Farewell to Tramayes

Dear Mum,

With less than a week to go, I’m already feeling homesick for Tramayes.

The French for ‘I miss Tramayes’ is ‘Tramayes me manque‘. Literally, ‘Tramayes lacks me’. I love that the French translation hands the active verb over to the object of my affection. I think you’ll find that interesting too.

Tramayes

I’ve already written a love letter to this small village in the south of Burgundy. You get a mention in there somewhere too. I know this will both astonish and delight you.

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I seem to be a bit of a novelty around here.

The free-range Australienne with the sunhat. Or possibly that eccentric writer who sometimes does aeroplanes with her hands when she’s roaming down a quiet country lane listening to Beethoven’s Pastoral in her ear buds. Occasionally my solitary antics are witnessed, owing to the aforementioned earbuds blocking out the sound of cars (and occasionally tractors) approaching me from behind.

I have been spotted wandering dangerously on the verge of a busy road at 8am – I was impressed with the forensic nature of this infringement notice – by someone with whom I had sipped Apérol a few weeks ago. Today she drove up behind me on a country road to tick me off about my prior misdemeanour. I felt cared for rather than chastised.

On at least two other occasions, I have been wandering along with my back pack and carry bags full of groceries – no aeroplanes this time – and strangers driving by have slowed down to offer me a lift to wherever I happen to be going.

J’aime marcher,’ I say.

The locals find it hard to believe that I like to walk. But we smile at each other and wish each other une bonne journée. Another transaction of mutual goodwill that puts a spring in my step the rest of the way home.

Those are some of the reasons I love Tramayes. Here are some more:

1. Apéro can take place any time after 11am.

Friday is market day in the village and you’d be surprised what thirsty work early morning shopping can be. And who you might bump into who is similarly parched.

2. French children and adolescents say bonjour to strangers even if their parents aren’t around.

They are also included in dinner parties and soirées, sitting at the table and contributing to the conversation. I suspect this is the case throughout France.

3. Everyone says bonjour madame when they pass you in the street.

They are often keen for a chat if you can string more than two French words together in reply, mistaking you for someone who is fluent in French. I do a lot of smiling and nodding and afterwards wonder what on earth we were talking about.

4. Everyone says a general cheery ‘Bonjour, ‘sieurs ‘dames‘ when they walk into the small village supermarket.

This is short for ‘Bonjour messieurs et mesdames‘ and is another example of good manners mixed with inclusivity. I’ve started doing it myself.

5. Once inside the supermarket, one can feel free to ask the opinion of any random shopper of any product.

A crowd will soon gather, the merits of one product over another will be discussed in forensic detail and friendships will be made. You may, as I did, end up going home with yeast (levure de boulanger) instead of baking powder (levure chimique). A brisk walk back to the supermarket soon solved the problem and this time I learned about the merits of whole versus powdered nutmeg.

6. Older women – and possibly men – are not invisible.

They are treated with respect, especially by their grandchildren – of any age – who seem to enjoy close bonds with their grandparents and seek out their company.

7. The thunderstorms are cataclysmic.

There can be rolling thunder for hours before a single fat drop of rain heralds a downpour. But when the storm hits, it hits with house-rattling intensity. On a similar note, jet fighters perform random flyovers low and fast, their supersonic roar heralding the end of days. They vanish from view within seconds and life as we know it continues.

8. Queuing here is an art form.

At the market the butcher is happy to chat and joke with a customer even after she has paid for all her purchases. He does exactly the same with the next customer. The queue builds up but no one seems to mind. I held up the line in the post office to discuss the merits of buying a pre-paid 5kg box to ship home to Australia compared with sending any old random box and paying per kg. No one in the queue behind me seemed to mind. (NB. Buy pre-paid every time.)

On the flip side, don’t commit the faux pas of popping your head into the fruitshop back room and saying ‘coucou‘ to get someone’s attention after standing at the counter for five minutes. It will not be appreciated. You should wait meekly at the counter hoping someone will see you there. Which they eventually will.

9. Tramayes is un village renouvable (recyclable).

Everyone takes their rubbish to large enclosed bins. The black bin is for household rubbish, the yellow bin is for packaging. Glass goes in another bin. (Of that more later.) You must take care to place the correct items in the correct bin. It is rumoured that those caught not doing so are made to eat their own rubbish.

Glass bottles go into a very large communal bin in a public parking space in the village. I tend to deposit mine in the early hours when no one is around. This walk of shame involves carrying all my empties in a shopping bag – try doing that without clinking glass at every step – and hiding in the long shadows of every house I pass en route to the bin. Once there, I shoot each bottle individually into the hole provided, the sound of splintering glass drowning out the early morning birdsong. I then fold up my shopping bag and conceal it on my person, then decamp with haste, whistling an innocent tune all the way home.

Dawn over Tramayes

So Mama, I’ve told you all the reasons why I came to France. Tramayes is one of the reasons it will be hard to leave. But I’ve got a few adventures to go between now and then.

À la prochaine fois.

Ta fille aimante,

Ib