The first big social event of 2012 here in Montmelard is now behind us and what an event it was. The Poule au Riz evening (pronounced pooloree) - chicken and rice to you and me, was a huge success and shall no doubt be talked about for generations to come. I am all the more chuffed that it was such a triumph as it was the first Soirée that I had been involved in. The aim of the evening was to raise funds to buy hats for the class of 2 (see previous blogs) Jour des Conscrits as well as to provide some light relief from the cold days of winter. So, having spent the day setting up trestle tables, laying place settings for 160 people, slicing tomatos for the same number and generally lending a hand, 7pm found me sitting down to an early supper with my co-organisers - the lull before the storm.
Someone raised a valuable point - we needed to make sure that all attendees produced their tickets on arrival. We didn't want any opportunists, who just happened to be cruising by, gate crashing our evening and having a supper for free. I thought this was a joke until I saw the solemn faces nodding agreement. 'Is this likely to happen?' I asked pointing out that we were a small community in the middle of nowhere and the temperature was hovering around the -8 mark. 'We are on a hill and for miles around you can see the lights and hear the music.' Montmelard would become a beacon for any good time folk from Charolles to Macon.
The maximum number of entrants for the village hall is around 140, 120 to be on the safe side so it was no surprise that we had managed to sell 160 eat in tickets and 40 odd take aways. 4 of us serving wenches were to feed the hoards as another team dished up in the kitchen, a couple sold bottles of wine and the rest manned the bar. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard or removed my cardigan in January. Shimmying between the close aisles of happy eaters I kept my smile but lost the contents of my tray twice into the same young mans lap. He was a forgiving type and said there were no hard feelings. The atmosphere was certainly one of Bon Hommie and my designated table guests were happy to help with gathering up the debris and ensuring that I had a slurp or two of wine to keep my strength up.
As before, I encountered a number of people who were born, raised and are happy to see out their days in Montmelard among their friends and loved ones who have similarly spent their lives in this beautiful region. There is a strange (to me who has always been something of a nomad) sense of peace and belonging here and as I took to the dance floor, inbetween serving cheese and tarte au pommes, I felt strongly that I was exactly where I should be.
You've got to love a place where the bar prices show wine and beer as 1 euro a glass and Coca Cola at 1.50 euro, doing our bit for stamping out artificial additives. My turn as bar maid came exactly two minutes before we ran out of beer (2.30am). After auctioning off the final bottle, the beer drinkers effortlessly made the transition to wine.
It was lovely to see the coming together of all ages and both sexes on the dance floor. Young and old alike jived to 60s beats, trotted round to folk songs and then bounced about to modern pop. One dance struck me as the French equivalent of Oranges and Lemons, it involved having a partner, holding hands and promenading under the arches made by other dancers. The only difference in the French version was that as you made the rounds you were frequently tickled and had your bottom smacked!!