A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet

A homely Christmas at Lavelanet library

A good old-fashioned English Christmas has come early to Lavelanet.  To the library (oops, mediathèque) to be exact.  The librarian there enjoys children’s literature, and is a bit of an Anglophile.  So she’s mounting a small festival of English Children’s literature featuring everyone from John Burningham and Quentin Blake to, of course, Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter.

What a disappointment I am to her.  I can’t produce a pretty tea set awash with rosebuds, and she can’t believe I really don’t like tea very much: and that when I do drink it, I decline to add milk.

Look what father Christmas left!

She’s wheeled in Découverte des Terres Lointaines to help with all the activities for schools, retirement homes, and the general public.  And DTL have wheeled me in as Consultant on All Matters English. Together we’ve chosen recipes and we’re baking biscuits and cakes and we’ve planned craft activities round, for instance, our ‘so British’ Christmas cards.  From tomorrow, I’ll be reading stories in English, helping pull crackers, and unpacking – many times – a stocking which dear old Father Christmas has delivered to me early.

Mass production of gingerbread men

My other job is to correct the misapprehensions learnt from French websites and children’s books about England. Who knew that the English enjoy tucking in to a huge plate of oysters at the beginning of Christmas dinner? Or that all British schoolchildren have a free bottle of milk every morning?  Margaret Thatcher abolished that back in the early 70’s.  And Sylvia misunderstood me, and thought we served stewed cherries, not sherry sauce, with our Christmas pudding (cherries – sherry: easy to confuse when you speak no English).  And so on.

But it’s been fun transforming the community room in the library into an impossibly cosy snug, full of Christmas cheer.  Let’s see what ‘le tout public’ think, when we open the doors tomorrow.

Rather a lot of marmalade cake

8 thoughts on “A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet”

  1. Good on you, Mère Noël. It’s a good thing I’m not the token Anglaise in Lavelanet otherwise I’d quickly have to find out how to say ‘bah humbug’ in French!

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    1. I’ve toned it down quite a lot, I can tell you. But I enjoy Christmas here, a lot, as it’s not been shoved down my throat since October. And it’s been fun discovering the differences between a French and British children’s Christmas. Don’t be a misery, Kalba!

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  2. “I can’t produce a pretty tea set awash with rosebuds, and she can’t believe I really don’t like tea very much: and that when I do drink it, I decline to add milk.” Oh dear, you really do march to the tune of a different drummer. I think not living up to the stereotypes that the locals have of our fellow countrymen is both one of the most burdensome and pleasurable aspects of being an expat.

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  3. The Library looks great.
    Would love to know what a typical French Christmas dinner consists of. Will you let us know? My mum’s sprouts will be bubbling away already!
    By the way, snow showers in Harrogate today and a biting wind.

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    1. Well, oysters and foie gras seem to be a given, but beyond that it’s a free for all. Capon maybe, even turkey. A buche de Noel(sorry about accentlessness) at some point, and – er, that’s it. It’s not such a big deal here: they seem to make more of NYE. Sprouts, even your mum’s, probably not on the menu. See you in darkest North Yorkshire over the holiday period? Unless you put us off too much. It was 17 degrees here this afternoon. Sorry!

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  4. well done Margaret, the cake and biscuits look delicious. Keep up the good work, We wish you and all your friends and family a very happy christmas. All our love Tom and Fenella XXXXX

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    1. And I hope you’ve been able to finish ‘keeping up the good (aka ‘exhausting’) work’! We’ll look forward to seeing you over Christmas sometime: email to follow. Love to you all. xxxxx

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