Monday, 25 June 2012

Caunes Alone


A couple of nights ago I went to the  Caunes Jazz Club.
My last visit was to see an incredibly talented flautist Jeroen Pek and amazing bass player Lilian Bencini. I am not a jazz aficionado, I find it quite difficult and don’t always enjoy the battle to access the music. However, these two were brilliant, and although I didn’t understand the technicalities  of what was going on, I loved it.

This offering was decidedly lightweight in comparison,  perhaps perfect for a pleasant summer’s evening…..but not for me. I knew quite quickly that I would probably not stay too long.
instead of being in le caveau, under the abbey, in the summer, the jazz club is held out side, in a lovely covered garden, wine flowing freely.
I sat down, with a glass of red wine and struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me.
On hearing that I had a home in Hebden Bridge, she asked me if I knew her friend Susan. It came as a shock to her that the population of our little Yorkshire town means  it is unlikely I would know Susan……and that I didn’t.

She and her husband had just bought a house in the Black Mountains, presumably as an investment, as they do not intend to live in it. It was difficult to work out where they lived, as they mentioned houses in Turkey, Florida and San Paolo.
Did I make assumptions about her based on her cut glass accent ? or was it the condescending look she gave me when I responded to her questions about how I managed to fill my time ( gardening, reading, swimming, enjoying the village, entertaining family and friends, meeting new people……). Apparently she thought the English only moved to France to further their hobbies, like writing or painting.

There were other gems that struck me as horribly clich├ęd Brit ex pat speak.
For the first time I recognised the…….” I would not choose to exchange views with this person in other circumstances. It is purely that she is English and we can converse in the same language that is prolonging this exchange.”

So, I left the jazz club, determined that I would feel confident enough, next time, to position myself next to French speakers, and not find myself tied up with people with whom I have nothing in common, except  the English language.

This is probably the first negative experience I have had whilst being alone in Caunes….but I enjoyed the wine, I enjoyed the walk back to the house, and I enjoyed sitting  back on my terrace, another glass of wine in my hand, listening to the crickets and watching the swifts and bats swoop. I probably wont start the novel tomorrow…..
the terrace, from which I will probably not write a novel or paint a masterpiece.

33 comments:

  1. Never mind, Janice.
    Ther are people like this everywhere, one set of our neighbours in the UK are typical. Fotunately the others set are fanastic!
    At least you'll have the radar tuned for the net time you come across this woman oranyone similar.

    Well one for being brave enough to go to the club alone. I'm not certain I'd have been brave enough.

    Better luck next time...

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    1. P.S. we love jazz so if we only lived nearer ...

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    2. The club has got a good reputation, and I think the serious stuff happens in the winter and spring. The people that organise it are great, one of them is a neighbour, and has made me very welcome. J.

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    3. Hi Janice, I bumped into your very flattering words about me. thanx a million. I played after that night in the south a couple of times more since i live also near minerve. this summer again with guitarist gerard pansanel in bize minervois. hope to meet yoy there. ciao jeroen pek. www.jeroenpek.nl

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    4. Hello Jeroen, it is lovely to hear from you. My words were not flattering....just true. I had a wonderful time that night in Caunes, I will certainly watch out for you and Gerard. J.

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    5. Hi Janice, I played in Caunes Minervois last April 28 in Jazz au Caveau Gerard Pansanel and Giulia Valle (from Barcelona). Not sure if you were there. Last September I played in Tournebelle with Bencini and Sebastien Germain. I play in Domain St. Michel Archange in Bize Minervois on 17 August with Gerard Pansanel and bassplayer Charles Calamel.
      Hope to meet you there.
      If you send me your e mail adress I can keep you informed.
      Take care, Jeroen
      jeroenpek@online.nl

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  2. We are only here for a short time why not be more friendly and kind to each other. They knew you were on your own, why could they not have encompassed you more. That sort of person seems to be on a put down all of the time. Must have chips on their shoulders.
    You may not have started the novel, but you do write, and little did she know that her persona would be circulating around the blogosphere today!!! The last laugh is yours.

