Christmas retrospective 2

It seems a bit odd to go back to Christmas, which is now very firmly in the rear-view mirror, but there were some interesting things which we haven’t mentioned. This year Taradeau seemed to be expending a lot of energy into community events. The biggest of these was Christmas Eve. It started with spectacular fireworks, after which everyone moved on to the village centre, where there was mulled wine. There was lots of milling around and lots of seasonal greetings exchanged.

In the best Taradeau tradition, there was a strong impromptu element. It included lighting of the Christmas log and then a short ‘pastorale’ outside the church. Unlike the one at Les Arcs, this was more of a series of tableaus outside the church.

Outside the church: Provencal costumes and the entrance has become a stable

It was nice to meet various people we hadn’t seen for some time; this being modern France, there were a couple of heavily armed gendarmes standing around keeping an eye open for, one presumes, terrorists. Then eventually we went into the church along with a considerable part of the crowd for what was billed as a midnight mass, but was in fact about four hours earlier.

A key player in all these events was Monseigneur Claud, who is a genial and much loved village priest. He may be a retired abbé but the Catholic hierarchy is rather lost on us.

police, priest, mayor, press photographer outside Taradeau mairie
Not the best photograph because the gendarmes don’t like being photographed, but there are the earthly powers here: police; the mayor (partly hidden); the press photographer and, whether earthly or heavenly is open to question, the priest.

As with so much in Taradeau, there was the curious juxtaposition of the old world of rural Provence and its traditions with the modern urbanised world that seems to be spreading inland from the coast. So there were people who had been resident in Taradeau for all their lives and know everybody and of incomers whose lives revolve around high-tech or commercial industries miles away and who know no-one.

This grinding of gears between the old and rural and the new and urbanised, is something of a theme within France and a major drive behind the continuing gilets jaunes confrontation, which remains unresolved. One widely reported statistic, which certainly fits with our experience, is that 60% of France’s speed cameras have been burnt or disabled in the last few months. It’s worth remembering that a precursor to the current conflict was Paris’ unpopular imposition of lower speed limits on roads, in theory to prevent accidents but a burden for dwellers in countryside with long distances to travel. Paris and its authorities have always seemed a very long way from this part of rural southern France, and never more so than now.

and now for something completely different…

Tyndale Publishers have just issued the complete set of Chris’ Lamb Among the Stars trilogy as a one-volume e-book. Click here to find it on Amazon UK.

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