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Seasons Changing

October 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Seasons changing

 

It is definitely autumn now. I have raked the leaves under the ornamental plum three times now, and started filling in the leaf compost bin, which will vanish into the soil of the veg patch next spring. The leaves of the cherry and the Tree of Judea are beginning to come down. Two days of rain and today a heavy fog in the morning, indicate that the “Cevenol” effect is in action. The warm moist air from the Med gets blown up north to the Cevenne mountains, where it pisses down, eventually causing floods downstream, nearer to the sea. Mostly in places where greedy mayors allowed houses to be built in known flood plains so their tax budget would increase. I have just folded up my summer short sleeved shirts and will shortly tucked them under my bed in my plastic immigrant storage bags. Naturally they will be replaced by the winter gear, heavy jumpers and long sleeved shirts. It is a real plus in life to be able to live where I can have clothes for two seasons, and use the summer ones every year. I am constantly looking at the prairie we have (not really a lawn as such) calculating when to make the very last trim so it does not grow too much more and looks neat and tidy all winter. The meeting season is underway full scale. After the deep hibernation from June to September, the associations woke up, and the flow of meetings in October is full on.

 

For example, Attac organised a rather successful pique-nique last Saturday. Maybe forty people there at one time or another, a few kids, some partners, local bio sausages, with pretty good home- made tabouli, locally baked bread, organic of course, with some fine home made puddings. We had it at the picnic area of the newly refurbished Pierre Rabhi Park. Now Pierre Rabhi is someone who comes often to Bedarieux, our mayor likes him a lot. He is a “quite radical agro-activist” and writer, sadly not well known in the Anglo world, but he is worth knowing about. A bit of searching in English would be a very good idea, he is exceptional. http://cycloasis.org/partners/pierre-rabhi/ There is plenty of stuff in French about him or by him. Anyway the picnic was well timed on the day, which was a bit murky and fresh. Just about when everyone had dessert and several people had left (including me), the rain came down. The other notable feature of the picnic was that there were six people, SIX, who spoke English. One French guy, the professional cycling teacher I may have mentioned, a young German who I have never seen before, a kind of unusual American woman who seems to be back in the area after some travelling, an English alternative energy guy from a tiny hamlet who seems to be adopting Bedarieux as a place to be politically active. OK, five people. Rather unusual, and rather nice actually to drift past a conversation in English or even have the option to speak English. Of course, except for the American woman, they all speak French as well, sometimes I speak French with them. In fact, I had the intriguing experience to be talking to the English guy (whose French is really good) and a French guy, but when the French guy drifted off, we spoke in English immediately. Doesn’t happen much in my life here.

 

Then yesterday evening, Christophe, who is a militant in Attac, and also works for the Town Council on Agenda 21 (google) organised a meeting about “the energy transition”. Funny how that concept is popping up in France this last year. I know it is new because one of the most well-informed Attac militants was saying a month ago that she didn’t know what that meant, and had not heard it before. The notion of Transition Towns (Villes en Transition) is also growing a bit, with the “manual” having been translated into French. As yet, there are no overt signs of that particular movement in Bedarieux, but I know people know about it. This meeting was very well attended, sixty people maybe. Quite a spread of participants. Elected officials, middle class folks, activists, and people from the hills dress informally (and smelling like wood smoke in the winter). One thing I noticed very happily is that the two “experts”, one working for a group called Negawatt http://www.negawatt.org/ as well as an energy co-op http://www.enercoop.fr/ and the other working for a company that consults and organises projects, http://www.groupevaleco.com/ were well informed, knew the alternatives and were very matter of fact. This “transition” is no longer an idea, but a practical path. It was intriguing to me because back in the very early seventies when I started collecting material for my edited book on Radical Energy (there was no such book on earth at the time), most of this was speculation and a few experiments. I never finished the editing job, character flaw. Now you simply inform yourself a bit, order the products and set them up with or without professional aid Even in our lotissement (suburban stye development) there are two little windmills and several solar panel arrays. Back then, alternative energy was dreaming, and a few examples. The argument had not been won yet. But today, their expert responses to questions were simple, sane and without huge debate.