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    1. Now, I hadn't thought of that. Blogging does give you some power doesn't it. I think I was just shocked, in that this was the ugly Brit that I had heard about, but so far not come across.

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  3. Hi Janice,
    Just trying this out. That woman sounds a pain and typical of the Brit types that frequent the S of France. Which is one reason why most of our friends were French when we lived there. Will you let me know if I have done this right. I have a glass of fizz in one hand and the brain is a bit addled from fraught phone calls today. x

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    1. Thanks for perservering at making a comment Charlotte. Most of the people I've met here have been great....very friendly and welcoming ...this woman just made me realise that I dont have to like people just because they speak English.
      Hope your fraught phone calls have resolved themselves. Enjoy the bubbly. We must get together again in September. J xxx

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  4. With so many nice immigrants and second homers what bad luck you landed on this one!

    There are some real pains in the proverbial about...but you can safely ignore them as while their opinion of themselves is impervious to criticism, their opinion on any other matter can be safely disregarded as being worthless.

    The club sounds fun...I'm not a jazz fiend but 'jazz light' now and again is pleasant..good for you for going down on your own.

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    1. Thanks Fly. I think I've met enough of the local population now to know that if I wander down into the village I am more or less bound to find someone to say hello to. I just need to be more confident about holding more than just a "ca va ? " conversation with people. I'm getting there !

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  5. Shame you had to find 'one of those' Brits in YOUR village! It happens - it pays to really work on your French (or Spanish in my case.)

    I would have loved the open-air jazz as I love all types of music, (except house and disco!) and have been to several fantastic French concerts in years gone by. They do seem to do them rather well. Caunes sounds to have a bit of everything - keep on enjoying! Axxx

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    1. I wont let it put me off Annie....at least I know as she wont be living in her new house, I probably wont bump into her again.
      I'll give most kinds of music a go......was even known to appreciate disco.....in my time.( Am I allowed to admit though, that I dont really know what house is ?) The Caunes classical concerts start next week. They are held in the grounds of the abbey, and should be good.I will certainly be going to them, and choosing my interval companions by something other than just what language they speak. Jxxx

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  6. I have two friends called Susan who live in the Hebden Bridge area so I might have had more in common with her...but somehow I very much doubt it!

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    1. It would have been easy to add several more obnoxious things she said, but it would have made for a very tedious post. The lesson has been learned. Speaking the same language doesn't mean we need to be friends.
      I'm sure your Susans in Hebden Bridge are lovely...hope their homes weren't flooded out last Friday.Actually, I hope her Susan's house wasn't flooded either. J

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  7. I'd like to say I have TEN friends in Hebden, all called Susan; but I haven't.

    Unfortunately I know dozens of ex-pats who collect friends simply because they speak English. People you normally wouldn't cross the road to speak to suddenly become bosom pals just because they speak the same language. No thanks; I keep well clear!

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    1. Good advice....lesson learned. J.

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  8. Oooh what a pain - lucky you won't see here again. Sadly she won't remember meeting you. You on the other hand can consign her memory under the heading of "it'll be a learning experience" - do you remember using that phrase when you were working? Usually to describe something difficult. Ritual binning is called for. Celia x

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    1. Yes, I clearly remember relabelling disasters as learning opportunities. Too many good things are happening for me to dwell on this for too long though. I'm still not sure whether your' choir achieved the record you were out for, loved the video ! Take care, J.x

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  9. How very unfortunate Janice that you shouid find yourself sitting next to this particular type of ex-pat. We get them here too and after a while you manage to recognise the signs and avoid them like the plague. In fact I've avoided groups of expats for years. You can always manage to find some that are like-minded though and they tend to become good friends. It's absolutely true that we can find ourselves in lengthy conversations with people like this, when we know we wouldn't even pass the time of day with them back in the UK.

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    1. Everything you say is true, the whole episode would have been easier if I hadn't been on my own. If Mark and I had been there together, we would have just moved somewhere else, or at least I could have talked to him, rather than be trapped in a conversation with such a snob. I just hope the French people I have met here in Caunes never think of me the way i thought of her.

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  10. Ooh, you are lucky to have a jazz club in Caunes. Maybe not so lucky in your inadvertent choice of tablemate. Anyone who moves here from the UK must have had that experience at least once!

