April Fools’ Day In The Morvan

Here in France, April Fools are called Poissons d’Avril . Children try to stick a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting person. While nobody seems to know why fish would be associated with April 1, many think it refers to the zodiac sign of Pisces. Do we really, cosmically speaking, care?Adults enjoy spoof news items, just as Brits do. A few years ago it was announced that President Hollande was changing his name to something more patriotic. I prefer the spaghetti harvest on TV in 1957. Type ‘spaghetti harvest’ in your browser and relive those golden moments.

We are preparing Charity Cottage for its first visitors of the season. Jane and Robin are coming on 31 March on their way home from a trip to Portugal to visit Robin’s expat brother and his family: quite a long drive. They would normally stay in the main house, but we are putting them up in the cottage because they have their dog, Bailey, with them, complete with Pet Passport. He won’t be allowed back in Britain without a certificate confirming he has had a tapeworm pill, so we have booked an appointment with the Corbigny vet. I recall without nostalgia the bad old days of quarantine. Six months in the clink and no time off for good behaviour.

April 8-9 is the weekend of the annual Rallye de l’Anguison. A dozen contestants will descend on us, six in Charity Cottage, six in the main house. Mercifully they bring their own sleeping bags and towels. This is the third time they have stayed, and a riotous time is had by all. They always donate 10 euros a head to Combat Stress.

The fun never stops. Our solar panels should be operational sometime in April. The promised 100 euro donation from AB Services has arrived and been forwarded to Combat Stress. We hope the sun will shine and generate lots of lovely power to sell to ERDF. We can do with it after years of eye-watering electricity bills.

April is Floréal according to the Revolutionary calendar (see my March effusion) and we are enjoying our spring flowers. When we arrived in 2005 I planted hundreds of bulbs, which are still doing us proud. A nearby copse is carpeted with wood anemones, which also cover the grass verge along the road, vying with the cowslips for our attention.

Cowslips – les coucous – are as common as daisies here. When we first arrived here I painstakingly transplanted scores of cowslips to safe havens under the fruit trees. Our neighbours were astonished. ‘Elle est folle, cette anglaise. Elle transplante les coucous.’ It was as if I’d transplanted dandelions. Well, in Suffolk cowslips are a protected species. There was a notice beside a small clump of cowslips in Eyke churchyard reminding everyone not to mow, pick or otherwise disturb them.

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Our local newsletter is full of interesting things to do this April. Search under ‘Office de Tourisme Morvan des Lacs’. There is a fishing competition. There are organised rambles for Dutch speakers, who outnumber us Brits approximately 50 to one. We don’t have May Queens here; the Lormes beauty parade takes place on 16 April and is followed by dinner and dancing.

On April 1 the local high school is hosting a Rifles session in the salle culturelle in Lormes. My online dictionary insists that rifles are rifles. Type ‘Rifles France’ in your browser and learn all about combat rifles, hunting rifles, rifle clubs and firearm regulations.

Here in the Morvan, however, Rifles is bingo, lotto or housey housey. You hand over a euro and take a card with numbers on. Someone calls out the numbers. When one of your numbers is called, you mark it on our card. They don’t do ‘Legs eleven’, ‘Two fat ladies’ or any of the other well-worn witticisms that bingo players in the UK enjoy so much. John and I have never found bingo remotely appealing, and what would we do with a montre connectée or a mountain bike (VTT) even if we won one? Well, the school needs the money and here in the Morvan any get-together is an excuse for coffee, cake and chat.

Digression: Ever since we arrived in 2005 we have hosted a weekly French scrabble session with the same old buddies (biddies?), Simone and Claudine. Here too there is coffee, cake and chat. Trawling through the scrabble dictionary is positively encouraged. French scrabble is a doddle thanks to all the conjugations, etc. Early each morning I play proper English scrabble online with Beardie in Yorkshire, who enjoys a game before work. Access www.isc.ro – bizarrely they are based in Romania – and read what some of the logophiles write about themselves. My current ‘handle’ is Lormes and predictably I plug Charity Cottage.

I shall be hosting a tea party here on April 1 to enable Jane and Robin to meet our neighbours and catch up on local news. My oven has been misbehaving. One of the elements is dodgy and the thermostat tells lies, but I am hoping for the best. We are delaying replacing the oven, along with other clapped out appliances, until our house in Suffolk has finally sold. It has been a long haul with many frustrations, but let us think positively. Spring is here, the shops are full of Easter eggs and the spring programme of the Cité de la Voix is online.

Rosemary Border Rabson

In 2005 Rosemary Border Rabson and husband John Rabson emigrated to the Morvan in rural Burgundy, where few other Brits have ventured. Their chief preoccupation is Charity Cottage, a holiday home-from-home in their garden at Maré le Bas which they run in aid of Combat Stress (money donations) and Help for Heroes (free accommodation). Since 2012, when Charity Cottage won the Daily Telegraph’s Best British Charity award, the total amount raised for Combat Stress, comprising UK royalties and donations from visitors to Charity Cottage, is nudging £10,000.


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