Have a Calendar, Whether You Want it or Not

Fire brigade's calendar

Fire brigade’s calendar

 

We were having a lively discussion during dinner in the kitchen – not an argument – which could no doubt be heard outside. But we don’t expect people to be hanging around outside on a cold Sunday evening in January. So it was with some surprise that we heard a knock at the door. Two uniformed figures stood there.

They were pompiers, firemen, except that one was a woman. Their visit was a bit late this year. Normally, it’s before Christmas or in early January. Their mission? To deliver the annual calendar.

Those of you who have read Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence will know that this is a longstanding tradition in France. Representatives of various services turn up with a calendar, which you graciously accept whether you need it or not in return for a contribution to their social fund.

The pompiers, among others, penetrate to the darkest corners of the local communes they serve. No lieu-dit is left unprospected. Even the man who runs the local football club unfailingly turns up every year with their calendar. It’s very bad form not to donate.

And we’re happy to contribute. Most towns have a fire brigade, staffed partly by volunteers who turn out 24/7 in all weathers to attend house fires, forest fires, road accidents and other emergencies. They are trained to provide first-aid and to deal with seriously injured people. They also provide a first-response ambulance service.

Last Sunday, everything was done by the book. We handed over a banknote of a suitable denomination and received a receipt. The pompiers shook hands and melted away into the night.

The odd size of the calendar means it doesn’t fit in the place where one already hangs. But it has its uses. It’s a glossy production, with pictures of pompiers on manoeuvres, adverts from local businesses, and useful contact addresses.

A page from the calendar, showing pompiers on manoeuvres

A page from the calendar, showing pompiers on manoeuvres

Every page contains a handy safety hint and, on the back, there are instructions for performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and securing your swimming pool for children. There’s even a cut-out-and-make model of a fire engine. That’s not for me, I’m afraid. I am congenitally cack-handed.

Long may this tradition continue.

You might also like:

A Year in the Life of a French Commune
Counting Heads: the French Census
Aux Urnes, Mes Citoyens: the French Local Elections

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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13 Responses to Have a Calendar, Whether You Want it or Not

  1. Osyth says:

    We donate of course to les Pompiers and this year to La Poste as well. The thing is though that in our village the proceeds go to a great big party in the Salle de Fete – which is at the bottom of my drive. Very messy indeed 😉

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      I have no idea what they do with the proceeds of their fund-raising round, but I hope they have a good party with it – uninterrupted by urgent call-outs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • lizgyooll says:

      That sounds like great fun and you don’t have to drive and risk the “soufle”!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Osyth says:

        It certainly was lizgyooll …. there were several unconscious Pompiers in the grounds early the next morning (I live in the old school and the Salle de Fete is in the garden) – later they flagged me down and insisted I take some food when they were clearing away and jolly nice it was too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Birgitta Lindskog-Boklund says:

    Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:56:40 +0000 To: lindskogbittan@hotmail.com

    Like

  3. pfornari says:

    I wish we got calendars here! We used to receive several each year (not from firemen, let me add) in Dhaka, but here, nothing. I think it must be due to the very different concept of time…

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      The local shops sometimes give them as a New Year’s present, too. Mostly, they are an advertising platform and the calendar part is too small to be of any use. The non-glossy ones make good kindling!

      Like

  4. Jill Brown says:

    Ours came late this year too. Our postman also does the same thing with a calendar from La Poste and you get to choose from different front covers… inside are recipes, ‘astuces’ or various tips you may not know, and lots of what you might call ‘old wives’ tales’.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Le facteur doesn’t come to us since we have a boîte postale in the village, for reasons I won’t bore you with. Nice that you can choose from different covers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a La Poste calendar.

      Like

  5. lizgyooll says:

    I like it when they come. This year, they happily accepted English tea (with some hilarity), but no sooner than they settled down than they had an emergency call and rushed off! Busy men and I have now found that firemen are also fantastic cooks (anything to do with fire, I suppose)! 🙂

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, we like it when they turn up, too. They seem to come later and later each year. Judging by what you say about their culinary skills, we shall have to ask them to stay to dinner next time – provided they cook it…

      Like

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