Nothing New Under The Sun…

As the French economy turned down and the votes for the Front National turned up the Sarkozy government thought best to draw the fangs of the FN by starting a debate about what it was to be French, which roused a great deal of noise and fury but arrived at no conclusions.

Waste of time, of course: any reader of the Daily Mail has the answer on the tip of the tongue….
Eats snails, has unsavoury urinatory habits in the male (possible link?) and makes improper use of hand and head when playing football.

And there was even an answer in France among – the beaufs – not that they would be listened to as not having passed the portals of the Grandes Ecoles, except as labourers…..
Anyone born in France who is not a bougnoul.

A bougnoul?

Someone of North African descent, now extended to anyone darker skinned than the average non bougnoul Frenchman.

The word might be relatively modern….probably from the colonisation of Algeria….but the sentiment is not.

I would often be included in the boules party at Jules’ place when walking the dogs in the evening, followed by the glass or two at the kitchen table, mustard glasses on the oilcloth and a plate of biscuits put out but left untouched.
They were the sign that we were not alcoholics….just there for the booze…but they remained untouched.

Jules was recounting a run in he had had with a man who had bought one of his sheep and was reluctant to pay for it….a man from the next commune just over the departmental line.

His wife was not surprised. She certainly wouldn’t have dealt with the man.

Who is it, I asked, curiosity being my besetting sin.

That man out at Humeau….you know…does eau de vie and honey.

Yes, I did. Sold under cover eau de vie at higher prices to foreigners.

Not that you can trust any of that lot out there, she continued. They all have the ‘teint bazane’. (acute accent on the final e).

Teint bazane? Swarthy.
Not, in my view, noticably so compared with their neighbours on this side of the departmental line…but enlightenment was at hand.

Descended from the Saracens beaten by Charles Martel at Poitiers! They ran and hid in the forests and there they are today!

Given that this was in the 1980s and the battle of Poitiers was in 732 that seemed a mighty feat of folk memory. Clearly these early immigrants from North Africa had about the same level of appreciation as did the later wave of new arrivals.

Further to the south, a commune bears a name referring to a legend concerning the same flight of the defeated from the battlefield…..St. Sauveur de Givre en Mai – Holy Saviour of Frost in May.

Legend has it that a band of Saracens holed up in the local church in the month of May some six months after the battle, defying all efforts to dislodge them.
Eventually they made an agreement…if there was frost overnight, they would surrender.
Coming from southern climes, they could not imagine such a thing, but, lo and behold when they emerged the next morning, the ground was covered in frost and the trees were white.
They marched out with the honours of war…to leave the village in peace.

Ancestors of the honey man at Humeau? Who knows.

Ah! Say those who know their rural France…the Saracens had not reckoned with the Saints de Glace…the Ice Saints.
St. Mamert, feast day on May 11th; St. Pancrace, feast day on May 12th; St. Servais, feast day on May 13th.
One of the first things I was warned of by my neighbours when moving to France was not to let the sudden warmth of spring go to my head in the garden.
On top of not casting clouts I had to beware of the ‘lune rousse’ in April and May when the sudden chill risked burning the young shoots and the Ice Saints.

Only when their three feast days had passed should I even think of planting out the tomatoes….

As in the case of the sheep, a financial reversal can bring up all sorts of reactions, and racism is one of them.
Nothing new under the icy skies of the economic lune rousse.


38 thoughts on “Nothing New Under The Sun…”

  1. In the words of that famous Russian actor, Gerard Depardieu: “I am leaving because you believe success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned” ..and that “anything different” regrettably extends very far.

    1. You don’t have to look very far for attitudes owing more to a sense of powerlessness than anything else, that make it welcome to find someone further down the ladder than yourself to kick to relieve your frustrations.

  2. Sad, but true.
    And I recall an old saying “cast not a clout til May be out.” And another that, more prosaically, warned not to sow seed til ye can sit yer bare arse on the soil.

  3. And my father’s fact; the latest recorded frost where we lived: June 7th. My brother-in-law would not be swayed by this fact relayed from the depths of my memory. When he was out of town and my sister and I were tromping through the cold dirt puting paper caps on the tomatos he just had to plant in May I considered letting the damn things freeze. We froze, the tomatos never overcame their terminal case of frozen toe. I believe 48 plants produced eight or ten tomatos that year.