    A few years ago we made considerable efforts to include a British couple who'd bought a house in our village in social events on the rare occasions they were here. They kept saying they wanted to speak French and meet the neighbours, but actually ... they didn't. They spoke some French, but they didn't want to be caught out making mistakes when speaking, so they avoided Francophone events and would barely utter a word if they did get caught up in one. I had the impression they thought most of our neighbours were peasants, and left-wing ones at that :)

    We spent a couple of pleasant anglophone evenings with them, but we soon learned to avoid topics such as politics and immigration, if you see what I mean ... they would say such objectionable things we had to bite our tongues. In the end we had to "un-know them" as a friend describes it. Luckily they eventually sold the house.

    Anyway, the majority of British immigrants I've met in this area aren't like that, so you were just unlucky. It's not a very trendy or well-known area, so I think you tend to get people who have put some thought into their move and want to put down roots.

    Incidentally, I have bumped into someone at a village event here who happened to know our former neighbours in the Cotswolds, so it does happen :)

    Oh, and PS I'm singing in one of those classical concerts! (Cantate sans filet a week on Friday). So I'd be happy to say hi if you are planning on going. I promise I won't ask how the novel's coming along :)

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  11. oh dear, I got carried away -- my comment is as long as your post! Sorry.

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    1. I guess if we're honest, there are loads of people we would prefer to avoid in the UK, for exactly the reasons you state. When you know you have to avoid certain topics to avoid WW3 you know its best to escape. I do know that most people I've met here, locals and comers in seem really great. Anyway, I am intending to come to the Friday concerts...so hope to see you there. Dont apologise for a long comment..I am thrilled when anyone takes the time to comment at all...thanks very much.

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    2. Hi Janice

      I can't find another way to contact you, so posting here ... will you be at the Cantate sans filet tomorrow? We could meet up afterwards if we know how to spot each other :) You can email me at veronica@larecettedujour.org I'm probably not staying for the main concert though.

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  12. Good for you for going to the jazz club and enjoying some of it, Janice.

    There are people like this snobbish woman whom I prefer to avoid here in the States. Sat next to one of them the other day - at a neighborhood graduation party! It is much better to be an ambassador of goodwill, and you are the perfect example of that.

    How I would love to sit on that lovely terrace - and not write a novel or paint a masterpiece.

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    1. You would be very welcome Penny, and if your travels ever get you to this part of the world, I would love to show you the honey coloured 11th century abbey that you can see from the terrace. J

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  13. Poor Janice. Women (and men) like that are to be found everywhere, even in our very rural bit of Normandy and one soon learns to give them a wide berth. Thankfully most of the people I meet are much nicer. I wonder what she would have said/looked if I'd met her and said I come to France to read the local newspaper, listen to French radio and knit socks....:-)

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    1. I'm no longer upset about it Perpetua, recognising, it was no big deal, and that I have met so many lovely people out here. I was shocked more than upset , even at the time.... this ugly ex-pat person really did exist, not a myth after all.
      I haven't knitted any socks since I've been here, but I have crocheted a couple of cot covers.... I forgot to tell her that.
      I hope you are well settled back in Normandy and enjoying the radio, the papers and the knitting.

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  14. Janice...sorry about your encounter with that lady....we have lots of them here. I find that when visitors from the UK come here on vacation some of them are are snobby..... I've heard this remark from lots of friends. I just don't know why. But I guess it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round and most of them are nice people I believe.
    Your veranda and garden look very pretty with the flowers......nice place to read your novel with a glass of wine. :-)

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    1. I am certainly enjoying my terrace. It is shaded during the heat of the day, and has a gorgeous view over the village with its 11th century abbey. I could quite happily sit there all day ! J.

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    2. Must be an amazing view with the 11th century Abbey....I just love anything that is old. I guess everything here is not really old, my husband coming from Turkey laughs at our old 100 year old towns. I just love Europe and always think I wonder what is was like in those days and what were the people doing in their lives in those old buildings and churches......I really like your posts Janice....and the different everyday adventures you have in your daily life.

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