It’s good to see our village become animated again this summer after two years of Covid mutedness. Leave aside that it took me ten minutes to find a parking space yesterday morning, but then it was market day. In a week or so, the winding down process will begin in preparation for la rentrée. In the meantime, plenty is going on.
Home or away?
Many French people have chosen to holiday in their own country this year. Airport chaos, the price of fuel and passport renewal delays have contributed. Equally, they have kept British tourists away: far fewer UK registration plates are around this summer. No doubt the B-word has a role in that, too, but I don’t want to revisit that particular subject.
We stay firmly put during the high season, preferring to travel and see other places out of season, once the tourists have gone home. Our experience is that you see the real bones and sinews of a place then. Of course, we are lucky to have that luxury, when others are restricted by jobs and the school/academic year.
During the four successive canicules (heatwaves) of summer ‘22, we have barely done anything, except for essentials like food shopping. Thankfully, the weather has changed, as it usually does around mid-August.
Seven mm of rain fell overnight during a fairly gentle thunderstorm. That’s more than in the past seven weeks combined. You can almost hear the plants and trees breathe a sigh of relief. It’s warm instead of furnace hot. Doing things other than the mundane now becomes much more appealing.
Le Quinze Août
Le Quinze Août is a big public holiday in France and an important date in the religious calendar, since it celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven. It was already a religious festival, probably inaugurated in the 6th century, but it became a holiday in France in 1638.
Louis XIII lacked an heir after 23 years of marriage. He was very devout and consecrated himself and his kingdom to the Virgin Mary in February 1638, having made a personal plea for an heir. The future Louis XIV was born in September that year. Louis decreed that le 15-août, already dedicated to the Virgin, should be a public holiday. Further, he requested that every village should hold a procession in her honour.
[Aside: Louis XIII visited Caylus and made it his HQ in 1622 while his troops sorted out the Protestant rebels down the road in Saint-Antonin. The red arrow in the image below shows the house where he stayed. The rivalry between the two villages, based partly on religious disagreement, has continued down the centuries.]
Today, the religious aspect remains important, and the processions continue. A host of more secular attractions (fêtes, jumble sales, concerts, etc.) also takes place on le 15-Août, which has become très famille.
Markets and music
The main event in our village is the Marché des Potiers (pottery market), an annual event spanning two days around August 15th. We need new china and earthenware like a hole in the head. In fact, we should be divesting ourselves of items that have sat unused in cupboards for decades. However, it’s always fun to see the pieces that artisans have cleverly fashioned. I wouldn’t necessarily want them myself, but I appreciate the effort and skill that have gone into them.
Caylus has two weekly markets: Tuesday in the Place de la Halle in the upper village; Saturday in the Place du Lavoir in the lower village. Both are transformed in the summer. The number of stalls increases several-fold, as does the number of customers.
For a couple of months, stalls selling brightly coloured dresses, hand-woven baskets and olives sit cheek by jowl with the year-round sellers of veg and fruit, cheese and eggs. Those mysterious flowered apron-dresses sported by French country women of a certain age will not reappear until September. My husband frequently offers to buy me one, a fate I have resisted so far.
This week, a music festival is also enlivening the village. This, too, is becoming an annual event. A series of 10, mostly classical, concerts takes place in spots around the village, including the church, the lake and the Place de la Halle.
Yesterday, while shopping in the market, we were treated to a quartet of four young men (they looked young to me, anyway) playing French variétés (popular songs from earlier eras) on trombones under the market hall.
We look forward to further concerts later in the week and hope the weather will hold for the ones held outside. If it could rain at night, that would be perfect.
Somebody below is clearly unmoved by all the festivities. I suspect this cat has been brought in for maintenance et récuperation.
Next week, the summer visitors will start to drift away. An autumnal air is already perceptible, enhanced by the heaps of dead leaves that have fallen early from distressed trees. The nights are noticeably drawing in.
It will soon be time to prepare for the winter: order the firewood, book the chimney sweep’s annual visit and resume all the garden tasks that the canicule made impossible. Then comes the season of long walks amid the turning leaves, crisp mornings and mellow days. My favourite season.
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