 

The first question was about how it is all capitalism and profit, and therefore somehow a plot. But, in response, the experts said they agreed, not trying to make that argument. A huge relief to me as I have heard it so many times before. Yes, one agreed agreed it could be just capitalism in disguise, but that is why they were a co-op with profits not given to shareholders, and that he agreed with the hostile guy who thought he was going to argue. The second expert even said hey, we make a living, 6% profit, although there were few who thought 6% was a big deal. And when another guy who is off grid completely asked a question, the experts also agreed with him as well. And even argued FOR people doing it themselves and being disconnected which they agreed was one strong possibility, even though not their choice. No fights, no shouting arguments, just how can we do it, this is how you can do it. For anyone who thinks there has been no change, I can tell you we have, over the years, done a lot. I am aware, and everyone else was, that most of the developments are funded by the state, and are executed by giant multinationals, with massive industrial windmills, purely for money. But there are now at least two sides, and two tendencies, and plenty of realistic plans. Industrial built in France or elsewhere line, admittedly the bits are made here, but the assembly is more likely in Spain, Denmark or Germany. Good meeting, followed by some nice pizza and lively chatter. Oh yes, there was a movie on Fukushima, which is a total disaster, getting worse, and I don’t want to watch it ever again.

 

Off to the Saturday Market, a much smaller one than Monday, but the products sold, maybe ten stands, are all organic and local. So what happened? First I had my customary coffee with Yves, my pal who is a joiner, locksmith, father of five. We often sit and chat for half and hour or an hour on a Saturday or Monday, unless one of us has something more important to do. We talked about his work,and also about rich people and the nature of money. A few words about the kids. Probably my best French pal. Passed by “the English table” too, while Yves was buying some veg at the organic stall. We chatted briefly about operations, cataracts, and not much else. There are four of them who are the core of this group, and they meet on Saturday and Monday. Sometimes another couple joins them, and today someone’s daughter popped by, I think they were visitors. I take less interest in visitors than I once did. Usually they don’t really have a clue what is going on, say things that I am tempted to reply to in a critical manner, and I probably won’t see them again. But maybe it was a nice English couple who lives here full-time, and I just don’t know them. Passed down the road to the organic local coffee shop (obviously the coffee is not local). On the way, I had a remarkable conversation with two of the ex-cyclists who no longer ride with the club. Usually I don’t talk much with them, but this time we had a rather long (ten minutes) discussion about the World Championships. I seldom talk about cycle racing with my cyclist pals, somehow it never happens. Many of them are not really fans of racing on TV, others are cynical about doping and dismiss the racing with a wave of a hand and motion resembling injections. Furthermore, it is clear, when I do talk, that they don’t really follow racing, they don’t even know all the French riders, and don’t seem to care much. Others just lecture me about what they know and dismiss my observations since I have never been a boy racer. Overall, it was rather unusual. My last semi-serious conversation was with a German woman whose French is impeccable. She is an architect, and lives on a farm on the causse above Bedarieux, husband grows grapes and makes wine. She helps right now, it is the season. She is a lovely woman really, smart, part of the vague alternative culture, nice kids who almost got taught some English by me, but the idea did not become a plan. She works at what she can, a very underemployed woman. I think she might speak English better than I speak French, but we seem to have got in the habit of speaking French. And as I left Le Local (see previous blogs), I saw my friend Michel, who I think must have a new girlfriend. At least he went to the Fukushima/energy meeting on Friday night with her, and she was there with him on Saturday morning. Could be his sister, I didn’t get introduced yet. He is slightly hard to get to know, or maybe he just doesn’t like me, but a nice guy. We have been in several groups together. He built himself a bio-eco house just above ours, and is currently doing one for another friend who is a very high level windmill specialist. It was a good Saturday at the market. Next report might be on the Monday market. I love Market Days, although I don’t actually buy anything.

