Monday, August 27, 2007

M. Marcel Bos 1913-2007

M. Bos est mort la semaine dernière.

He was a wonderful gentleman of the Cantal in the Auvergne and was 94 last April. We have been coming to our little French farmhouse in the Lot for nine years. M. Bos was the father of Paulette, the first person we met when we came to look at the house over 10 years ago now. Paulette’s father lived with her and her husband, Georges, in the farmhouse right next to ours.

Every day M. Bos would walk past our gate and we would try to pass the time of day with him. His accent was a strong dialect that was difficult for fluent French speakers to decipher and next to impossible for us with our feeble and shameful ability with the language. Nevertheless, over the years we were able to speak about the weather, about his health, and about wild mushrooms.

When we first knew him he still worked every day in the vegetable gardens and from time to time would bring us Quercy melons (the best in the world!) still warm from the sun! Every year he arrived with a plastic shopping bag full of various wild mushrooms and wonderful cepes – last years cepes were amazing. On our day of arrival this year he came with freshly picked girolles, which were cooked that evening and were absolutely delicious.

It may have been our second summer here, so M. Bos would have been around 89 – my husband was working on the roof positioning the TV antenna. We didn’t really have a long enough ladder and I asked M. Bos if they had one we could borrow. He trudged along back to a barn and before I knew it was walking back, cane in one hand and wooden ladder over the other shoulder!

The family very kindly invited us to attend the funeral and also to view the body, which was laid out in his bedroom. We declined, due to our own sensibilities, but were very touched that they shared their sorrow with us. The arrangements for the funeral and burial were deeply a family affair. M. Georges Estival is a fine cabinet maker and I wonder if he made the coffin himself... The men in the family drove a van with the coffin inside and we were invited to join the family procession to the church in Maurs, not quite an hour away. Family carried him into and out of the church and to his final resting place.

The day of the funeral was glorious – not a cloud in the skies. As I sat in the old church it occurred to me that M. Bos might have been married in that church and perhaps his daughter was as well. It seemed a place of family traditions, but somehow, it was in a sense not religious. A mass was said and people seemed to know all the words – but out of 100 people only two received the sacrament. The priest spoke clearly – we could understand much of the French. (I learned later he was probably from Belgium!!!)

The cemetery is in a beautiful, hilly place overlooking the hills of the Auvergne – one could easily imagine Les Chansons de l’auvergne echoing their haunting melodies. We joined the other mourners and sprinkled sand over the flag-draped coffin and the dear sweet man was laid to rest. Is it not reassuring in this divided world to know that genuine endearment can happen despite language and cultural barriers; that when hearts are in the right place loving friendships can be fostered and sustained; and that when I think on the dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end. (Shakespeare Sonnets)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Truth and the lying liars who tell it.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of ‘truth’, about its use and abuse. When is ‘living a lie’ ‘living a lie’?

Truth is not about getting one’s facts right. It is not answering a question with a yes or a no. It’s a way of life that takes the good with the bad straight on and unequivocally. It is the better way because it keeps us free from chaos, though chaos may engulf us.

But I do believe that we each make our own ‘arrangement’ with ‘Truth’ or ‘honesty’ or ‘integrity’ and it’s the ‘arrangement’ that we decide upon that determines or own moral character.

The paradox is that the Truth and the Lie are the opposite sides of the same coin. As with good and evil one cannot exist without the other. What is truth when used vengefully, when used to cause harm and pain? Is it not then contaminated? Does it not then become a Lie?

Must the ‘truth’ be told? And if the answer is ‘not always’, then when is ‘discretion the better part of valor? Some of us will always be caught if we try to deceive or to cheat. We just won’t get away with it, while others seem to be able to live by the lie to ascend the ladder of achievement by it – but then one’s humanity, one’s wholeness becomes broken and life’s meaning is lost.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Auberge du Bon Laboureur

Jane and Chris Coleman and their son Alexander are newly arrived in France hoping for a better, more meaningful life than what was there for them near Cambridge. They are bringing back to life an old-fashioned hotel-restaurant in Graçay, France. We tend to stay in the area when en route to our place in the Lot and since our usual hotel is closed on Tuesday we trawled the Internet to see what we could find. It isn’t that easy to find small family-run places in that part of the country – at least we haven’t found it so. But some hunting and pecking yielded a small list of places to try and this place was on the list and only a few kilometres away from our hotel in Vatan.

The place was just ready for over-night guests, but the restaurant was wonderful. And yes, the cook is English! And yes, we did stay the night in a room which promises to be outstanding value in the not too distant future and a bed that made up for any finishing touches the room at that time lacked. Also the room is very large, airy and bright and has nice views over the rooftops of the village and church. There was still work to do on the bathroom, but the essential equipment was in place and we both enjoyed a great shower. The hotel is tucked away a bit in the corner of the market square. An old-fashioned coach gate opens into a courtyard full of promise. In time there will be terraces for eating outside and a walled garden – the wall, by the way is the original Roman wall!

Our meal was fine by any standards. Our first course was a home-made paté served with an excellent local bread. For the main course I selected a salmon en croute with a cream sauce that was generous and delicious. And the vegetables were perfectly prepared – unlike in many a French restaurant! For dessert – and Chris makes all the desserts himself – I chose the yummy apricot tarte. UPDATE: On our return visit I had chicken wrapped in ham that was succulent, tender and a perfect blend of flavours. The pear poached in spiced red wine was a heavenly ambrosian concoction of the cook!

We were able to stay there on our return journey, and were happy to discover that they have had a good summer and their reputation continues to grow! There is a lot of work to do, but the villagers a thrilled to have them and have been very welcoming. Alexander speaks remarkable French and is even making himself useful in the kitchen. Both Jane and Chris radiate enthusiasm for their new life. The pressure of life in England, of running around in circles and never getting there is to them, not what life should be about. And so they work toward their dream of a new kind of family life. One that is not about becoming monetarily wealthy, but a life that is rich.

Contact Information:
Telephone: 0033 248 514 219