Wednesday, 9 February 2011

La Félibrée

"The Félibrée movement was begun in the 19th century to defend and preserve the Occitan culture. In the langue d’oc, it is known as the Félibrise, and Frédéric Mistral, the renowned poet, was one of its greatest adherents. Since 1903, on the first Sunday of July, the Félibrée is celebrated in a chosen town of the Périgord. The town spends a good part of the year in preparation for the festival, which is marked by poetry, dance, singing, musical performances, demonstrations of local customs, and election of a queen of the Félibrée."

This year, The Félibrée is being held in our local town. According to the tourist office lady accommodation is already at a premium for 1st, 2nd, 3rd July.

What it means in our commune is that the ladies are set to making flowers to decorate a part of the town. We had a letter saying that the flowers were being made in the mairie on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and after an abortive attempt to join last Thursday's group (nobody there), I duly arrived yesterday.

The weather at the moment is cloudless blue skies which means that the nights and mornings are -10C or so and the afternoons are +20C in the sunshine. So outside the mairie was a gathering of ladies enjoying the sunshine. I introduced myself and asked about the flower making which set one of the ladies off on a description of a meeting that she had been to about the felibree. (We had been to this but had obviously left before the most interesting bits!) Surprisingly she had never been to the mairie where this was held (the other side of the town) or met the maire of the town. Didn't like to tell her that he came up and shook our hand thanks to having met him several times in the company of a friend.

Eventually we all get sat around the table with a box of bits of carrier bag type plastic in the shape of small pantyliners (once having thought this I couldn't get the image out of my head) in bright yellow and green, some string and some needles. Fortunately I was sat next to Monique who turns out to be the leader and knows what's going on. And we are off making wisteria type flowers in yellow and green. (Although this offends my gardening mind and I have decided that they are laburnum.)

And I am a star flower maker!

Now, these flowers are going to be strung up above the street and we have to make 1,000 of them just for our little bit of the town. So perfection is not what is required. They need to be secure but they do not need to have every petal straightened and made beautiful. Apart from having a daydream (or daymare) that somehow they will know which mine are and they will be the only ones that dribble yellow and green petals over the surrounding merrymakers. Lets just get on with it.

After a little while a tiny smiley lady (who after a lot of smiling I realise is actually not up to flower making but always does the teas) brings round glasses, then carefully lays out paper napkins, then offers water, fizzy orange, coke or coffee. Then pancakes are produced - we have had these several times in the last fortnight as it is the season for pancakes - these are piles of vaguely warmed pancakes with sugar, jam or nutella. One of the ladies chose sugar because she couldn't have jam because she was on a diet???? Then we got another cake with chocolate and then cider was offered.

Meanwhile the pile of wisteria is growing so Maurice arrives to gather them and string them onto a wire so that we can see what they will look like. We have already had discussions about the length of the flowers, the number of petals, whether they should be grouped or tied singly, whether there was enough string left at the end for tying.

But now the important part is happening. Maurice has arrived. Flower making is womens' work. The men have been playing cards in the corner. Tying flowers on is mens' work.

After 3 hours of this my bottom is mighty tired of sitting on a hard chair and people are beginning to leave. There is much discussion about having another group on Thursday but I manage to give that a miss. This fete isn't happening until July and I don't think I can manage two afternoons a week until then. I wonder how long it will take to do 1,000..................


  1. If you have Ford Madox Ford's 'Provence' he has quite a bit about the Occitan language movement.

    So you've become a joiner after all...even if it is sewing green and yellow panty liners into flowers!

    It sounds so reminiscent of village thingys I used to go gathering is complete without food or drink!

  2. Well it sounds like it was quite a pleasant and productive afternoon Rosie, but I can well imagine that twice a week might be a bıt too much!

  3. Ayak it's easier to make flowers and think french thoughts than it is to knit! With the knitting group I keep finding that I have made a complete mess of something while I was trying to think in french!