling noises. The following weekend, a Bibliotheque. Not a bible bashing exercise but a market where first edition and antique books were set up for browsing, sale. We had a squiz, offered a Bonjour here, there, thumbed books, all in Froggy speak, prices through the ancient roof beams overhead. Sue led her husband outside for an espresso, no Gitane, no cough. I sit and wonder what is going to happen to this gracious old lady of a village.
Saturday, my inquisitive Bride was in a ‘Let’s go exploring mode’. So, at 10am, down to ‘Ponte de Cesar’ and on the 19 seater bus. The driver Bruno, a solid individual, squashed nose, fine crew cut, ears pinned to his head, several five o’clock shadows, fills in the 44 digits on each of our tickets and of the other three passengers. Several hours go by then Bruno takes off down the ‘Rue du Ramparts’.
Technology in large parts of France is back in the 19th century. Like this filling in of bus tickets when ticketing machines are available. The train drivers are objecting to having their retirement age of 52 lifted incrementally to the same as other Froggies. The currency still includes 1, and 2 Euro coins which are practically useless. Traffic lights everywhere are set to a timer, not to the traffic or pedestrian flow. Some 22% of the workforce are on the government teat v 15% in the wider OECD. Most farmers are subsidised. And on top of all that, many men shun Eau de Cologne and prefer to emit the aromas of garlic mixed with stale ciggies. They walk lazily about with a long piggy foot ended Baguette with one piggy toe missing. It’s in their mouth absorbing garlic.
Poor Froggy le President’e Emmanuel Macron, after near two years in office, some of it spent sticking it up the Poms over Brexit but mainly trying to rein in the Froggy workforce’s ‘Entitlement Mentality,’ is the most unpopular President’e ever. Well, at least since the Froggies led by Hugh Jackman, stormed the Bastille singing Liberty, Fraternity and Free Drinkees.
We are headed for the village of Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire a long-winded name nobody uses apart from demented bureaucrats and the government printer. Others refer to the town as simply ‘Cos’ with emphasis on the ‘C’ as though you are chewing the piggy foot end of a Baguette. Once upon a time there were two close by Communes one named Cosne-sur-Loire and one named simply Cours. They had an affair’e together and married in 1973 thus becoming that long winded name. Cos is 13 k’s from Sancerre. Too far for a brisk walkies one of us with a dicky knee and the other, Moi, with a dicky all parts. My schoolgirl Sue tells me that all Froggy words, all of them, are either ‘Male’ or ‘Female’. I do not know how that works as I never had a chance to pass English nor French. And what about all those LGBTXZzzzz words out there. How do they fit in – ‘Oui’. I once, this whilst in Bubs Grade 2, thought I had an ‘A’ for religion from Sister Mary Redpants of the Bedford Park Parish. But on Mum checking, it was actually an ‘A’ in ‘horsing about’. Are you still horsing about sonny boy? ‘Yes Mum’.
Bruno drops us off in Cos after we cross the wide, shallow, weary looking River Loire on a suspension bridge of the style that recently collapsed on Itie Land. He drives on to take writing bus tickets quickly lessons. The place about looks fairly scrappy with to our left on the river bank, shabby fairground equipment, a few rusting shipping containers, wobbly fencing, paper, coffee cups, and to our right, old buildings, render holding them up, same steep slate tiled roofs as Sancerre. Narrow squiggly Rue’s leading off up a slight incline, and scruffy looking motorcyclists eye us off. Well eyeing Sue off and wondering what she is doing with a Hunchback. In its prime, year 1982, Cos had a population of 12,463 but at latest census in 2015, its down to 10,388. Where are all the Froggy people going to after leaving their Froggy villages. Paris is where, as its population has grown, albeit slowly. In its ‘city’ area there’s 2,241,346 souls with a further 10,500,000 in the surrounding urban area. As one is not allowed by Froggy Law to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, fair enuff too, then I can only tell you that near 23% of the population were born outside France led by Algerians, Portugese, Moroccans, Tunisians and included amongst those, 1.7 million Muslims. Paris ‘city’ is divided into ‘Arrondissements’ some 20 of them going about from the centre in clockwise direction like an engorged gastronomic snail. Arrondissement 1 is the posh place to live. Avoid Arrondissement 11 with 41,598 people per square ‘K’ which means that there’s more Doggy Doos per metre of pavement than elsewhere in Paree. Melbourne, Australia’s most densely populace city, has 17,500 people per square ‘K’. Avoid Melbourne if ever Collingwood win a Grand Final. The great land mass of Oz has 3.1 people per square ‘K’ which I think must include kangaroos. Tasmania has a pop density of 7.6 and the Northern Territory 0.2 people per square ‘K’. Do we really need to know all that sonny boy. Now be a good boy and get your old Mum another glass of sherry.
My bride Susan, turns on her Google iPhone device to see if we can escape the fairground and the bikey group. Ms Daisy Google leads us up a wobbly Rue with sidewalks half a metre wide, and into the towns shopping precinct which is not too bad. Many adequate ancient buildings that survived the ‘Gallic Wars’, the ‘Protestant v Catholic Wars’, the ‘Viking Wars” and a multitude of wars involving lunatics led by people like Vladimir, Donald and Kim Jung-Un that roamed Europe in various guises, tribes and religious fanaticism for 2,000 years.
There’s a wide tree lined Boulevard, shops each side many of the rustic kind. Boulangerie’s (Bakers), Boucherie’s (Butchers), Chatuceries (small meat goodies), Tabac (Tobacco, ciggies, newspapers), sidewalk cafes with awnings out as its warmish. No pretentious shops it’s all a very countryfied and pleasant scene helped along by the wide paved area, trees, pots of colourful shrubbery, small and large squares, people chatting holding bags of bread, sitting with espressos and we join in. Later down by the wide Loire banks adjacent the confluence of the Rivers Nohain and Loire, the Nohain very much a junior partner, it’s a pleasant scene for our lunch of half a salad baguette each. The River Loire is no longer navigable this far upstream whereas back in the 18th century, barges and river boats carried Cos’s goods up and down especially iron and steel anchors and cannons from Cos’s Chaussade Forges. That was once upon a time but now the River Loire has had the life sucked out of it by humans and partly by climate change. Sandbanks are dotted here and there, small weedy islands rise from the shallows and there are no birds resting nor diving in for lunch. Like elsewhere on our tiny Blue Planet, rain fall is declining. Ask Vincent or Adelaide Grall, Sancerre Vignerons who have accurate records going back 25 years.
We like Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire despite its unwieldy name. Cos’s Notable Residents Section, ta dum – A Roger Marie Bricoux born in 1891, was the cellist in the Titanic’s Orchestra on its maiden voyage. He went down with the ship in 1912 playing, reputedly, with others of the 8 piece ships orchestra, till the ship slid under old briny. The next notable is a Miss France 2005, Cindy Fabre. Hmm. I think it’s time Des, to go get that sherry for Mum.
Ooroo from here to there, Sue 😘 and Des 🍷.
PS Sue’s Language School ‘schoolgirl’ friends, Bronwen and Janice from Victoria, Oz, here in Sancerre for two weeks French Language learning, left us Saturday morning in Ivan Milats Froggy cousins Citroen for the north west of the country. Travelling thru several forests. We hope they make it. They were quality Ozzies with that unique Oz outlook and humorous view of life. A bientot, ravi d’avoir fait ta connaissance. Lightly built Janice had a backpack with a 40kg bag of cement inside. She does repair work to ancient stone walls as she walks. Bronwen’s backpack contained the trowels, mud board and miniature solar powered cement mixer.