  4. I have never heard of the ice saints but they seem to represent good advice. I have lost tomato plants to May frosts here. I have also heard them called blackberry frosts by someone in the USA.

    1. Most of my first neighbours planted by the moon and whatnot and were very quick to warn me of the lune rousse and the ice saints….there were various sayings about rain in summer too which might pop back into my head at some point.

  5. Ice saints are brilliant. I am going to refer to them when justifying not planting out as soon as there is a warm day, even if the neighbours seem to be working much harder than me on their plots. I will remain serene, and say Helen told me to ” Beware the Ice saints”. Jx

  6. My ex-h’s grandmother used to warm me not to go cardi-less before the end of April (en avril ne te découvre pas d’un fil, en mai fais ce qu’il te plaît), except that she lived in chilly Metz, and we lived in sunny, warm Montpellier.
    Naturally, I ignored her, and often caught a cold… when out too long.

  7. One of the first things we got told when we moved here was to beware of les saintes des glaces. There was then a stunned silence as we indicated that we weren’t, in the sort term, putting in a potager …. Only very very slightly redeemed by the fact that we were planting fruit trees! 🙂

    1. Yes, I can imagine the shock horror response….if you hadn’t redeemed yourselves with the fruit trees there would have been a lot of long term head shaking and teeth sucking whenever your names were mentioned in the locality…

  8. With a light touch, you cover such a range of heavy subjects, Helen, along with that all important scattering of good, practical advice albeit based on fascinating legend.
    We could do worse than reviving the conflict-deciding process used by those Saracens…assuming one knows the local climate a little better, of course!

  9. You do know that all persons outside of England make unfair use of hand and head don’t you? Maradona being the classic of course.

    As for the May quotation, from one of your earlier commenters, interesting how it gets interpreted as the month or the tree.

    There are similar sayings (refrans or whatever the spelling is) in Spanish which I never remember.

    As for your title, reminds me of a television film thing I did with a BBC2 person regarding health and safety in the fairground industry (I think).

    ‘Nothing new under the sun in journalism,’ she said, years older than me. She was right.

    1. I remember the ban on bringing hawthorn blossom and by association white lilac into the house when a child.
      Father put it down to a survival of the annual slaughter of the king of the sacred grove as described in The Golden Bough.

  10. I hadn’t heard of the ice saints before, what a good excuse for laziness in the garden. When we first moved to this house we had trouble with a neighbour who claimed as as we were English we didn’t understand the ways of the country, the dispute eventually went to the mayor who shrugged, went ‘Bof!’ and said, ‘Oh he’s not like us, he’s from the North.’
    We, who come from much further north, appeared to pass the test, but then we buy the mayor’s wine.

  11. I too was brought up to the mantra of Ne’er cast a clout and from what I can see our elderly Norman neighbours rarely cast one even in midsummer. We’ve been saved from the admonitions about the ice saints and planing by the moon by only being there in the summer, but resident British friends have even been known to buy the lunar planing diaries you can get. Talk about integration….

  12. I watched an earnest programme on German TV this morning about political correctness vis a vis sexism and racism. Middle class, educated people bending over backwards to show their liberal credentials.

    What they need is to get out among the hoi polloi and listen. Should I send them to you?

    Personally, I love vox populi, particularly when it comes to ice saints and such. Why can’t we have these old saws and folk beliefs in the UK? All we have is the Daily Mail.

    Am I showing my own prejudices here?

    1. Well, I remember a lot of old saws and sayings from my grandparents…mostly to do with crops and weather…so it was good to add French ones to it.
      I haven’t been here long enough to know what might be lurking by way of saws and sayings, but I’m seeing a friend’s grandfather in the week and I’ll be asking this venerable gentleman what he knows on the subject.
      Just hoping the Spanish is up to the reply!

      As to people bending over backwards to show their liberal credentials….peer pressure forces it.
      Say, like George Galloway, that you don’t recognise the state of Israel and watch the solids hit the fan!

      Peer pressure among those who feel themselves deprived…let down by their own system… have their own form of peer pressure, often coming out in nationalism and racism.

      Such is the divide in our societies that the two groups do not interact.

      Personally I’m a culturist.

    1. Well, from 732 takes the biscuit…but I’ve had several references to the burning of Joan of Arc…not to speak of Mers el Kebir, and Dunkirk…Suez of course…and Maggie’s handbag.

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