PIONSAT FETE DU VILLAGE SEPTEMBER 2008
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For those of you who remember my encounter with several groups of twirlers in St. Eloy back in June, the idea that there would be more of the same on offer at the Pionsat village carnival, or fête du village caused me to abandon an outing to a vintage vehicle show for a trip down the mountain to civilisation, or at least what passes for civilisation round these parts. And isn't three months a long time in twirling?
Everyone seemed to be meeting up at the old railway station at Pionsat for the traditional parade or defilé through the village. A parade is a long-standing feature of any village fête in France, and it isn't to be missed.
First out of the trap was going to be the marching band - all nicely dressed up in their Sunday finest.
The queue behind them seemed to get longer and longer so the point de rassemblage advanced slowly down the street to make sure that they could all fit in at the start without those at the end being squashed by the traffic on the main road.
My vantage point became threatened so I retreated down the street to another likely spec, where I was joined by my postwoman.
First out of the trap was the brass band, as predicted. They are the Chantelles de Bellenaves - Bellenaves being a town out on the road across from St. Eloy in a Vichy-type direction.
Second was the first group of dancing girls, and blow me if it wasn't Les Sybellules de St Gérard de Vaux!. The babies came first, led by Céline the monitor, who I had encountered at the do in St. Eloy back in June.
Next were the older girls, stopping every now and then for a quick twirl. And isn't three months a long time in twirling? The girls were wearing a much better outfit and had developed a much greater competence. They must have read my remarks from June and gone into intensive training over the summer!
Mind you, I still think that they can improve on the outfits that they are wearing. It's all pretty mainstream traditional fare. They really need someone with a good imagination to dress them up. maybe I should volunteer?
Mind you, at least the Sybellules were dancing down the street. They were followed by another group from June - the Twirling Batons of Aubière, and they were being driven down the street in an enclosed cart.
Dunno what you think, but there's not much point being in a parade if you aren't going to be strutting your stuff in front of the assembled multitudes.
I recognised Marie and Melissa sitting in the cart. Those two girls put on a show at the event at St. Eloy in June and could have done better at the time. It would have been interesting to see how they had evolved in the intervening 3 months.
It took a minute or two for it to sink in - Le Manège Enchanté. And then it hit me. Yes, the Magic Roundabout. By Serge Danot.
That was a French programme imported by the BBC and in contrast to the laid-back style of the BBC presenter who, knowing no French, narrated the story as he went along, the French version had each character with his own voice and was a cacophony of sound that I don't think that even fluent French speakers could follow.
The French thought that the BBC was actually extracting the urine over the programme, and were convinced that Dougal the dog was actually named in ... er ... honour of General de Gaulle. His name in French - it was Pollux. Well, it sounded like that anyway.
These kids were a group from a summer camp in the vicinity. Esther (who runs the Queue du Milan in the village) had two of her kids on the trailer. We were discussing that this kind of thing would never be allowed in the UK. I mean, there are no sides to the trailer and the kids aren't wearing seat belts. And I bet the driver of the tractor doesn't have a PCV licence. Health and Safety would have a field day with this lot.
Another band put in an appearance. This was Pionsat's own jazz band. But in contrast to the Chantelles de Bellenaves they were a bit of a disorganised rabble. I think personally that professionalism counts for a considerable amount in the performing arts.
Mind you, I have to admit that I was well-impressed with the drummer's mobile drum kit. I can safely say I haven't seen anything like this ever before.
Somewhere lurking in the distance were members of the Pionsat Cycling Club - otherwise known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. A far cry from the days in 1974 when a group of us - about 10 or 12 and including a couple of young ladies of the opposite sex - went to London for the World Speedway Finals, I met Johnny Boulger in a fish and chip shop, and to kill a few hours we went to see "Snow White and the Seven ... er ... Perverts". It was THAT kind of cinema. Ahhh well - I was young in those days.
And of course everyone knows that you can't have a carnival without having a carnival queen, suitably enthroned on the back of a tractor with an attendant in attendance.
Here, the aforementioned carnival queen takes last-minute instructions from her mum before the procession begins. Several of the Seven Dwarves and one Snow White loiter in the vicinity.
So having sorted that out, Her Highness gives the order to proceed. And off we go.
The queen reminds me of a story that I was once told many years ago about the events at a Buckingham Palace garden party, and an attendee was introduced to the Queen.
"And what do you do, my man?" asked Liz
"If it please Your Majesty, I'm a photographer" was the reply
"Oh what a coincidence! I have a brother-in-law who is a photographer" replied the Queen (you can see how old this story is)
"If it please Your Majesty, there's more of a coincidence than you think. I have a brother-in-law who is a queen."
Next to go are Snow White and her Seven Dwarves, although I think that there are only six there. Maybe Dozy has forgotten to show up for the event, but they seem to have acquired a witch instead.
