It seems to be the pattern that as the rush of Christmas and New Years passes, there is quiet time to reflect on the comings and goings of the past year. Life in a French village rarely has large, cataclysmic changes and Servian in 2016 was no exception.
As we approach the village from the south, the skyline spreads across the elevation in the same linear way as always. The church sits at the highest point with a continuous downward slope of houses demarcating the old town from the new, At the edge of town there is a new, modern "caserne" housing the volunteer fire department, evidence of a new social housing development and the new gendarmerie compound. In the old town, there is not much change except for the facades of the "maisons de village" with their new coats of stucco giving the "centre ville" a rejuvenated look.
One has to look carefully in the bar, sunny benches or the markets for old familiar faces. Several went missing this year and seeing the black condolence boxes outside various homes one knows that they will not be returning. We were personally touched this year as Monique's husband, Pierre died after a brief illness. It's good to see some village regulars still around: paunchy, white-bearded Bruno who only dons long pants after the temperatures dip below 5 degrees. Apparently, he was most disappointed this year as he was not asked to play Pere Noel at the Christmas Market festival; Claudie, the Parisien artist who gave up her dentures and fashionable clothes when she moved south, frequents the local haunts pulling her little dog behind her as she chats away to herself. One also sees new faces around and from the scuttlebutt, the newcomers are Swedes escaping the cold, replacing those from the UK who have seen their money devalue and the French dream fade. Canadians and especially westcoasters apparently now outnumber the Irish in settling around the area.
Life for us continues much the same. We have welcomed visitors to our new home and from all accounts, they have enjoyed exploring the village and the region. Isa continues to cater and now provides cooking classes for visitors. Gwen and Nicola have had a good first year with their B&B, Le Petit Moliere. Arnaud le Gourmand has added interesting local and regional products to his grocery shelves.
The philosopher, Alain de Botten wrote a book entitled "How Proust Can Change Your Life". In it, he describes Proust's attention to detail, quiet and enjoyment of simple things. As I sit here writing this blog, I watch an elderly man walk up the staircase outside our front door. Slowly and painstakingly he climbed the old, worn steps. As he reached the top, he paused and took time to remove some stray leaves from the succulents growing out of the tufa rockery bordering the walk. For me, he epitomized much of village life as we watch and learn from how intentionally life is lived here. Le Temps Trouvé.