mon coeur de campagne

living a simpler, rural French life


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Let’s Dance, Morvandiaux style

photographed at Chateau Chinon Fete 15 August

After a couple of weeks of fog, and a couple of snow showers I am pining for some sunshine and summer days.   That’s why I was so happy when I found a clip of a traditional Morvandelle dance on YouTube.  It reminds me of the fetes, parties and dances that take place in villages all over Le Morvan during the summer.

The dancing couple above are wearing traditional Morvandiaux costume.  The man is wearing clothes worn by a Galvacher, an ancient carter.  Les Galvachers left their villages in May of every year for at least six months to find work.  They “hired” their carts pulled by Charollais cattle for heavy duty haulage work.  Charollais cattle, the local beef cattle, are capable of pulling several tons of timber.

There is Les Galvachers museum at Anost, a pretty town surrounded by steep forest-covered hills.  Anost also hosts the Festival de la Vielle (Hurdy Gurdy Festival) every August.  Well worth a visit to listen and dance to the traditional foot tapping music mixed with musical influences from around the world.

The YouTube clip shows  accordions, hurdy gurdies, vielles and French bagpipes, cornemuses, accompanying La Sauteriotte, a folk dancing group at the Fete de la Myrtille in Glux en Glenne.  A popular dance called the Bourre´e includes quick, skipping steps and some versions even include a run.  The dancers wear wooden clogs, or sabots which emphasise the sounds, a  bit like the idea of tap dancing. 

Traditional hand made clogs can be seen being made at Goloux shop and clog making museum and a shop in the shadows of Saint-Pere, Vezelay.  

As the sky outside darkens heralding more snow….it is good to think back to those summer days full of music, brightly coloured skirts whirling and dancing.


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Sex Before Dinner?

On Saturday night we were invited for a meal with a group of our French friends and neighbours. We have all known each other for a few years now and it was the first chance since before Christmas that we had been free to meet up.

Well, we had hardly got our coats off before the conversation turned to sex. Les hommes were the ring leaders with comments about the prowess of certain parts of their anatomy. Then I got roped in to explain the English names for a ZiZi while drinking champagne and toasting the New Year.

There’s another question that the French love to ask, and it is one that is not usually asked in polite company in England and that is…. “Quelle age avez vous?” Everyone knows my age now!

As we sat down for a delicious Pot au Feu and piles of homegrown vegetables, the conversation turned to politics. A second subject that is usually taboo along with religion at English dinner parties. “And why don’t you have the Euro?” Mr B replied “Parce que nous sommes tres intelligent.” Oh….lucky we are friends and everyone had a good laugh.

The same group of friends have invited us to a Rifles or Bingo evening. I looked doubtful as I am terrible at remembering French numbers, not Mr B….- “pas problem every Englishman knows at least one number in French….soixante neuf!”


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Oh! The Places You Will Go

Living in Le Morvan makes my soul sing and from time to time I hope to share other things, books, films, places or events that make me feel that way too.

Oh! The Places You Will Go is the amazing last  book written by Dr Seuss before he died.  It tells of life’s ups and downs, times when you get “hung up in a prickly perch”, times when you will be left in the lurch and times when you will be all alone and have to tackle things that will scare you right out of your pants! 

This amazing film version is interpreted by people at the Burning Man Festival.  I found it very moving and wanted to share it.  http://youtu.be/ahv_1IS7SiE

I have given Oh! The Places You will Go book to a couple of special people in my family when they have reached 18.  I think it’s a joyful, life affirming story with a message for all ages.

Oh! The Places You will Go explains that although life is a great balancing act it is there for you to grab hold off and enjoy – TODAY IS YOUR DAY!


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Size Does Matter

There are some very impressive wood piles being flaunted around here. 

Gigantic wood piles are not really for showing off, or a sign of wealth or even a macho thing….although I do wonder!! It’s  supposed to be because seasoned timber is the best for burning. The longer the wood pile is aged the better. Woods such as oak, chestnut, hornbeam or beechwood produce the most heat but must be thoroughly dried.  

Living in Le Morvan, which is essentially forest, means that wood is the fuel of choice for everyone.  Although you can’t just go out into the woods and start cutting down trees.  Much of the forest is privately owned or owned by local communes.

Word of mouth is the best way to find cheap wood.  Neighbours will know the best place to find top quality wood at a good price or you might be asked to go and help cut up a fallen tree and get a supply that way.  Last year was our first winter here and Pascal our local farmer delivered the logs on a trailer and Mr B and BB lugged them into the barn and then began cutting them up into managable sizes for our burner. It is very hard work and you will need an axe and a log splitter but it brings the cost down if you are able to cut and chop your own logs to size.

This year we got a really good deal through a neighbour which involved MR B and BB helping to collect the logs.  It was great seeing all the wood arrive by tractor with Mr B and BB hanging on for grim life to the trailer.  No health and safety here!

We have a large wood burner for the kitchen/living and it gives off an amazing amount of heat and it’s been a fantastic investment.  This winter has been exceptionally mild so far, although the neighbours have been joking about snow in March, I hope they are joking!


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Une Famille Formidable



Le Morvan in the snow 

Two weeks before Christmas, we set off for the UK to visit family and friends.  We managed to cover London, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Somerset, Norfolk and North Wales – it was a whirlwind tour!  Then on the last day we waited for Jack (BB) to complete the cross country Holly Run, in Reigate, Surrey before setting off for the tunnel.  The car was loaded up with suitcases, presents, crackers and even the turkey!

After a delay at the Tunnel we finally arrived in France to blizzards.  By the time we had reached Le Morvan at about 3am, there was treacherous, icy snow covering the country roads.  Mr B proved to be an Ice Road Trucker keeping the car from sliding off the road into a ditch or worse.  He had to negotiate steep roads with a sheer drop at the side.  I was praying hard and was sure that  the car was going over.  It made me realise that presents and all the Christmas trappings weren’t important – as long as Charlotte (GG) and Jack were safe and sound. 

We finally arrived in one piece, very relieved to be back home.

We made the most of being all together again.  Lots of walks, games, reading, chats, a little bit of TV, a winter picnic with other crazy friends, – lots of precious moments and memories and on Christmas Day, a champagne breakfast, GG in pyjamas all day, a massive Christmas Dinner and then more celebrations with friends the next day.

New Year was shared with good French and English friends chez nous.  We celebrated French New Year and then English New Year, with lots of fizz, party poppers covered the floor and hung from the deorations. The party was full of fun and games, everyone entered into the spirit of the theme “A Day at the Races”. Wonderful hats, “gambling” on a horse racing DVD and BB even wore an inflatable horse costume!!

So now the party is over, BB and GG are heading back to London the day after tomorrow.  The fridge is nearly empty, the Christmas tree is shedding it’s pine needles and the decorations are looking a little sad. 

It’s time for 2012 to begin and for us to remember as our friend Marie-Helene said “Vous etes une famille formidable!”