 

 

Market Day

January 10, 2012 Leave a comment

I go the market for at least an hour and half every Monday morning, no matter what. Unless I have something more important to do. Sometimes I squeeze in another thing, like a physio appointment, before I go to the market. As I come back for lunch, at about 12h15 (plus or minus 15minutes), I know how I am feeling about the experience. On a scale of ten, most market days are seven minimum, sometimes ten. Ten is when I leave thinking how glad I am to be alive, how satisfying it is to know my pals, and important it is to hang in the market, in my own evolving way. Lower than five is really disappointing, I usually leave early, as there is no one around and the weather is terrible. The Market Experience gets a five or six every six weeks.

When it all began ten years ago, I hardly spoke French. I knew almost nobody whatsoever. I thought the market was mostly for shopping. During all my holidays in France, I had always wanted to live some kind of cool French Market Day experience. I might have two or three commodity errands to do on Market Day, but mainly I go to hang out. It is the one time of the week, other than a pale copy on Saturday morning, when I can have the strong possibility of somewhat random encounters with people “in town for the market”. The rest of the week, the centre of town is really not very lively.

One routine that was disrupted today was buying my eggs from the usual egg guy, Jean-Claude. I might tell his story later, but in any case he seems to be quitting. I don’t like those kinds of changes. I am going to have to make a good new choice, or we are going to get organic eggs from Lidl.

But the main activity today was to say Meilleur Voeux to everyone whom I have missed since the New Year. We have until the end of January to do the jobwith “everyone”, but it is best to get it over with as soon as possible. So I went to see “the cyclists”, who inconveniently gather in many groups nowadays. Prior to a year or so ago, the cyclists would gather in one spot on the main street, in the heart of the market, depending on the sun and the wind. A cluster of older guys chatting animatedly. Now they are scattered all over town. All this is due to some kind of club conflict which I will tell you about in one of those long carefully-crafted analyses I promise you. Nowadays you can’t tell for sure where someone will be, an inconvenient fragmentation. With an exception or two, all the Market Day cyclists are retired. I never hang with them all morning, as I have other things to do.

I always pass by the “Citizen’s Stand”, managed by the local Attac group. The group has recently grown and revitalised, after stagnating under the influence of not very skilful person or two. Now there is still a rather dominating person or two, but the group is energetic. New people have been attracted. The group had had at least two big ups and downs since it started in 1998. I was once president of the group, in spite of terrible French, seven years ago. Back in 2002-4, I used to set up and manage the stand every day (unless I could not), in all four seasons. You will hear more about Attac, as I still go to meetings. More MV done. Longer chat with Jean-Claude, yes there are many Jean-Claudes, always.

In the middle of all this I also had a long chat about “death, ill health and dying in Bedarieux” with one of my immigrant pals. It reminded me of huge gaps in my local knowledge. The French try REALLY hard to keep old people in their own dwellings as long as possible. Then you go to a room or maybe a little flat (sometimes shared), then a nursing related room (sometimes shared), then the Alzheimer unit or medical unit bed. All this can happen locally. I am beginning to take more interest in where to live in the near future, especially in relation to getting older and medical care. I like talking with other Anglo immigrants though, the conversations are usually longer and range further from the utterly trivial (what is on British TV) to the profound. Immigrants also pass on tips about how to deal with the local environment, from the immigrant point of view.

I had a minor cultural triumph today. I had already exchanged Meilleur Voeux with a long-time political pal last week. You are supposed to remember every person you wished Happy New Year to, and NOT do it twice. It’s like shaking hands or giving a kiss to a person twice in the same day. Making a mistake like COULD indicate a certain kind of casual, uncaring automatisme. So as I approached “the political group”, I picked out the four I had seen last week, and distinguished them from the five who needed Meilleur Voeux. MV, MV, then came my (already done) pal. He stretched out his hand (I didn’t). Suddenly, he remembered. Too late. He laughed, apologised casually, agreed we had no need to do it again. With some other form of non-verbal communication he recognised my superior cultural behaviour, and I beamed. And moved on. Its like surprising some French person with a “bon soir” when they still say “bon jour”. But that is another linguistic and cultural story.

If I can’t “go to the market” where I next live, I will miss it.

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