Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day
Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend
You may, or may not, recognise the lyrics from the “Neighbours” theme. Rather trite, but actually quite true. Good neighbours can make a big difference, and in France, there is La Fete des Voisins to encourage people to get to know their neighbours a little better. It was started in the 1990s, I think, by someone who lived in an appartment block in Paris, and had the misfortune to find one of his elderly neighbours had died, and nobody had noticed. He realised that there wasn’t enough “neighbourliness” and so the following year he invited his neighbours for a drink to get to know everyone better. It snowballed from there, becoming a national movement, and now a certain date each year is designated La Fete des Voisins. This year it was in May, but our part of the village Le Coeur du Village (the heart of the Village) had their Fete yesterday, on 7th July. Why not?
Everyone who lives in the centre of the village was invited – each paying 10€, and asked to bring something (a salad, a dessert etc). There were about 30 of us there this year, and we invited Friend Cathy along, as her part of the village don’t have a Fete. Mostly because she lives in a hamlet of 4 houses – one of which is a holiday home, and another of which belongs to good friends, so she’s often there for a drink anyway!
It started at 12.00, so we went round to the Place de l’Eglise at about 12.10, and were among the first to arrive, of course! French timekeeping can be very imprecise at these events! Slowly people gathered, and there were drinks, and nibbles – pizza, quiche, crisps, gougères and so we happily tucked in. Bien sur!
The Mayor was there – he attends all these kind of events, if only at the beginning. We like our Mayor, and are sad that this is his last term of office. He has been good for the village. I also think he is quite good looking!
M. le Maire opens the rosé. He knows how to attract the voters!
There were big pergolas/ gazebos set out, with tables and chairs underneath, which provided shade, and we stood/sat and chatted among ourselves. Photos were taken for the local newspaper, and then we were called to help ourselves to salads. There were lots of delicious things: green bean salad, tomato salad, pasta salad, grains with feta and cucumber, coleslaw, a vegetable terrine. I was loading my plate when a little thought occurred to me: Is this the starter or the main course? I asked Dominique, one of the organisers, and she confirmed it was the starter…OK, stop putting things on your plate now!
After this, we had barbecued sausages and brochettes. It struck me how, in the UK, one would normally have the meat and salads altogether, but here in France it is normal to have the salads as a starter and eat the meat unaccompanied. I went back and got some more green beans and coleslaw, as just meat was a bit much.
Cheese followed – just a box of Comtesse de Vichy, a local creamy cheese, and then desserts. The baker had provided a huge Tarte aux Pommes, there was chocolate mousse, fruit salad, and I took along a White Chocolate and Ginger cheesecake. I wasn’t sure how well this would go down, especially with its caramel-chilli topping, but it was very well received. Here’s a link to the recipeNote that in the recipe I said you can use sweet chilli sauce for the topping. That’s a bit daft really, as this sauce has garlic in…so ignore that. This time I used a prepared toffee sauce and just added about half a teaspoon of chilli powder.
After lunch – by now it was about 4 o’clock – we sat and chatted, and Cathy and I talked about how we could buy the Hotel Moderne (which was opposite) and turn it into flats…IF we had the money, of course! Nice idea!
At about 5 o’clock, we decided to leave, so we said our goodbyes, and were asked “Are you coming back this evening?” WHAT?! There’s more?! We diplomatically said “We’ll see…I’m a bit tired…” and left. We’d had enough food and drink to last until next week! And, actually, I was a bit too tired to be very sociable again.
It was a really enjoyable time though, and of course, it’s always good to be involved in village events, to show that we are happy to integrate and to be part of village life. We can now say Hello to more people.