I remember once going with Nerina to buy a broomstick to sweep the yard when we lived in Gainsborough Road. The shopkeeper asked me if he should wrap it. I told him not to bother - Nerina would probably want to ride it home.
It took me a while to work out who or what this float was supposed to represent - and it was the clerical gentleman who gave the game away. The only clerical gentleman I could think of in this kind of respect was Father Abraham, and so these must be the Smurfs. But they really are the most unlikely-looking Smurfs that I have ever seen. I thought that the Smurfs had blue faces. Or maybe it just wasn't cold enough. It certainly was a lovely day.
But then again, maybe they aren't the Smurfs at all. If you can think of whatever else they might be, . E- anyway. I like to interact with my audience.
And that was the end of the parade, descending the slope towards the square here at Pionsat. I suppose the calèche is there to pick up the kids who fall off the floats on their way down the hill. There's a much more relaxed attitude to life here in France - it suits me much more than being stuck in the UK.
But I was terribly disappointed that there was no Louis de Funès in the parade. Anyone who knows de Funès, without doubt the funniest comic actor that France has ever produced and of whom I am a big fan, will remember his series of Gendarmes films. They always ended with a defilé around St. Tropez, and I keep thinking that one day I should collect a group of half a dozen like-minded people, dress up as gendarmes, and attach ourselves to a parade somewhere.
I set out to follow the parade down to the village, trying not to dilly-dally on the way. But I need not have worried, as it ground to a halt a short way down the hill.
Her Highness was still refusing to smile for the camera, which was a shame. One thing I noticed around here, as I've said before is that people don't realise that they are an attraction and are here to entertain. Things go so much easier if you smile and look like you are enjoying it. Try it some time.
To while away the tome, some of the Twirling Batons d'Aubière descended from their carriage and entertained the multitude. Marie and Melissa must have seen me coming for they scampered back aboard, but this young lady bravely carried on.
About 30 seconds later she dropped her baton. It bounced over and landed almost at my feet, and I almost had the aforementioned young lady landing in my lap as she lost her balance trying to grab hold of it. It just wasn't my day, was it?
Meanwhile, up at the front, the baby Sybellules had started to relax and were beginning to enjoy themselves. So much so that one of them began an impromptu demonstration of twirling. Good for her!
This was exciting! The older girls made a sort-of platform out of their batons, persuaded one of the more gullible babies to stand on it, and then lifted her up. She wasn't so brave as to do it without holding on to anything, but she managed not to fall off and the other kids managed not to drop her.
It wouldn't work like that if it were me standing on the platform, as you can well imagine. Mind you, you lot would probably drop it deliberately.
By now they had all got into the swing of things. Céline the monitor led the babies in an impromptu dance around their older colleagues who at the same time were performing some kind of dance (the choregraphy hadn't improved any in the past 3 months). Much to my surprise, and that of everyone else, the older kids managed not to trample on one of the babies or drop a baton one of their heads.
And just look at the size of that guy's Euphoria "it's called a Euphonium, if that's what you mean" ... ed. Some of you know that I have played many Euphonium parts in classical and jazz music, and I don't need a Euphonium to do it either. I am usually at my best about an hour after a good vegetarian balti.
Eventually the parade set off again and people began to catch me up. The Magic Roundabout came around the corner, bringing with it Dougal, or Pollux, the Dog as you can see.
I still dunno why the French got so upset by Eric Thompson's narration and the name of the dog. In the French version, Dougal, or Pollux, spoke French with an outrageously camp English accent. No-one from Britain complained. But I suppose it could be that the irony was totally lost on the Brits.
The bunch from Esther's kids' summer holiday club came next, with them hurling bundles of confetti at the assembled multitudes.
You'll notice that there are two Supermen there. Either this cloning is going to ridiculous lengths or there's something to do with schitzophrenia occurring in superheroes these days. That's my excuse anyway. Esther and I agreed that if we were still living in the UK right now, my remarks would be censored, or censured even. One can't say "Superman" any more - it's "Superperson".
The Pionsat jazz band then struggled into view, looking more and more like a disorganised rabble. If you compare the earlier pic of them with this one, there are several members missing. Well, there were a couple of bars along the route we had taken to get here.
I'm not quite sure who these two are supposed to be, or what they are supposed to represent. If you have any idea,
By now we were down to 5 dwarves and no Snow White, although the Wicked Witch of the West or whatever she was called was still with the parade. Obviously having broomstick issues. Had it been in working order, she'd have probably piddled off into the ether a long time ago.
Last but not least were the Smurfs and Father Abraham. At least they were having fun. I decided that I would wander off from here and go to watch the football. It's not every day that Pionsat is playing at home.
J'ai davantage de photos du defilè de la fête patronale de Pionsat. E pour plus d'infos.