My boots were laced and I was wrapping my scarf around my neck in preparation to walk home from my neighbours house when Mireille (my neighbour) casually mentioned that she'd see me and Mark in the morning at 'Les voeux du maire'. Although I understood the words 'the mayor's wishes' I still couldn't compute what this meant in real terms so asked for an explanation. 'Oh, it happens every January, we (the villagers of Montmelard) all congregate at the village hall and eat cake and drink wine'. Well, this got my vote and I agreed to pick Mireille up the following day. It therefore came to pass that at 10am on Sunday morning Mark and I found ourselves, along with 100 or so other Montmelardies decked out in our Sunday best listening to a speech on taxation, sanitation 'affaires', mobile phone reception blackspots and various other news bites that either had, or were about to affect our lives and the lives of those around us. Mireille hadn't mentioned the hour long speech from the Mayor nor the shorter speech that followed from the Prefect General who had made a special trip up from Macon to be with us. Still, it was good for the language learning. Once the formalities were over the chairs were cleared away and the feasting began. There were gougeres- light cheese flavoured choux pastries (Mark calls them 'hot air balls'), bacon wrapped prunes, pate on small rounds of toasted bread and, of course, local wine. We greeted the neighbours we had already met and then were introduced to hordes of people we had never seen before (how could so many people live in so few houses?). Invitations to meet up and join associations were proffered and we swapped details with young and old. One little old lady who barely came up to my knees shared with me the secret of surviving winter here, drinking wine and knitting in front of a log fire. It struck me that her survival techniques may have started a little early that day. Feeling well and truly part of the community we returned home wondering when we would see our new friends again. We didn't have long to wait. This morning, a little after 8am Mark spotted a little old lady crossing our lawn. My new 'amie' was so please to have met me and wondered whether I'd be interested in buying some raffle tickets. I bought three and will now have to wait until February to see whether I've won return tickets to Lourdes!