Saturday, October 22, 2016

Airs de Famille, remembering family life in the village

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
Airs de Famille

An unusual event took place in our village library today called Airs de Famille, Lecture-spectacle. It was the culmination of a project that has looked into the Deux Sevres departmental photo archives and recorded the childhood memories of the older generation growing up in the Pays Mellois area.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
A village wedding

Local actress and author Laure Bonnet used a selection of photographs as the backdrop to recounting stories she had been told and songs she had been sung during the thirty interviews she conducted with older people living alone. In the audience were five or six of our oldest villagers who had been happy to share their stories with her.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres Laure Bonnet
Laure Bonnet

I will admit to not being able to understand everything, as there were a lot of words to listen to, but I followed most of it and found it very interesting. It seems that the figure of Grandmother in the 1930’s and 1940’s was a formidable one. Often tiny in stature and dressed in black with a white lace headdress, she was the one who was to be obeyed and children were expected to show respect to their elders and at mealtimes especially, be seen but not heard. 

It was also quite usual for three or four generations to live together in the same modest house and one young lady remembered there being an empty house behind her in-laws home, but her father-in-law had forbidden the owner to rent it to his son and new bride as he expected them to live with him. Another story told of the young bride living with her in-laws who visited her family for a meal every Sunday, her absence gave her mother-in-law the opportunity to check the cleanliness of the bedroom she and her husband shared to ensure her standards were being kept. I consider myself very lucky to have been born when I was and to have a relaxed mother-in-law.  

I went with my neighbour Pierrette, who grew up in the village in the 1940’s and 1950’s. She is never short on stories of her childhood which I love to hear and as we were sitting listening to memories of courting and dating she whispered to me that even though she was 19 when she first met her husband at a dance, her mother had accompanied her and she was expected to return to her mothers side after each dance. There was no hanging around town in mixed groups for her generation, something Ed and his mates have been enjoying since they were about 14.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
Chat and cake in the sun

As is normal for an event in the village, the afternoon was finished off with homemade cakes and lots of chatting and reminiscing. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon for me and other villagers aged from seven to ninety.

Airs de Famille Pays Mellois Deux Sevres
Homemade cakes

The project has been carried out with the help of the departmental library, which will be keeping these precious memories for our future generations.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book review of The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy

French Village Diaries The Art of Rebellion Brenda Joyce Leahy France Book Tours review
The Art of Rebellion
by Brenda Joyce Leahy

The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy

(YA historical) Release date: June 15, 2016 at Rebelight Publishing ISBN: 978-0994839985 252 pages Website Goodreads  


Released June 15, 2016, by Rebelight Publishing, this beautifully written, lush piece drops you into tumultuous and breathtaking late 19th century Paris. Sixteen year old Gabrielle dreams of becoming an artist but her ambitious parents agree to an arranged marriage to an aging Baron. In protest, she runs away from her provincial home of Laval to Paris, the City of Light, intending to live with her grandmother and pursue her passion for art. Her bold plan disintegrates as she arrives in Paris to discover her grandmother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Alone in the capital, Gabrielle wonders who to trust: her new artist friends or the handsome but irritating stranger she met on the train, who just might be stalking her. Gabrielle's pride, ambition and impulsive nature thrust her into Paris' underbelly of betrayal and abuse. Will she find the courage to begin a new life on her own terms?

The Art of Rebellion was on the Calgary Bestselling Fiction list in August 2016


Gabrielle is not like her older sisters, who can’t wait to be married off and become obeying wives to titled husbands. For Gabrielle, art is her passion and as a married woman she knows studying art would be impossible, so she runs away to Paris, the prospect of her promised marriage to an older man too much to contemplate. She plans to live with her Grandmother, study art at college and become an artist, proving to her overbearing mother that she is destined to become more than just a wife. It is an era when women, including Gabrielle and her Grandmother, were beginning to want independence in their lives, but the male dominated world wasn’t yet ready to accept these new ideas.

I liked Gabrielle, she is bold and reckless, resourceful when needed, but still naïve as you would expect from a 16 year old from a wealthy family in the 19th century. Her art brings her to life and I could feel her excitement as the Paris art scene opens out in front of her. A man she meets on the train becomes a companion who escorts her to the Paris Exposition and the Louvre and I enjoyed her reactions as she viewed the masters for the first time and was moved to tears by the experience.

There are a lot of emotions in this book as Gabrielle swings from elation at finding like-minded artists and spends time sketching life in Paris with them, to despair when things don’t work out quite as she planned. Paris and the art world has a dark side too and when life takes a turn for the worse Gabrielle has no choice but to accept what fate has planned for her. In her dark moments I could feel the weight of her despair and watched the spark ebbing from her, all the while hoping she could find the strength I knew she had to help her escape.

This is a young adult novel and the author has captured the tumult of teenage emotions perfectly, but I also think it will appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy historical fiction.


