Another good restaurant: L’Abricotier

Marion writes:  At “L’Abricotier” in Saint Macaire, we enjoyed an excellent three course lunch, really home-cooked too, for 23€. Very pleasant surroundings : and a quietly stylish service. The lower dining-room opens onto a pretty garden, and there is a large outside terrace for summer eating under the shade of mulberry trees. The owners-chef have been there for 30 years. Address : 3, Rue François Bergoeing (not a spelling mistake !), 33490 Saint Macaire (just off the main Langon – Cadillac road). It’s a good idea to book : 0556768363. Private car park.

Richard O’Neill

Marion writes:
It is with great sadness that we have to announce the recent death of our friend and Branch Treasurer, Richard O’Neill. He would have been seventy-five on the 2nd of October.
A founder member of OUS Southwest France, Richard rarely missed a committee meeting, and was as meticulous in the planning of events as in keeping the Branch accounts. His jocular approach to life, and to his own problems in particular, could not really mask his shrewd intelligence, courage, and concern for others.
After attending Portsmouth Grammar School, Richard went up to Oriel in 1960 where he read Physics. After a short spell as a stockbroker, he joined the family insurance firm. But his real vocation was elsewhere. He joined the 1st Battalion of the Wessex Regiment (Territorial Army) and served as a reserve officer. During a mission in the first Gulf War, an injury left him with a damaged leg which later had to be amputated. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
At one of the first events organized by the Branch (a dinner with the Chancellor), Richard met John Allsop (Christ Church 1956) who had recently taken on the work of co-ordinating the activities of the Royal British Legion in southwest France. He was looking for a Treasurer and Richard immediately accepted the job, doing the RBL’s accounts up until a fortnight before his death.
Having been injured himself, he was particularly concerned by the fate of wounded soldiers and their families, and he supported a charity « Help for Heroes » which works to relieve their moral, physical and financial difficulties. His two sons feel  he would have appreciated that any donations made in his memory should go to this charity.
 
Marion has emailed members on this last subject.
John Baylis, Marion Tempé, John Perry, Pip Kirby

The Bonjour Effect reviewed by Fiona MacKenzie

Our first book review on the site: many thanks to OUS SW France member, Fiona McKenzie. The book was offered to Marion for review by the publishers Duckworth.

Review – The Bonjour Effect

By Julie Barlow & Jean-Benoit Nadeau

Published by Duckworth Overlook, July 2016

The Bonjour Effect by the husband and wife team of Canadian writers, Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow is an intriguing guide to understanding what the French are really saying. It’s written on the premise that even if you think you’re pretty fluent in French, the simple literal translation can leave out many of the cultural and societal nuances that hide behind the words.

Nadeau and Barlow have a good track record in tackling the complexities of France and the French. The authors of Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong and The Story Of French, they’ve lived and travelled extensively in France and French-speaking countries, and for their latest book, they spent a year living in Paris with their two young daughters from 2013 to 2014.

They start with one of the most familiar French words, ‘Bonjour’. Getting this wrong can lead to some very Gallic cold-shoulders. After eleven years living in the South West of France I dare not board a bus, buy an apple, walk into a bar, or sit down in a doctor’s waiting room, without saying Bonjour. Many of my French friends who have small businesses frequently complain about how rude the English tourists are – walking into their shops without even saying ‘bonjour’, rummaging through the racks, and walking out again without saying ‘Merci, au revoir’. For the leaving is as important as the arriving (something which sadly Nadeau/Barlow miss out in their chapter on Bonjour).

This is most definitely not a book to help you improve your French in the sense of a language/grammar guide book, although the authors did originally set out to write a learners’ guide called “How to Speak to the French in Twelve Easy Chapters.” Somewhat disarmingly, they confess that they departed from this structure because they, “met fascinating people, had surprising experiences, and ended up with lots of stories to tell.” And that’s exactly what makes this book a pleasure – the amazing number of anecdotes and observations on current French society from sexual mores to politics to business to education. Nadeau and Barlow then add in a layer of anthropological, linguistic, and historical details that make this book a fascinating exploration of French as spoken by the French.

It’s great to read alongside a fellow Francophile as the temptation to interrupt them in their activities and share nuggets of information is overpowering. As a life-long enthusiast with a view that my cup is always half full, I was puzzled by the French always moaning. But I now know why my French friends thought my enthusiasm was ‘charming but quaint’. In their eyes, ‘being happy seems naïve’. As the authors put it: “Overt pessimism has an elegant anti-establishment quality about it, like wearing all black.”

Concepts like ‘terroir’, the French obsession with food, the importance of philosophy for the French, how they approach education and raise their children, getting to grips with French identity (and the current issues surrounding racism in France) – all find a place in this book.

I wish it had been written before I came to live in France eleven years ago. Some things I’ve learned through trial and error, but some things – despite speaking pretty fluent French – have passed me by, and this book provides a brilliant explanation of aspects of French life and culture that for me, had got ‘lost in translation.’

Fiona McKenzie

August 2016

Meeting OUBC, January 3rd 2016.

Once again, thanks to Jeremy James, thirteen members and partners were able to meet the Boat Race crew during their annual training period at Le Temple-sur-Lot.

This was the third year for this event.   The day went, as always, extremely well.   Jeremy started it because he knew that OUBS trained on the Lot (one of the main rivers of southwestern France) every January and thought that it might be fun for both sides.

OUBC has already said how much the annual event is appreciated and that it looks forward to repeating it in 2017.   It is an unfailingly delightful occasion much enjoyed by both sides, as the photo below testifies (click on it to enlarge)!

OUBC Le Temple 2016
OUBC Le Temple 2016

Pomerol

Our party of wine enthusiasts started the first cold day of the season (14th October) in the noisy sobriety of the barrel-making factory, Tonnellerie Sylvain. It might sound boring, but in fact, for some at least it was the highlight of the day, using mainly manual labour to work centuries-old oak from France’s public forests into some 33,000 barrels a year, 70% for export. Of course, given that all had been arranged by Marion and Pip, we did not lack for an inventive and appetising lunch at Catusseau or miss a well-organised tasting of fine Merlot (plus a little Cab. Sav.) at Château Clinet with its new vats and energetic marketing.

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Toulouse Cruise

Nearly forty members and friends took to the locks of Toulouse on board the Occitania. As cruises go, this was not overwhelmingly sybaritic for either scenery (a lot of 60s HLMs/tower blocks, the Police Station and Haute Garonne Conseil Général’s Valhalla) or weather (how could Toulouse only muster 20 degrees on July 30th?).

But, and it’s a big but, we had a jolly good meal (with cruise booze of course) and most of all great company of our own making (typical of OUS SW France as a member noted), spiced up with good humoured local information from Pierre, our Captain for the day.

There were too many factoids for your webmaster to remember, except perhaps the enormous growth of Toulouse over the last ten years and the century plus that passed between the construction of the two canals linking the Atlantic and the Med.

We turned round in the basin where the Midi meets the Canal de Garonne and the Canal de la Brienne, and so our lock count for the day was six. All in fact a great success and our thanks to Pip for all the labours involved in getting it together with a not wholly responsive cruise company – evidently the only one offering serious catering on the whole canal.

 

Pierre locks on
Pierre locks on
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We are ready, listening 

 

Around the basin
Around the basin

 

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The Canal de Garonne begins here