Palm Sunday (Rameaux) From Both Sides

Palm Sunday started on Saturday with a rare service at our 12th century church, St Clair’s, in Nouzerines. It’s seldom open so we make sure we go to every event that’s held there to show our support for this wonderful building.

The service was taken entirely by lay preachers. In generally pedantic and rule-following France, that was something of a surprise. Generally everything has to be done by someone with proper qualifications in triplicate. I guess that there’s not enough priests to go around any more.

Another surprise was that Chris was asked to carry the cross in the opening procession. Stéphanie, who led the service, pounced as we came in the door. Chris was delighted to be asked, but a little embarrassed since he, Rors and I had cycled down, so he was wearing cycling longs and a bright yellow cycling jacket. He removed the latter – to reveal his very old Denis the Menace jumper! But nobody seemed to mind his unconventional appearance and he did a very good job. The cross, a jug of water and a picture of Jesus were left on the altar.

The most interesting feature of the ceremony was the blessing of buis, boxwood or box elder, at the end. Those in the know, that is everyone except us, had come clutching a generous spray of it. There was a basket with some in at the door for people who’d either forgotten or never known to bring their own. The water from the jug, which was blessed during the service, was emptied into the font at the end. Then as people went out, they dipped their buis into the font, gave it a little shake and took the damp shrub home to display in the house over Easter.

Today, the day itself, we saw the secular side of Easter preparation celebrations. It was the school chasse d’oeufs, Easter Egg hunt, this year at the stadium in Nouzerines. We cycled down again and were nearly late since I had to do a last minute bike swap due to a puncture. It was its usual happy and disorganised chaos. Rors found five eggs and claimed his prize.

It was a fundraising do, naturally, but I was happy to buy the two very impressing objets (objects) – that’s how the teachers described them! – that Ruadhri had painstakingly made. Rors isn’t a great one for crafting so these took real application and dedication on his part. First there’s a noteholder with a wonderful pin and cotton éolienne (windmill). Rors chose to do the background in my favourite colour blue and added some pretty ribbon round the edge.

And the other gift was a tissue holder made from layers of card and wallpaper. I’m mega impressed and now have high expectations for what’s coming my way on Fête des Mères at the end of May. And that one will be free!

Installing the Crèche at Nouzerines

For starters, here’s a picture of my in my moment of glory at the carol service!

Photo provided by Wendy Collier-Parker

Today we were at Nouzerines church. Every year, to coincide with the Marché de Noël in the village, there’s a small service aimed at the children to install the crèche. There’s a different theme every year. We’ve had tents and wool in the past. This year it was lanterns. Rors and I rustled up a few paper ones, simple but effective.

I had my camera with me for the first time in the church so I made the most of the opportunity to take some photos of this wonderful old building. Parts of it date from the 12th century. It began life as a priory founded by the Abbey of Déols and there’s a reference to it as “prior de Nozerinis 1201”. The Condé princes took it over from the abbey, and then in 1627 it passed to the Lords of Nouzerines, the de Bridiers, and from them to the de Ligondés. Then the King decided he should have a shot at ownership of it in the 18th century, but, because of the Revolution, not for long.

Up until this point it was called St Clérence, and this saint’s body is buried in the church. However the name changed to St Clair’s and that’s what it’s known as today. Just down the road is St Clair’s miraculous spring which apparently has the ability to cure eye diseases.

It’s a beautiful church. I’ve blogged about it before since we’re in the middle of much-needed renovations for it. The tower has been replaced but there’s lots more to do still. Here’s the old weather vane, lurking in a corner of the church.

And here’s the crucifix and a statue of St Anthony.

The crèche was beautiful. During the service we all put lighted candles in and around it – always slightly worrying – and the lanterns went in front of it. We had a guitarist this year and it made the ceremony even more enjoyable. It turns out this was the mysterious guitarist who appeared at our carol rehearsal the other week!

At the end the children gathered for a photo. That’s Rors in the yellow coat, looking pensive.

I spotted this plaque on the wall, referring to the benefactor who paid for the bells to be electrified in 1963.

The Beaufils family have a lot of connections with our home, Les Fragnes. They lived here for quite a long while. In St Anne’s church in Boussac, there’s a plaque commemorating the fallen from the Second World War. André Beaufils is listed. We had an André Beaufils here. I wonder if it’s the same man, and if Reine was his widow. Time I went back to the archives in Gueret. The electric carillon referred to in the plaque was removed during the renovations and replaced. Chris and I found the old one at the back of the church one day while waiting for Rors to come home on the school bus. Here it is. This must be what Mme Beaufils paid for. It lasted nearly 50 years.

Père Noël, this year accompanied by Mère Noël (something I shall never get the hang of – there wasn’t a Mrs Claus when I was a kid and it was better that way!), came down to the church for the candle lighting. This added another element of anxiety since he had a very large, nylony beard. He brought a big basket of sweets with him which were much appreciated! It was a very enjoyable occasion and I’m even starting to feel a little bit Christmassy at last.





Can’t see the point

In an earlier post (, I talked about the work which was about to start on the 12th century church, St Clair’s, in Nouzerines. The bell tower was in urgent need of restoring, as were the frescoes inside and the gargoyles. St Clair’s will be getting a ‘paratonnerre’ – a lightning conductor. (I think ‘paratonnerre’ is a great word, but my all-time favourite French word is still ‘trombinoscope’ – that’s a collection of files or photos of members of an association. Sadly it’s not one you can toss into many conversations!)

Well, the community pulled together and got enough initial funds raised to get the ball rolling. So work began last November when the scaffolding was put up. It took six weeks. Chris and I walk down to Nouzerines school every morning with Ruadhri, our youngest, as he gets on the school bus there. (By making this 2.5 km walk each way, we save him an extra half an hour on the bus. OK, the walk takes 25 minutes but we’re still 5 minutes ahead! But more importantly it keeps the three of us in shape. We cycle most of the year, but over winter it’s just too blooming cold.) So we saw the progress, day by day by day.

I was sorely tempted to shin up and take some photos from the top of the scaffolding once it was finished. It wasn’t shut off or anything! Apparently the Maire went up and took pictures. I hope he makes those available to everyone. They’d be stunning.

Since Christmas a new team has moved in and vaporised the steeple. This photo shows it very clearly!

You’ll notice the weather vane abandoned at the very top. That’s how much steeple has gone. There was a plan to sell the slates from the roof, but at the same time as the roof dematerialised, a large pile of slates appeared at the side of the road along our daily walking route. I’m pretty sure they’re the same ones. Looks like someone forgot about that particular fundraiser!

I’ll finish with an update concerning dogs. The dog we found on Saturday ran off on Monday while we were walking her, and shortly afterwards we met the hunters who’d lost her. They were a bit vague as to why they hadn’t come round on Sunday to collect her from us! Anyway, they gave us a nice chunk of fresh venison for dog-minding, or attempting to. Then yesterday, another stray turned up, literally on our doorstep. He was a small mongrel, very hungry and nervous. He made himself at home, but not for long. His young owners showed up, having been told that Les Fragnes was something of an unofficial dog sanctuary these days! Here’s our second stray of the week.

And finally, Caiti made me a belated 100th blogaversary cake to celebrate my milestone 100th post the other day! It was even more delicious than it looked. I’ll put the recipe up soon so keep an eye out for that.