French Village Diaries The Art of Rebellion Brenda Joyce Leahy France Book Tours review
Brenda Joyce Leahy loves historical fiction and thinks she was born a century too late but can't imagine her life without computers or cell phones. So, perhaps, she arrived in the world at just the right moment to tell this story. She grew up on a farm near Taber, Alberta but now lives with her family near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta. After over 20 years practising law, she has returned to her first love of writing fiction. She is a member of several writing organizations, including the Society of Childrenís Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) The Art of Rebellion is also profiled on the Humber School of Writers website Brenda is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and leads a YA/MG writers critique group in Calgary. Visit Brenda's website Follow her on Facebook | on Twitter Follow Rebelight Publishing on Twitter Buy the book: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble




If you live in Canada you can enter a giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visiting each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Giveaway only open to Canadian residents: 2 winners will receive a copy of this book

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

September cycling round-up

French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne
September cycling challenges

Wow, September, we had a blast. Thank you for so many great memories to take with me into the cooler, darker days of autumn and winter.

This year has unquestionably been cycle-crazy for us, with adventures in the Sarthe and Ardeche to list just the big ones, but this summer has probably been one of my laziest in years. A few weeks off the bike following my operation in July, followed by the exhausting heat wave of August left me unhappy with the bathroom scales as I approached my 45th birthday. By contrast, Adrian has cycled further and faster than ever before and as a result is fitter and slimmer than he has been for years. Thankfully our September action on the bikes took things up a gear for me.

French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne Cognac
The Cognac vineyards

The few days we spent at the end of August cycling in the Vienne, followed by a morning ride to a local market and then an afternoon pedalling around the Cognac vineyards, meant I’d been out on my bike for six days in a row. This was enough to ensure I found time for a ride on day seven, even if it was just a 30km local ride squeezed in at the end of a busy day. This was a first for me, cycling every day for a week and it felt good, in fact good enough to go out again on day eight. The scales still weren’t cooperating, but my legs felt strong so I had the foolish idea to cycle another 64km in the next two days to complete a ten day, 400km challenge. On 7th September, I did it and it was the perfect training for my next challenge, 100km-in-a-day.
French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne
La Post des Gardes, Availles-Limouzine
Wearing our ‘cycling accommodation reviewing’ caps once more, thanks Freewheeling France, we packed our bikes, pasta and the all-important Garmin navigation device and set off for the pretty town of Availles-Limouzine. Here we spent two nights on the bank of the Vienne River, staying in the historic town house La Post des Gardes.
French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne Mortemart

After a comfortable night and a quick walk to the boulangerie for fresh croissants, we set off for our 100km-in-a-day on the bikes that would take us through the Vienne, Charente and Haute Vienne departments. Our morning took us along quiet roads, past shady forests where the first autumnal colours were starting to show and from one pretty village to another, from Availles-Limouzine to St Germain-de-Confolens to Esse and then Brillac, where we stopped for morning coffee. We passed sheep in fields; sensibly sheltering in the shade and with every kilometre the temperature rose so a stop for a quick drink from our water bottles left our arms and legs glistening with sweat within seconds. Fully caffeinated once more we cycled through the delightfully named Bussiere-Boffy, on to Nouic and then Mortemart, one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France before arriving in Blond for a lunch of tuna pasta salad.
French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne Bellac
We were now 45km into our route to Bellac and with the temperature in the mid 30’s we left the main road and set off to explore the hills, chateaux and more hills of the 'pretty route' Adrian thought would be a good idea. I thought it left my legs achy, my energy levels depleted and I may have moaned a little. Bellac was a welcome sight and we stopped for a beer and nuts by the old stone bridge with the town  peering down on us. Adrian bravely cycled up to town, whereas I walked, but was still rewarded with a raspberry flaky pastry delight when I reached the top. This sugary hit was probably the only thing (along with the threat of an approaching storm) that gave me the strength to complete the final 35km back to Availles-Limouzine.
French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne
My 100km-in-a-day route
It was a hard-going 35km, although not too hilly or challenging, mainly on pretty lanes with lots of shade and no traffic, but it was oh, so hot. I can’t even remember the names of the villages we cycled through. The final few kilometres were downhill to the River Vienne and once on the bridge I could see the house and balcony, which was a truly welcoming sight. It was certainly more of a challenge than last year’s 100km to La Rochelle, which was mostly flat, cool and overcast, but I did it, three days before my 45th birthday and I was very happy with that.
French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne
Refuelling aperos on the balcony
Back at the house we had a lazy early evening apero of fizzy water, nuts and chicken rillettes on baguette, to rehydrate and refuel before putting the finishing touches to a spicy pork and rice dish I’d prepared in advance. Eaten on the balcony overlooking the Vienne it was a lovely end to a special day. Then the wind blew in, fast and furious and like nothing we had ever experienced before. We had to move quickly to bring in the cycle jerseys and wine glasses before we lost them. Half a shutter flew off the house next door, leaving the remaining bit banging sorrowfully in the wind, while we sat and waited for the end of the world. However, after a bit of rain it all calmed down and the forecast storm seemed to have missed us. It was certainly a spectacular end to an exciting day.

French Village Diaries cycling Charente Vienne Haute Vienne
The balcony overlooking the Vienne at La Poste des Gardes

If you are looking for a self-catering property with river views I can recommend La Post des Gardes. You can read my review of the property here.

While these challenges focussed more on distance, our other September cycling adventures were far more concerned with hills. I'll post more about those very soon.