End of an Era at the Hamlet of Flouquet

The hamlet of Flouquet

The hamlet of Flouquet

It was the end of an era in two senses, to which I’ll return below. Every year, as part of the summer walks laid on by the commune of Espinas, we visit a pretty hamlet called Flouquet. The houses are grouped around a village green and the inhabitants, now only part-time, put on something of a show for us. We learn new things every year.

Daily bread

Four à pain at Flouquet

Four à pain at Flouquet

Nicole Bessède, who was born and brought up at Flouquet, and her husband Denis are the leading lights. Denis restored the bread oven about 20 years ago, which he lit for us to demonstrate how it worked. He explained that each family at Flouquet had its own bread oven, although most of them have now disappeared. The people made bread about three times a month. No wonder they had to soak it (tremper) in the soup.

Four à pain inside

Four à pain inside

Denis bakes all the bread for the annual fête at Espinas, which takes place this weekend. Since 700 people turn up for the evening repas champêtre, that’s some task. While he baked some croissants for us, we went down to the lavoir for the next attraction.

Four à pain with the fire white hot - time to put the croissants in

Four à pain with the fire white hot – time to put the croissants in

Washing day

Nicole told us, as she does every year but it’s always fascinating, how she helped her grandmother to do the family’s washing. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go into detail. She was convinced, though, that the whites were whiter than they are today, even with all our sophisticated washing machines and soap powders. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ll be swapping any time soon.

Whiter than white chemise

Whiter than white chemise

An anecdote that I hadn’t heard concerned a young woman of the hamlet who was engaged to be married. She prepared her trousseau, including exquisitely monogrammed sheets, etc. The day before the wedding, she decided to call it off for reasons that remain unclear. She and her former intended remained unmarried for the rest of their lives.

5-year old cake of soap, manufactured at Saint-Antonin

50-year old cake of soap, manufactured at Saint-Antonin

First end of an era

Gilles Sicart, a poet and writer, who was also brought up at Flouquet, spoke about how life was there 60 or so years ago. At that time, there were about 60 inhabitants who lived off about 80 hectares of land. This was subsistence agriculture. You grew enough for the family to live on, with perhaps a small surplus. You made a few extra francs by selling soft cheese at the market in Saint-Antonin.

MIllstone

MIllstone

Gilles pointed out the number of meules (millstones) dotted about. Many families had their own threshing floor, which they meticulously cleared of grass before spreading out the heads of corn. The meule was then attached to a cow or an ox, which was driven in a circle over the corn. One of the younger family members had to run behind the animal with a suitable container to collect the precious dung that they spread on the fields.

It’s easy to romanticise this existence, which must have been tough. If you were in trouble, you only had the neighbours to help. But, listening to Gilles, Nicole and Denis, I realised that these people are the last witnesses of a way of life that persisted for centuries and has gone forever. The next generation will know it only by hearsay.

Second end of an era

The people of Flouquet have been welcoming the Espinas walkers for 15 years or so. Sadly, this year is the last time. They have grandchildren and other summer commitments that prevent them from doing it anymore. Merci, Nicole, Denis et Gilles for the glimpse you gave us into the history of your hamlet.

You might also like:

A Traditional French Hamlet – Flouquet
Forgotten Love Letter Rediscovered
French Country Life a Century Ago
A French Country Upbringing

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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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8 Responses to End of an Era at the Hamlet of Flouquet

  1. Wonderful; sounds like the most lovely fete and so many things in common with the old Tuscan life I know so well. Hope you’ve had a gorgeous summer … I’m exhausted, I didn’t realise how active everything would be here! Not one dull moment.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, it is a nice occasion and it’s a pity it will not continue. There is a lot going on here in the summer but it comes to an end all too quickly. I have missed much of it, having been chained to my computer most of the summer for a work project. However, I will be winding down from the autumn and am already feeling demob happy!

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  2. 700 at a fete repas, blimey! Lovely to read a little of the history of your area. I hadn’t come across that method of milling. We have so many streams and rivers here watermills were in abundance a l’epoch. When we moved here a friend gave the claude michelet (of brive) trilogy to read to give me some idea of time and place. Since joining a french book club i have come to know and love (but not all he has written!) Christian signol who was born in a village about 30 minutes away on the edge of northern lot. If you haven’t read any i recommend them for the historical insights and a life still remembered by the older members of our commune. A bientot….

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I also found the Michelet books a great introduction to French rural life as it once was. I started out with ‘Des Grives aux Loups’, which was supposed to be a trilogy, but then he added a rather indifferent 4th volume at the request of his fans and publishers.

      I’ve also read quite a lot of Signol but he is rather variable. Jean Anglade is another one; he writes about the Cantal. I loved ‘La Soupe à la Fourchette’, set in WW2, although the ending is a bit ambiguous.

      Do keep suggesting books like this that you have come across. Bon dimanche.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. pfornari says:

    What a fasvinating little place, and how sad that this lovely tradition has to come to an end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It is a pity that they won’t be doing this anymore but I can understand that, after more than 15 years. At least I have plenty of photos as a record of it.

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