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It's midday.....

May 24, 2019


One of the things about French life that takes quite a bit of getting used to, for a Kiwi anyway, is the midday closedown. The town clock strikes twelve, and its peals have barely finished when the noise of shutters being dropped and doors being locked is unmistakeable. I have even been in the store, when Madam bustles towards me, flapping her hands and saying in an authoritative voice "Nous sons ferme, Madam. Ouverte a deux heures." Maybe, I think darkly, if you can be bothered or haven't had a better offer! As I make my way out onto the street again, it is as if there has been an Armageddon while I have been otherwise engaged. Not even a lacy curtain quivers. The streets are deserted, except maybe a lone few, rushing away with baguettes or supermarket baskets tucked under their arms. It's midday, that sacred part of the day when France lunches. Nothing stirs.The houses are all quiet, shutters closed, and the only indication that anyone is still alive comes from the smells that waft out - garlic and onions cooking, coffee brewing, apples stewing. If you haven't got your lunch food by now, it's too late, unless you want to join the people queuing for a steaming plate of cassoulet or a Croque Monsieur at the local cafe. Even the supermarket and boulangerie (bakery) close. I got to thinking over my bread and pate in the apartment, that there is a lot of sense in this maddening tradition. Even the French kids are guided home from school by Maman, to a good home-cooked lunch, before being delivered back for afternoon session at 2pm. They will be well fed, brains functioning on high energy load again, ready to learn in a manner that Kiwi teachers will tell you our kids learn early in the day. And, as the family is very important here, Papa may have been home for lunch too, giving the family a time of connection during the day. Because the big meal is eaten in the middle of the day, it has had time to digest properly before bedtime. You don't see many fat French people..... just saying. They tend to be the British folk well integrated into the French villages in the south here, or tourists like us gorging on the 380 varieties of cheese, and the daily fresh bread offerings! During the lunch two-hours, all is quiet and serene - there are few cars on the road outside our apartment which is usually a through road to all the outlying villages so is quite busy. The tractors stop, another thing that trundles past frequently with a lot of noise. As our friend who has been visiting said, "Where do all the tractors come from?" Behind the roller doors of the big sheds dotted around. This is not farming a la Kiwi - the tractors and their drivers live in town, not on the farm. They trundle through town on their way to the fields on the outskirts, causing mayhem at certain times of the year, in a race to the co-operative to dump their grapes - but that's another story!

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