June is probably the busiest month in our annual calendar. We have two Choeur de Parisot concerts and the major fundraising event of the fête at Teysseroles, the chapel we are helping to restore. This year was the third such event since the establishment of the association to renovate the chapel. Here’s how it went.
We’ve been building up to the fête for several weeks – cleaning the interior of the chapel, tidying the cemetery, sowing new grass seed where the Mairie had helpfully weedkilled our previous efforts, brush cutting the dining area under the trees, etc.
However, the weather conspired (if it can conspire with itself) to make a mockery of our preparations. As last Sunday approached, the gloomy predictions became surer and we had to develop a Plan C as well as a Plan B. Plan C was to move the whole show to the Salle des Fêtes in Parisot in the event of teeming rain. But we still had to have a lesser contingency plan – it was damp underfoot and the forecast was for cool, grey weather with light rain at times.
Thanks to a nearby commune, we were able to borrow a metal structure over which we put a gigantic tarpaulin, leaving the sides open. Nobody had a clue how to erect this structure but, of course, everyone professed to be an expert. So we had 15 managers and a couple of workers. After a few false starts, we got the thing up.
Next up was the open-air church, since the chapel itself is neither large nor safe enough to accommodate all the people at the mass. This involved buying an enormous tarpaulin and stringing it up on steel hawsers, stretched taught. If they had snapped, most of the communicants would have been decapitated.
Add to this the frenzied preparations of salads and desserts and laying tables for the 280+ people we expected and the ambience – if not the weather – was at boiling point.
It takes more than a bit of crachin (drizzle) to get between a French person and their fête. They all turned up – and a few who hadn’t actually booked beforehand. I was again drafted onto the table d’accueil to register people and take their money, by virtue of speaking French and English. They kept coming and our systems were stretched to the limit.
This year, the open-air mass included the christening of Margaux, the grandchild of one of our core group of volunteers. Undaunted by the weather and protected by the tarpaulin, more people than we expected came to the mass.
Eventually, 280 or so people were seated, either under the big top or on tables hastily put up in the former church area. The first course – three different salads – passed without incident. Like last year, the fun started with the grillades, and it took a long time to serve everyone. The SF’s daughter and a friend, over from Sweden, pitched in and ran themselves into the ground. We were very glad of their help. You can never have enough people helping when things start to go pear-shaped.
But once we had got past the grillades onto the salad, cheese and desserts it was okay. And most people, well plied with wine and entertained by spontaneous chansons, seemed to be satisfied.
People started leaving around 17h00. The atmosphere at the washing up station was chaotic but jolly. The rest of us scooted about picking up refuse and packing up the tables. Some of the younger men, testosterone swilling around, took down the metal marquee structure.
The next day, a group of volunteers laid out and folded up the enormous tarpaulin that we had bought specially to cover the church area. I was back home reconciling and counting the cheques and cash but I heard that people had to roll about on the tarpaulin to flatten it while it was being folded up. More photos of this phenomenon to follow.
Tired but satisfied, we judged that this year’s event, despite the weather, was a success. We are still doing the final accounts but it’s likely that we have brought in more than €5,000 (before costs) for the chapel fund.
Vraiment, une fête accomplie.
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