... and planted a kiss on each cheek as he said "meilleurs voeux" (best wishes, for the New Year). I was a trifle surprised as I didn't think we were that well acquainted and I would have been quite content with a hand shake. It's true that Tod and I had gone into the Mairie after Christmas to register as voters - there are elections coming up in March - so perhaps that raises us to a new level of intimacy. The mayor needs all the votes he can get, so if that means kissing an English OAP, so be it.
We were standing in the village hall surrounded by what felt like the whole of the commune, children scrambling between legs, weathered agricultural faces on all sides, a few women in dresses and high heels, clearly communicating that they had office jobs.
We were all there for the major's "state of the nation" and to welcome newcomers to the village. Although the hall has a stage, he stood amongst his people (egalité, of course), which meant most of us could not see him and had to rely on hearing his disembodied voice floating ceiling-wards via the amplifiers.
Tod and I understood about one word in ten, but could see from the somber faces and the nodding and shaking of heads that he was reporting on the poor state of the French economy and the certainty that it would continue for the coming year (indeed years). This will have a direct effect on what the commune will be able to achieve. Round here, people are stoical, they shrug and take in another belt notch.
The mayor was wise. He finished on a cheerful note. Two pétanque courts are being constructed in the centre of the village and (raising a cheer from the assembled company) this year the Tour de France will be coming our way.
As the slightly sickly white wine and cassis cocktail was being poured and the congealed pizza cut into slices we slipped away, our duty done. Our neighbours are gracious but talking to us is hard work for them. We often see a slightly panicky expression in their eyes as we approach. We have, however, met the new secretary to the Secretary of the Mairie. She was one of those in high heels and her English is excellent. No panic in her eyes, just a welcoming smile. Hope her fluency doesn't make us lazy. We need to practice our French as often as possible and the mayor's office is always a good place for a chat (and who knows, these days maybe a kiss as well).
Tour de France 2014